McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Befitting of a championship club and a No. 1 national ranking, 11 Wildcats were named to the 2011 all-Northwest Conference Softball Team, including NWC Player of the Year Emilee Lepp and NWC Coach of the Year Jackson Vaughan. The all-star team, as voted upon by the league’s coaches, was announced Wednesday.
A Linfield team that won its eight consecutive regular season championship, claimed the inaugural conference tournament title and earned its eighth-straight trip to the NCAA Division III Championship put seven players on the first team, two on the second team and saw one player chosen as an honorable mention.
Headlining the selections was catcher Lepp, the all-time single-season home run leader in Division III. She tallied 27 homers in 43 games, and also set Linfield single-season records for RBI (82) and total bases (167) while batting .497. The junior also had 24 multiple-hit games and experienced the team’s longest hitting streak (16).
Lepp became the fourth consecutive Linfield player to earn the player of the year award. Joining her on the first team were third baseman Karleigh Prestianni, shortstop Emily Keagbine, left fielder Kayla Hubrich, center fielder Jaydee Baxter, pitcher Claire Velaski and designated player Staci Doucette.
Second-team accolades went to second baseman Alex Hartmann and pitcher Lauren Harvey, and rookie pitcher Karina Paavola (Sr., Kelso, Wash.) was an honorable mention selection.
One of five players to start all 43 games, Prestianni made her second-straight appearance on the first team. She hit .379 with 38 RBI, 11 doubles and eight home runs. Defensively, she boasted one of the highest fielding percentages on the team, registering a .978 over 90 total chances at third base.
Keagbine earned her fourth all-conference award, playing shortstop full time. She was third in the conference in batting average (.455) and home runs (16), trailing only Linfield teammates in both categories.
Leadoff hitter and left fielder Hubrich had her best year yet, posting career-highs in batting average (.409), hits (65) and RBI (17), among many other categories. She hit her first career home run this season, ranked first in the conference for triples (4) and led the ‘Cats in stolen bases (14). Her efforts landed her on the first team for the first time in her career; she was a second-team honoree in 2010.
Baxter also had a red-letter year, leading the team with 12 doubles despite missing four games due to injury. Starting 39 games, she hit .362 with 33 RBI and six home runs. She made her second career appearance on the first team after receiving honorable mention honors as a sophomore.
Senior Velaski was the star of the pitching staff, going 19-1 with eight complete games and two shutouts in 26 total appearances on the mound. Last season’s conference pitcher of the year ranked second in the NWC in strikeouts (106) and third in ERA (2.00) while holding opponents to a .217 batting average.
Despite being dethroned as the player of the year by her own teammate after winning the award as a freshman and sophomore, Doucette posted career-best numbers. Starting all 43 games as the designated player or first baseman, she ranked sixth in the nation in batting average (.549) and second in home runs (18).
Hartmann started all 43 games at second base, hitting .328 with 13 multiple-hit games, 41 hits, 31 RBI and 11 doubles. A four-year starter, she received her fourth all-star accolade.
Harvey was a perfect 13-0 on the season, registering a 1.92 ERA. Making 23 appearances, including 17 starts and four complete games, she racked up 52 strikeouts. The honor marked her second straight appearance on the all-star team.
In her first season as a Wildcat, Paavola had an immediate impact on an already stellar pitching staff. She boasted the lowest ERA of Linfield’s top three pitchers at 1.48 and ranked second on the team in strikeouts with 67. She went 7-1 with three starts, two saves and one complete game in 23 total appearances.
Coach Vaughan picked up skipper of the year honors for the eighth straight year after leading his club to a 41-2 record, including 27-1 in the Northwest Conference. The latter win-loss mark matched a program record (set in 2010) for fewest conference losses.
The third major award, NWC Pitcher of the Year, went to Pacific Lutheran’s Stacey Hagensen. She had the most wins of any pitcher in the conference this year, going 21-6 for the second-place Lutes.
NEXT: The Wildcats await word of the time, location and opponent of their next game. The field for the NCAA Division III Championship will be announced Monday, May 9.
2011 NWC Player of the Year
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128