Big 12 Softball postseason accolades announced


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.


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