LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Oklahoma City University’s Kennedy Jackson, University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma’s Emily Cerny and Southeastern University’s Riley Sanders were voted Schutt Sports/NFCA Player, Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, the Association announced on Wednesday afternoon.
Jackson, a two-time NFCA first-team All-American, played a pivotal role in the Stars’ 11th NAIA national title. The senior shortstop from Moore, Okla. posted a .442 batting average with 11 doubles, five triples, 22 RBI and 73 runs scored. Additionally, Jackson swiped 50 bases bringing her career total to 208, ranking second all-time in the NAIA record books. She finished the season ranked third in the NAIA in base hits (87) and runs, along with eighth in stolen bases. Jackson is the second Star to win the award, joining former teammate Jaci Smith (2019).
This marks the second NFCA postseason award for Cerny, who captured Player of the Year honors as a freshman in 2018. The senior hurler finished off her stellar career as the NAIA’s all-time career strikeout record holder with 1,414. The record-breaking strikeout (No. 1,412) came in the third inning against the No. 1 overall seed Mobile at the NAIA Softball World Series. In 2022, Cerny was 34-5 with a 0.90 ERA and 388 strikeouts in 255.1 innings of work. The three-time NFCA first-team All-American and five-time Sooner Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year topped the NAIA in strikeouts, complete games (31), shutouts (19) and innings pitched as she helped the Drovers to a third-place finish at the World Series. Cerny closed out her career ranked second in the NAIA annals with 64 shutouts, 132 complete games and 15 no-hitters.
Sanders is taking home her third NFCA accolade after earning first-team All-America honors and being named the 2022 New Balance/NFCA Golden Shoe Award recipient just 24 hours ago. An All-American at DP or Utility/Non-Pitcher, Sanders posted a .383 batting average with 80 hits and a team-high 69 runs scored. The rookie from Fort Myers, Fla. stole 74 bases in 75 attempts, including 57 straight to end the season.
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.
Past winners of the award are Saint Xavier’s McPherson College’s Maile Deutsch (Player / 2021), Allison Golic (Pitcher / 2021), Oklahoma City University’s Jaci Smith (Player / 2019), Southern Oregon University’s Gabby Sandoval (Pitcher / 2019), Cerny (2018), Indiana Wesleyan University’s Kaisey Carson (2017) and St. Xavier’s Nicole Nonnemacher (2016).
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.
All special awards are voted on by the Association’s All-America Committees. In the NAIA, the committee is comprised of one elected member head coach from each of the NFCA’s six regions.
The NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) is the professional organization for fastpitch softball coaches. Known for its highly-regarded student-athlete awards, the NFCA also educates and supports softball coaches on a variety of different levels: from webinars to legal counsel, to in-person events and the National Convention.