The 2011 All-Big 12 Softball Teams and individual awards have been chosen, the Conference office announced. Ehren Earleywine (Missouri) was selected Coach of the Year, while senior Amy Hooks (Texas) was named Player of the Year. Chelsea Thomas (Missouri) took Pitcher of the Year honors and Taylor Thom (Texas) garnered Freshman of the Year recognition. Natalie Villarreal (Texas A&M) and Megan Christopher (Missouri) shared Defensive Player of the Year.
Earleywine (234-73) received his second Big 12 coaching honor after leading the Tigers to their second Big 12 regular season title (1997) with a conference record of 15-3. He coached six All-Big 12 selections in 2011, including four first-team honorees and the Pitcher and Co-Defensive Player of the Year in Thomas and Christopher. Under Earleywine's direction, the Tigers ranked first in the Big 12 in doubles (84), ERA (1.26), opponent batting average (.166), wins (46) and saves (8).
Hooks ranked among the top 10 in numerous offensive statistics during Big 12 play. The catcher led the league in total bases (39), tied for first in home runs (6), ranked second in slugging percentage (.765) and fourth in on-base percentage (.459). She tied for eighth in runs scored (12), was ninth in RBI (13) and ranked ninth in batting average (.353). Hooks also compiled a team-high 125 putouts from behind the plate. The Mesquite, Texas, native knocked in 12 bombs on the year and pushed her career home run total to 35 to set a UT career long-ball record. The honor is the first for the UT program.
Thomas has had a successful sophomore campaign from the circle, establishing a 27-5 record with 24 complete games and holding opponents to a Big 12-best .145 batting average. The Pleasantville, Iowa-native led the Conference in ERA (0.81) and ranked second in strikeouts (323), wins and shutouts (11). The left-hander is the first TIger to win Pitcher of the Year honors. Thomas also set an MU record in strikeouts in a single season.
Thom is the sixth Longhorn to win Freshman of the Year honors after a solid campaign, batting .356 with 11 doubles, 11 home runs, 41 RBI, 31 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. Her RBI total paced the Longhorns, while her home run and stolen base tallies finished third. The shortstop ranked among the league leaders in Conference-only games in batting average (.444, 1st), hits (24, 2nd), total bases (37, 2nd), slugging percentage (.685, 5) and on-base percentage (.455, 6th).
For the first time in Conference history, the league announced Defensive Players of the Year as Villarreal and Christopher each took home the award. This is the second honor for Villarreal and the first for Christopher. Villarreal, a rare left-handed second baseman, started in all but one of A&M's games in 2011. She recorded 74 putouts and 78 assists while turning five double plays from the middle infield. The Frisco, Texas-native ended the regular season with a .962 fielding percentage while leading the Aggie defense in allowing only 112 runs scored by opponents, as opposed to 300 scored by the Aggies.
Christopher has thrown out 42% (8-of-19) of attempted base stealers during Big 12 play and committed just one error for a .995 fielding percentage. During the non-conference season, Christopher didn't allow a single stolen base, and has thrown out 48% (10-of-21) of runners this year. Overall, she has a fielding percentage of .993 for the season with just two errors in 304 chances.
All-Big 12 and postseason honors are selected in a vote by the league's head coaches, who are not allowed to vote for their own players. This year's list had at least one student-athlete make either the first or second team from all 10 squads. Texas led the league with seven players (four first-team), while Missouri (four first-team) and Oklahoma (three first-team) had six each.
2011 BIG 12 SOFTBALL POSTSEASON AWARDS
Coach of the Year
Ehren Earleywine, Missouri
Player of the Year
Amy Hooks, Texas, Sr., Catcher
Pitcher of the Year
Chelsea Thomas, Missouri, So., RHP
Freshman of the Year
Taylor Thom, Texas, Shortstop
Defensive Players of the Year
Natalie Villarreal, Texas A&M, Jr., Second Base
Megan Christopher, Missouri, Sr., Catcher
All-Big 12 First Team
Name School Class Position Hometown/Previous School
Dani Leal Baylor Sr. SS Mexico City, Mexico/Pratt CC (Kan.)
Kathy Shelton* Baylor So. OF McKinney, Texas/North McKinney
Whitney Canion* Baylor So. P Aledo, Texas/Aledo
Chelsea Thomas* Missouri So. P Pleasantville, Iowa/Pleasantville
Nicole Hudson* Missouri So. 3B Webb City, Mo./Webb City
Abby Vock Missouri Sr. 2B Morrison, Ill./Morrison
Jenna Marston Missouri So. SS St. Louis, Mo./Principia
Ashley Hagemann Nebraska Jr. P Elkhorn, Neb./Elkhorn
Keilani Ricketts Oklahoma So. P San Jose, Calif./Archbishop Mitty
Chana'e Jones Oklahoma Sr. 1B San Jose, Calif./Valley Christian
Destinee Martinez Oklahoma Fr. OF Corona, Calif./Roosevelt
Alysia Hamilton Oklahoma State Sr. 2B Moore, Okla./Moore
Amy Hooks Texas Sr. C Mesquite, Texas/North Mesquite
Taylor Thom* Texas Fr. SS Cedar Park, Texas/Vista Ridge
Blaire Luna* Texas So. P Austin, Texas/Bowie
Taylor Hoagland* Texas So. OF Flower Mound, Texas/Flower Mound
Natalie Villarreal Texas A&M Jr. 2B Frisco, Texas/Frisco
Mel Dumezich Texas A&M So. P/Util. Whiting, Ind./Whiting
Kelsey Spittler Texas A&M Sr. OF Caldwell, Texas/Caldwell
* Unanimous All-Big 12 First Team Selection
All-Big 12 Second Team
Name School Class Position Hometown/Previous School
Kayce Walker Baylor Jr. OF Franklin, Texas/Franklin
Megan Turk Baylor Jr. 3B Bulverde, Texas/Smithson Valley
Erica Miller Iowa State So. 3B/1B Pomona, Calif./Diamond Bar
Maggie Hull Kansas So. OF Lawrence, Kan./Free State
Rhea Taylor Missouri Sr. OF Buford, Ga./Peachtree Ridge
Ashley Fleming Missouri Jr. OF Silex, Mo./Silex
Taylor Edwards Nebraska Fr. C Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta
Tatum Edwards Nebraska Fr. P/Util. Murrieta, Calif./Vista Murrieta
Jessica Shults Oklahoma So. C Valencia, Calif./Hart
Dani Dobbs Oklahoma Sr. 3B Moore, Okla./Moore
Haley Nix Oklahoma Sr. OF Daingerfield, Texas/Texarkana College
Chelsea Garcia Oklahoma State Jr. SS Moore, Okla./Moore
Mariah Gearhart Oklahoma State Sr. 3B Chula Vista, Calif./Bonita Vista
Brejae Washington Texas Fr. OF San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon
Nadia Taylor Texas Jr. 3B Humble, Texas/Atascocita
Lexy Bennett Texas Jr. SS Kingwood, Texas/Second Baptist
Rhiannon Kliesing Texas A&M Sr. P/1B Pearland, Texas/Pearland
Emily Bledsoe Texas Tech Jr. 3B Fulshear, Texas/Foster
Sandy James Texas Tech So. 1B Dallas, Texas/Sabine