CLEVELAND, Ohio - - The Ball State softball team was heavily rewarded for its 2013 Mid-American Conference regular season title run, claiming three of the league’s five specialty awards and a league-high nine overall honors as announced Tuesday by the league office.
Highlighting the list of award winners were 2013 MAC Player of the Year Jennifer Gilbert (McKinney, Texas/McKinney H.S.), 2013 MAC Freshman of the Year Nicole Steinbach (Merrillville, Ind./Andrean H.S.) and 2013 MAC Coach of the Year Craig Nicholson.
Gilbert, the Cardinals’ starting left fielder, also earned praise on the All-MAC First Team, along with junior first baseman Taylor Rager (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern).
Steinbach was also named to both the All-MAC Second Team and MAC All-Freshman Team, making her the league’s only three-award winner. Steinbach was joined on the All-MAC Second Team by senior center fielder Amanda Carpenter (Santee, Calif./Santana H.S.) and on the MAC All-Freshman Team by shortstop Selena Reyna (Houston, Texas/South Houston H.S.).
Thanks to its second consecutive league title, and its fourth in the past five seasons, the Ball State softball team opens play in the 2013 Mid-American Conference Softball Tournament Thursday as the No. 1 overall seed and will play in the 5 p.m. contest versus either No. 4 Northern Illinois or the winner of No. 5 Miami versus No. 8 Toledo.
Craig Nicholson – 2013 MAC Coach of the Year
Nicholson, who becomes the first coach in program history to claim multiple MAC Coach of the Year awards (2009 & 2013), led the Cardinals to an 18-3 MAC record this season, which ties his 2009 squad for the best league record in program history. The fastest coach in program history to eclipse the 100 and 200-win marks, Nicholson became just the second Ball State softball coach to earn 100 league victories with last Saturday’s 6-5 (8 inn.) win over Kent State.
In his seven-season tenure as Ball State’s head coach, Nicholson has amassed a 239-160 (.599) record, including an 100-47 (.680) ledger in MAC action. Under his guidance, the program has won four of the last five MAC regular season crowns (2009, 2010, 2012 & 2013).
In addition, Nicholson’s 2010 squad, which set program records for wins in a season (43) and winning percentage in a season (.729), also captured just the second MAC Tournament title in program history to advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Jennifer Gilbert – MAC Player of the Year / First Team All-MAC
Gilbert, who becomes just the fourth player in Mid-American Conference history to earn a pair of MAC Player of the Year honors (2012 & 2013), followed up arguably the best conference season ever by a Ball State player in 2012 with an even more dominating performance this season.
A starter in all 21 of BSU’s MAC games, Gilbert earned her second straight All-MAC First Team award by ranking second in league-only contests with a .446 batting average, while ranking first in slugging percentage (.973), RBI (34), runs scored (23), home runs (11) and total bases (72). Her 34 RBI were 11 better than the next closest player, while her 23 runs scored were three better than second place, both of which were teammates.
Gilbert, a four-time MAC West Division Player of the Week selection this season and an eight-time career honoree, had 10 multiple-hit games in MAC play, including four games with three-or-more hits. She also had 11 multiple-RBI games in league action, with four RBI in one game and six RBI in another. She reached base safely in 19 of BSU’s 21 league games, while also posting a 14-game hitting streak in MAC action.
In helping guide Ball State to an 18-3 mark in MAC play, Gilbert posted six game-winning RBI, scored two game-winning runs and blasted a pair of seventh-inning, game-tying home runs to play a crucial role in 10 of BSU’s 18 league victories.
With her eighth-inning grand slam at Akron, which sealed the win for Ball State, Gilbert became the league’s all-time career RBI leader as a junior and enters the 2013 MAC Softball Tournament with 180 career RBI, which ranks 13th among all active NCAA Division I players and makes her one of only two non-seniors in the top 20.
Gilbert also enters the tournament with 54 career home runs, which is the 11th-best total among all active NCAA Division I players and three shy of the Mid-American Conference career record of 57.
Nicole Steinbach – MAC Freshman of the Year / Second Team All-MAC / MAC All-Freshman Team
Steinbach played a key role in the circle for the Cardinals, posting a 9-1 record in MAC action this season. Her three complete game shutouts in league play tied for first in the conference, while her 2.06 ERA was fourth among all MAC pitchers.
Over 64.2 innings of MAC work, Steinbach limited opposing batters to a .224 average and struck out 43 batters while issuing just 10 walks. A six-time MAC West Division Pitcher of the Week selection as a freshman, Steinbach held opposing MAC teams to three-or-fewer hits in five starts, while holding teams to three-or-fewer runs in nine of her 11 appearances.
Steinbach struck out five-or-more batters in five MAC games, while issuing one-or-fewer walks nine times. She has also held opposing MAC teams without an extra-base hit in four starts.
Taylor Rager – First Team All-MAC
Rager earns First Team All-MAC honors for the second time in her career (2011 & 2013) after ranking third in the conference with a .435 batting average in league-only games. Rager, who started all 21 MAC games at first base for Ball State, tied for first in MAC play with her .512 on base percentage, while her 23 RBI in were second only to Gilbert. Rager also ranked third in league-only contests in slugging percentage (.870), hits (30), home runs (8), total bases (60) and walks (12).
Named the MAC West Division Player of the Week on April 9, Rager blasted a pair of game-winning hits over the course of league play, including a three-run home run in game two of last Friday’s doubleheader versus Buffalo which clinched the 2013 MAC regular season title for Ball State.
Rager tallied nine multiple-hit games in MAC action, including three hits in five games. She also added nine multiple-RBI games, while reaching base safely in 19 of the team’s 21 conference games. On defense, she helped the Cardinals turn eight double plays in league action, while leading the squad with 150 putouts.
Amanda Carpenter – Second Team All-MAC
Carpenter picks up Second Team All-MAC honors for the second straight season (2012 & 2013) after posting a .338 batting average in league action this season. A starter at center field in all 21 MAC games, Carpenter ranked second in the conference with eight doubles in league-only games, while her 18 MAC RBI were tied for sixth.
Carpenter scored the game-winning run in the Cardinals’ league-opening win at Bowling Green, while smashing a game-winning, two-run double versus Miami. She tallied multiple his in six MAC games this season, while posting multiple RBI in three.
Carpenter posted at least one hit in each of BSU’s first 12 league games, while reaching base safely by a hit in 18 of the team’s 21 league games. She also recorded a sacrifice fly in two of the three games she did not reach base safely.
Selena Reyna – MAC All-Freshman Team
Reyna, who started all 21 league games at shortstop, earns MAC All-Freshman Team accolades after ranking fifth on the squad in MAC-only contests with a .293 batting average. Her 16 RBI in MAC-only games ranked 11th in the conference, while her .569 slugging percentage was 12th.
Reyna’s biggest hit of the season came last Saturday versus Kent State, when she blasted an eighth inning, walk-off home run. She also tallied a grand slam in Ball State’s 13-0 (5 inn.) win at Central Michigan (April 26), and finished league play with four home runs.
Reyna ranked third on the team with four multiple-RBI games in league play, while her five multiple-hit games were fifth on the squad. She also reached base safely in 12 of BSU’s 21 MAC games.
2013 MAC Softball Player of the Year
Jennifer Gilbert, Ball State
2013 MAC Softball Pitcher of the Year
Emma Johnson, Kent State
2013 MAC Softball Freshman of the Year
Nicole Steinbach, Ball State
2013 MAC Softball Coach of the Year
Craig Nicholson, Ball State
2013 Nan Harvey Award Winner
Jessica Barnett, Northern Illinois
2013 All-MAC Softball First Team
P Jamie Kertes, Bowling Green
P Kara Dorbos, Central Michigan
P Emma Johnson, Kent State
C Kayla Ledbetter, Miami
C Lauren Gellerman, Ohio
1B Taylor Rager, Ball State
1B Jennifer Barnett, Northern Illinois
2B Amanda Stanton, Eastern Michigan
3B Diana Patterson, Western Michigan
SS Katy Blaharski, Eastern Michigan
OF Jennifer Gilbert, Ball State
OF Macy Merchant, Central Michigan
OF Nicole Gremillion, Northern Illinois
UT(P) Jenna Modic, Miami
UT Hailey Reed, Miami
2013 All-MAC Softball Second Team
P Nicole Steinbach, Ball State
P Paris Imholz, Bowling Green
P Tori Speckman, Buffalo
C Cory DeLamielleure, Central Michigan
1B Paige Berger, Bowling Green
1B Loren Nagy, Western Michigan
2B Courtney McCarthy, Toledo
3B Trista Cox, Central Michigan
SS Hannah Fulk, Bowling Green
SS Carol Ann Sexauer, Central Michigan
OF Amanda Carpenter, Ball State
OF Kim Kirkpatrick, Kent State
OF Lindsey Tobias, Toledo
UT(P) Jessica Sturm, Northern Illinois
UT Chelsea Hortman, Ohio
2013 MAC Softball All-Freshman Team
Erin Seiler, Akron, P
Selena Reyna, Ball State, SS
Nicole Steinbach, Ball State, P
Jenna Modic, Miami, P/IF
Hailey Reed, Miami, IF/OF
Taylor Shuey, Miami, OF
Savannah Jo Dorsey, Ohio, P
Jessica Lemieux, Toledo, OF
Loren Nagy, Western Michigan, IF
Melissa Palmer, Western Michigan, UT