2024 TUCCI/NFCA NAIA Freshman of the Year, 2024 TUCCI/NFCA NAIA Player of the Year, 2024 TUCCI/NFCA NAIA Pitcher of the Year, nfca, tucci, tucci limited, Sarah Giles, Cassandra Valdez, Tara Hoehner

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jessup University’s Sarah Giles, Our Lady of the Lake University’s Cassandra Valdez and Oklahoma City University’s Tara Hoehner were voted TUCCI/NFCA NAIA Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, the Association announced on Monday.

Giles, a unanimous first-team NFCA All-American at first base, led the NAIA in batting average (.533), home runs (21), RBI, (73) slugging (1.174) and on-base percentage (.683). She rewrote the Jessup record books, setting single-season marks in the above categories, while ranking in the NAIA’s top-five all-time for slugging and OBP. She also drew 60 walks, struck out just nine times in 200 plate appearances and swiped 16 bases. Giles was pivotal in leading the Warriors to their first-ever NAIA Softball World Series appearance and a national runner-up finish to go along with an GSAC regular-season title and a school-record 44 victories.

Valdez spearheaded a vaunted pitching staff that keyed Our Lady of the Lake to its first NAIA Softball World Series title and the first national title for OLLU athletics. The graduate hurler posted a 30-1 record in the circle and owned the NAIA’s lowest ERA at 0.53. Valdez struck out 286 batters, held the opposition to a .149 batting average, registered a 0.70 WHIP and posted 15 shutouts. During the Saints’ undefeated postseason run (7-0), Valdez, a first-team NFCA All-American, was part of a staff that recorded shutouts in six of the seven games and held opponents scoreless in 62 of the 64 innings they pitched.

Hoehner put forth a strong rookie campaign for the Stars. The first-team NFCA All-Region outfielder batted .425 with 21 doubles, nine home runs, 56 RBI, 53 runs and a team-best 24 stolen bases. Hoehner slugged .737 and finished with a 1.181 OPS. She registered three five-RBI games and homered twice versus Mid-America Christian.

The Player of the Year award was created to honor the outstanding athletic achievements among softball student-athletes throughout the NAIA. In 2019, the Association expanded the award to include a Player and Pitcher of the Year. To be eligible, student-athletes must be nominated by their member head coach.

The Freshman of the Year award honors the outstanding athletic achievement among freshman softball student-athletes throughout NAIA. To be eligible, student-athletes must come from a NFCA member institution. Reinhardt’s Emily Loveless was the inaugural winner in 2021, followed by Southeastern’s Riley Sanders in 2022 and Baker’s Kira Baker in 2023.

Awards are voted on by the Association’s NAIA All-America Committee, which is comprised of one elected member head coach from each of the NFCA’s six regions.

TUCCI/NFCA Player & Pitcher of the Year

2024 – Sarah Giles, Jessup (Player) / Cassandra Valdez, Our Lady of the Lake (Pitcher)
2023 – Haley Loffer, College of Idaho (Player) / Annaliese Wood, Georgia Gwinnett (Pitcher)
2022 – Kennedy Jackson, Oklahoma City (Player) / Emily Cerny, USAO (Pitcher)
2021 – Maile Deutsch, McPherson (Player) / Allison Golic, St. Xavier (Pitcher)
2019 – JC Smith, Oklahoma City (Player) / Gabby Sandoval, Southern Oregon (Pitcher)
2018 – Emily Cerny, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
2017 – Kaisey Carson, Indiana Wesleyan University
2016 – Nicole Nonnemacher, St. Xavier University

*No award in 2020

The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) is the professional organization for fastpitch softball coaches. Known for its highly-regarded Tucci/NFCA Freshman of the Year Awards, the NFCA also educates and supports softball coaches on a variety of different levels: from podcasts to a comprehensive drills database, to in-person events and National ConventionNational Convention

Learn more about the NFCA and consider joining nearly 7,000 coaches today!


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