Softball Players, Coach Win Big South Honors

Senior shortstop Nichole Beall and junior hurler Jackie Jenkins repeated as Big South Softball Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively, announced Wednesday evening at the 2012 softball awards banquet held at Radford University’s Dedmon Center. Their skipper, Mickey Dean, was tabbed the league's coach of the year for the fourth straight season.

Along with Beall and Jenkins, senior centerfielder Hannah Ojeda was a Big South First Team selection. Senior third baseman Vicki Madden, sophomore first baseman Jessie Hutchens and freshman second baseman Jackie Warr garnered second-team honors. It marks the first recognition for Ojeda, Hutchens and Warr. Junior Ryndee Ruch was named to the all-academic squad.

Beall becomes the first Highlander to be named player of the year twice and earn first-team accolades all four years. She is also the eighth Big South player to earn four first-team nods, and just the third to do so since they started recognizing two teams (1994). Beall leads the Big South with 49 runs, 13 doubles, 13 home runs, 108 total bases and 29 stolen bases. Her .484 on-base percentage and .735 slugging percentage is also ranked first. In conference games, she currently ranks first with 25 runs, second in stolen bases with 13, tied for second with six doubles and third with five home runs.

members of the 2011-12 Radford University Softball team

The Highlanders took home several awards from Wednesday’s 2012 Big South softball awards banquet.

Jenkins is the second pitcher in program history to win back-to-back pitcher of the year honors, an award taken home by the Highlanders six times in the last seven seasons. She has been stellar in conference play, posting a league best 10 wins and 1.37 ERA, while posting two shutouts and walking a Big South-low 1.28 batters per seven innings. The two-time Big South Pitcher of the Week is tied for second overall in shutouts with four, while ranking third in wins (15) and saves (3). A pair of those shutouts came in conference play against Campbell (2 hits) and Winthrop (4 hits).

Dean guided Radford (32-19) to its four straight regular season title with a 16-5 mark in league contests. It marked just the second Big South program to win four straight, but the first to do it outright. Under his leadership, the Highlanders garnered its highest NCAA RPI earlier this season at 34 and currently holds the league’s top RPI at 53. In addition to capturing his 300th coaching victory in 2012, Dean led his team to an upset win over then No. 20 and previously undefeated Florida State on March 3, earning the highest win over a ranked opponent in program history.

Ojeda started every contest in center for the Highlanders and is tied for the league lead with three triples. She is second on the squad in batting (.291) and hits (41), new career bests, while providing the Highlanders with a total of 10 game-winning hits and runs. One of those was the two-out walk-off single lifting Radford to an upset win over then-No. 20 and previously undefeated Florida State.

It is the second recognition for Madden, who was a first-team selection as a freshman in 2008. She played every inning at the hot corner, recording the best field percentage (.974) amongst league third basemen, making just five miscues in 196 attempts. She was evening better in conference play with just one error (.984). Madden was second on the team with 27 RBI, 11 doubles, six home runs and 23 walks. Her 11 doubles rank fourth in the Big South, while she knocked in a league-best 21 runs conference games.

Hutchens came on strong in league play as a sophomore leading the squad in hits (22), while ranking second in batting average (.367) and third in RBI (12). She was seventh in conference games in average and ninth in hits per game (1.01). Overall, Hutchens was third on the team with a .266 average and attributed for eight game-winning hits or runs.

Warr made a big impact as a rookie in conference games this season and it started with a 7-for-9 performance with four runs in Radford’s first league series against Liberty. Second on the squad with 19 steals, she ranked first in conference games and third overall in the category. She was Radford’s top hitter (.377) and ranked sixth in league contests, while posting the third-best on base percentage (.468) and scoring the sixth most runs (13).

Ruch holds a 3.40 in sports administration with a minor in marketing and has earned Dean’s List honors four times. Along with volunteering her time as a tutor for fellow Highlander student-athletes, Ruch is a member of the Radford’s SAAC and Fellowship of Christian Athletes/Athletes in Action. On the field, the leftfielder has started all 51 games with three doubles, two home runs, 15 RBI and 16 runs scored. She has also swiped eight bases and dropped down a team-best nine sac bunts.

Radford, the top seed and host of the 2012 Big South Tournament, opens play tomorrow, May 10 at 4:30 p.m. against eighth-seeded Winthrop at RU Softball Field.

May 9, 2012
Brian Stanley
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