LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The NFCA revealed 32 student-athletes from 26 different institutions have been selected 2018 NFCA NAIA All-American teams, announced by the Association on Wednesday afternoon.
Oklahoma City University and Georgia Gwinnett College led the way will three All-American honors. National champion University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, Freed-Hardeman University had two recipients each. OCU and USAO earned two first-team plaudits apiece
For the second consecutive season, OCU’s Jaci Smith was selected Diamond Catcher of the Year and Niki Cook of Georgia Gwinnett College was named the New Balance/NFCA Golden Shoe Award recipient.
Garnering first-team accolades for the Drovers were pitcher Emily Cerny and designated player Chloe Clifton. The duo keyed USAO to the program’s first national title. Cerny (33-4), named NAIA Pitcher of the Year, led all NAIA pitchers with 33 wins and ranked third in opponent’s batting average (.164), strikeouts (298) and total innings pitched (238.0), and seventh in ERA (1.15). Named the World Series MVP, Cerny held her opponents to a .193 batting average against, posted a 1.17 ERA and struck out 27 batters. Clifton led USAO and the NAIA with 78 RBI. The Sooner Athletic Conference Player-of-the-Year finished the season with .395 batting average and six home runs.
Smith and second baseman Brittany Perez garnered first-team accolades for OCU. Now a two-time first teamer, Smith hit .409 with 10 doubles, 11 home runs, 68 RBI and 60 runs scored. She walked 20 times contributing to her .509 on-base percentage. Perez posted a .356 batting average with 14 doubles, 11 long balls, 52 RBI and 43 runs scored.
Nicole Exposito of Indiana Wesleyan was named the first-team first baseman. She hit .351 and was second in the NAIA with 23 home runs. Exposito slugged .805 and drove in 77 runs helping the Wildcats to a school-record 58 wins and a second straight trip to the NAIA World Series.
Third base honoree Bailey Terry of Texas Wesleyan drove in a school-record 73 runs and became the program’s career leader with 153. The junior hit .429 with 17 home runs, an .845 slugging percentage and .500 on-base percentage. Terry ranked sixth in the nation in RBI and home runs, seventh in slugging and total bases.
Rio Grande’s Michaela Criner collects her second NFCA All-America honor with this year’s first-team selection. The River States Conference Player of the Year won the NAIA’s batting crown with a .534 batting average, while averaging an NAIA-best 3.146 hits per game. She finished second nationally with 93 hits and 151 total bases, third in slugging (.868) and fourth in runs scored per game (1.208).
Our second two-time first-team All-America honoree, Niki Cook of Georgia Gwinnett, headlines the three outfield selections. Cook, the two-time Association of Independent Institutions' Player of the Year selection, led all NAIA players with 70 stolen bases and 95 hits, and ranked second nationally with a .511 batting average and 67 runs scored.
Joining Cook in the outfield are Williams Baptist’s Madelyn Hawley and Dickinson State’s Rachael Dillon. Hawley, a senior, swiped a program-record 46 bases in 2018 and became the Lady Eagles’ all-time leader with 91. She hit .469, posted a .538 on-base percentage and reached base safely in 41 of 44 contests. Hawley added 49 runs and struck out just four times in 171 plate appearances. Dillon led the Blue Hawks in almost every statistical category, hitting .430 with 11 home runs, 72 hits and 43 RBI.
Utility selection Erin Sharpe of Bellevue (Neb.) takes home her second straight first-team honor after earning that status as a third baseman in 2017. Sharpe, a third baseman and pitcher, was named the North Star Athletic Association Player of the Year for the second straight season. She led the Bruins with a .409 average, 19 home runs, 16 doubles and 55 RBI. In the circle, Sharp recorded 16 wins, a 1.85 ERA and 138 strikeouts. Her home runs, 145 total bases and .824 slugging percentage rank fourth, sixth and 11th in the NAIA.
A pair of two-time All-Americans – Marian’s Breena Smith and Freed-Hardeman’s Caitlyn Carter - highlight the five at-large selections. Smith, who garnered second-team recognition last year, posted a 26-3 record with a 1.15 ERA and 224 punchouts in 182 innings of work. She only issued 45 walks and held her opposition to a .164 batting average. Carter, a first-team honoree in 2016, ranked third in the NAIA with a .506 batting average and 1.787 hits per game. She also ranked eighth with 84 hits and ninth with eight triples.
The NAIA’s Player of the Year Harlee Donovan of Southern Oregon, Grand View’s Claudia Farrell and Central Methodist’s Hannah Steeby round out the at-large selections. Donovan, a senior catcher, helped the Raiders finish third at the NAIA World Series. She hit .447 and recorded a .593 on-base percentage, which was boosted by a NAIA-best 62 walks. Donovan doubled 16 times and was named a Cascade Conference Gold Glove recipient, gunning down 13 of 34 base runners attempting to steal.
Farrell, the four-time 2018 Heart of America Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, posted a 29-5 record and led the NAIA with a 0.89 ERA. She was third in victories and eighth in opponent’s batting average (.174). She ended her career with a 104-20 record and over 1,000 strikeouts. Steeby, a sophomore shortstop, was the NAIA’s home run leader with 24, while topping the team charts with 76 RBI and .880 slugging percentage. Steeby hit .371 and recorded a .465 on-base percentage.