The Amateur Softball Association announced Wednesday the three finalists for the sixth annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award. The USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, in its sixth year, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by NCAA Division I collegiate softball players across the country. 

For the third consecutive year, the three finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year come from different conferences, including the Southeastern Conference, Pac-10 and Big 12. These three individuals have already garnered top awards in their respective conferences and have led their teams into the NCAA Super Regional berths. 

The three finalists for the 2007 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award, listed in alphabetical order, are: 

Monica Abbott (Tennessee) – Senior – Pitcher - Salinas, Calif. 
Kaitlin Cochran (Arizona State) - Sophomore - Outfielder - Yorba Linda, Calif. 
Samantha Ricketts (Oklahoma) - Sophomore - First Base - San Jose, Calif. 

In her final campaign at the collegiate level, Tennessee’s Monica Abbott of Salinas, Calif., is leaving a mark on a sport that she has been playing since she was seven. So far this season she has broken the career NCAA Division I record for wins, strikeouts, shutouts and appearances. She picked up her third Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year award and was named as a first-team All-SEC and All-South Region selection. She now leads the nation all-time with 183 career victories, 2,345 strikeouts, 107 shutouts and 244 appearances. She currently leads NCAA Division I with 629 strikeouts, 44 wins and in strikeouts per seven innings at 14.6. 

This marks the second consecutive year that Abbott has been named as a top three finalist for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year and the fourth consecutive year she was named as a top 10 finalist. 

"Monica Abbott is the type of athlete that every coach would like to have on their team," Lady Vol co-head coach Ralph Weekly said. "She is extremely talented with a tremendous work ethic and brings great energy out to the field every single day. Monica is very humble and always puts the team first in everything she does. She is a team captain and a team leader who has always been critical to the success of our teams at Tennessee." 

"I am extremely honored to be among the three finalists for the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year award," Lady Vol senior pitcher Monica Abbott said. "This has been an exciting season for me and my teammates, and I'm very happy that I've been able to contribute to the success of our team during my final season at UT. I'd like to thank everyone responsible for the honor of me being considered for such an amazing award." 

Kaitlin Cochran’s sophomore season at Arizona State is proving to be even better than her freshman season just a year ago which saw her named as an NFCA First-Team All-American. For the second time in her career, this Yorba Linda, Calif., native claimed the Pac-10 Batting Title, wrapping up the 2007 regular season with a .506 batting average, 88 hits, 18 home runs and 57 RBI for a slugging percentage of .931 and an on-base-percentage of .621. She also leads the Sun Devils in stolen bases this season with 27 and has a nearly flawless fielding percentage of .978. 

“To have Kaitlin named to the top three finalists for USA Softball National Player of the Year is a huge honor, not only for her, but for her team as well,” Sun Devil Head Coach Clint Myers said. “She has had a phenomenal season and has worked for every acclaim, award and record she has received or set this year. Kaitlin is an athlete any coach would dream of having on their team. She works and demands more of herself than any coach or teammate could demand. She’s been selfless in her play this year, putting the team first and herself last, where at the end of the day what matters is the team and the win, not the stats she posted. 

She is an amazing athlete and person and no matter what she decides to do in life, she will succeed, whether it be in playing, coaching or teaching. I’m more than proud to have her as a member of this amazing Arizona State team and she has deserved this honor, not only for her actions on the field, but off.” 

Cochran’s record breaking season consists of taking over as the new ASU single-season hits leader with 88 breaking former All-American Ann Rowan’s 17-year record of 86 set during the 1990 season. She also toppled herself in the ASU record book surpassing her single-season home run record of 17 with her current total of 18, which combined puts her fourth in career home runs at ASU as a sophomore. 

”I don’t honestly know what to say about this, it’s never something I expected,” said a surprised Kaitlin Cochran. “It was flattering to be put on the pre-season list for the award, and to make the top-25 and even the top-10 list. Never did I imagine I would be in the three finalists for the USA Softball National Player of the Year award. It’s not something I would ever expect with so many other amazing softball players in the nation. It’s an amazing feeling to have someone think so highly of you, after the hours and the effort put in. Like I said every player in the nation puts in that time and work, but in receiving it I know that I’m not the only one being honored. My teammates, coaches, family and supporters also deserve this, and I cannot thank them enough for helping me become the athlete I am today.” 

She has already been selected as the Pac-10 Player of the Year, her second Pac-10 Award after winning Freshman of the Year in 2006. She was also selected First-Team All-Region which qualifies her to be named as a First-Team All-American. 

Oklahoma sophomore Samantha Ricketts has been a huge reason for the success of the Sooners this season. The San Jose, Calif., native is considered one of the most prolific hitting first baseman to compete at the collegiate level in more than a decade and for good reason. She set the Big 12 and Oklahoma single season record for RBI with 81 and currently leads the nation in RBI per game with 1.33. She led the Big 12 Conference in home runs, RBI, total bases and slugging percentage during the regular season. She has smashed four grand slams this season and is only two home runs shy of the Oklahoma single-season record. 

For her efforts this season, Ricketts was selected to the All-Big 12 First Team and All-Region First Team for a second consecutive year. She will be looking to lead her Sooners back to the World Series for the first time since 2004 when Oklahoma faces DePaul this weekend in the Super Regional in Norman. 

“This is a tremendous honor for one of the best and purest hitters I have seen in such a young career,” said Oklahoma Head Coach Patty Gasso. “Not only did she set OU and Big 12 single season records in RBI, she is also one of the toughest outs in the country. She is very deserving of this and works so diligently both offensively and defensively. I know that Sam is going to be both thrilled and humbled in the fact that she is such a great team player as this recognition is also a tribute to our team and the table setters in front of her that reach base time after time and allow her to drive in runs.” 

“I’m still very shocked and honored because there are so many great players all around the country and on my own team,” Sooner first baseman Samantha Ricketts said. “It’s a huge honor and I really wouldn’t be in this position without my teammates and coaches. If it wasn’t for all of the girls on my team getting on base, I wouldn’t have nearly as many RBI this season so this reflects on them as well. I appreciate the recognition from USA Softball and I’m looking forward to this weekend for the Super Regional.” 

The winner of the 2007 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be announced Tuesday, May 29 during the opening ceremonies of the 2007 NCAA Women’s College World Series. 

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