Softball sweeps SSAC awards; Castaneda, Thomas earn POY, COY
By Matt Green
COLUMBUS, Ga. – Shorter University sophomore shortstop Jackie Castaneda was named the 2012 Southern States Athletic Conference Softball Player of the Year and head coach Al Thomas picked up 2012 SSAC Coach of the Year on Wednesday night, highlighting a long list of Lady Hawk honorees that were honored at the league’s annual awards banquet in Columbus.
In all, the Lady Hawks (42-9, No. 12 NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Poll) had six student-athletes garner All-Conference recognition on Wednesday evening, with seniors Charlsie Broome – the 2012 SSAC Gold Glove Outfielder – and Emily Clements, junior Amanda Dailey and freshman Maddie Bray – the 2012 SSAC Co-Freshman of the Year – joining Castaneda on the first team. Sophomore pitcher Kristen Little was named to the SSAC’s All-East Division Team.
“It was a very exciting time to see that all of the hard work and countless hours of preparation that these young ladies have contributed being recognized at the banquet tonight,” said Thomas, whose Lady Hawks swept the conference’s top two awards – Player and Coach of the Year – for the first time in program history. “We could not be more proud as a staff and it was truly a night to remember.”
Castaneda, a native of Sharpsburg, Ala., becomes just the second player in program history to take home the league’s top honor, joining current assistant coach Jessica Sanders, who first won SSAC Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2006. Castaneda earned her first All-Conference accolade in addition to being named Academic All-SSAC for the second straight season.
The versatile Castaneda, who moved from catcher to shortstop this season despite still seeing spot time behind the plate, led the conference with a .463 batting average, which is good enough for the highest single-season average in school history. Castaneda also led the SSAC in slugging percentage (.752) and runs scored (56) while tying with teammate Broome for the conference lead with 11 home runs, good enough for third on Shorter’s all-time single-season list.
She ranked No. 4 in the league in both hits (69) and stolen bases (14). Castaneda set the Shorter record for longest hitting streak by recording a hit in 16 consecutive games from March 16 to April 7.
Thomas, in his second season as head coach of the Lady Hawks after serving the previous four seasons as executive coach alongside Melanie Carter, earns his first Coach of the Year honor after he guided Shorter to a 42-9 overall record and 22-5 conference mark.
The Lady Hawks, who went 46-15 last season en route to an appearance in the SSAC Tournament title game and the NAIA Softball National Championship Elite Eight, are the No. 2 seed out of the East Division in this year’s conference tourney. The Lady Hawks won the SSAC East under Thomas in 2011 and in the coach’s two seasons, are 47-8 in conference play.
Broome was named the SSAC’s Gold Glove outfielder, becoming the second Lady Hawk to win that honor – former Lady Hawk Tiffany Adams first won Gold Glove outfielder accolades in 2010.
Broome, who was named the NAIA National Player of the Week two weeks ago for the first time in her career, tied for the conference lead with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage as Shorter’s centerfielder. Offensively, Broome had a career year, leading the conference with 73 hits, 11 homers and 24 stolen bases – she is Shorter’s all-time leader in stolen bases with 92.
Broome hit a career-best .412 with 39 RBI, nine doubles and three triples. Her 10 career triples rank second all-time in Shorter history.
Bray picked up 2012 SSAC Co-Freshman of the Year honors on her way to a first team All-SSAC nod. A native of Hixson, Tenn., Bray tossed a team-high 111.2 innings and posted an SSAC-best 0.94 ERA. She ranked third in the league in opponent batting average (.169) while her 108 strikeouts ranked ninth in the conference.
Bray allowed only seven earned runs in 77.1 conference innings and ranked fifth in the SSAC with 14 wins.
Joining Castaneda, Broome and Bray on the All-SSAC first team were Clements and Dailey.
Clements batted .365 with seven home runs and a team-high 48 RBI. She also stroked a team-best 15 doubles to go along with a pair of triples. Dailey, in her first year with the Lady Hawks, hit .409 despite battling injury all season and came on strong towards the end of the year to finish with three home runs, 28 RBI and 13 doubles.
Little, an SSAC All-Freshman selection last year, was named to the All-East Division squad this go around. Little complied in 11-3 record and 1.24 ERA in 96.1 innings this season. She fanned a staff-high 115 batters and held opponents to a .141 batting average – best in the SSAC.
Shorter placed the most student-athletes on the conference’s All-Academic team of any member of the SSAC. Broome, Castaneda, Little, Kristen Wright, Sarah Corn, Jessica Bowman, Kellee Stone, Kacey Hawkshead, Whitney Hood, Brooke Bryan, Courtney Bailey and Kaitie Kiser were all named to the SSAC Academic All-Conference squad.
“We had six players earn All-Conference or All-Division status, had the Player and Co-Freshman of the Year, the Gold Glove Outfielder and had 12 players earn All-Academic honors,” said Thomas. “This total of 15 players that were recognized for either athletic and/or academic achievement is truly unheard of.”
The Lady Hawks open SSAC Tournament play today at 4 pm against No. 23 Mobile (29-15), the third seed out of the West Division.