LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The National Fastpitch Coaches Association is proud to announce the initial finalists for the Schutt Sports / NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award, which will be presented prior to the start of the 2016 NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

This year’s finalists hail from 23 different universities, while the group represents 13 Division I leagues from across the nation. Florida and Texas A&M out of the Southeastern Conference and Oklahoma from the Big 12 each boast two selections.

The SEC led the way with nine selections from seven different programs. The Big 12 had four honorees from three universities and the Atlantic Coast Conference came in with three. The Big Ten, BIG EAST, Big South, Big West, Pac-12, Northeast Conference (NEC), Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), Atlantic-10 and Western Athletic Conference (WAC) each had one individual. The A-10, NEC, MAAC and WAC are represented for the first time.

We also have the first sibling to make the list. One of this year’s finalists, Ali Wester of Notre Dame, is the younger sister of 2014 top three finalist, Karley Wester.

On Thurs., May 12, the list will be trimmed down to the top 10 finalists, while the top three finalists will be selected and released on Wed., May 25. The Schutt Sports / NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year trophy will be presented during a live ceremony on May 31 prior to the opening of the annual Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

With the Association always searching for innovative ways to promote the sport of softball, the award was created in 2014 from an idea to honor outstanding athletic achievement among freshmen softball student-athletes throughout Division I. In the inaugural year, Auburn’s Kasey Cooper and Tennessee’s Annie Aldrete, were co-winners. Oklahoma’s Paige Parker took home the honor in 2015.

About the NFCA

The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) is the professional growth organization for fastpitch softball coaches for all competitive levels of play. Founded in the early 1980s by collegiate softball coaches, today the organization also includes high school coaches, travel ball/club coaches and individuals who support the sport. Founded by coaches for coaches, the Association is built on strong values and continually instills within its members a deep sense of responsibility for developing programs that enrich the lives of all those involved.

In addition, the Association provides educational training; encourages sportsmanship and high standards of competition; promotes the sport both nationally and internationally; identifies and pursues issues relevant to the fastpitch coaching profession and provides a forum to discuss those issues; honors excellence through awards programs for coaches and players, and keeps members informed of current coaching techniques, equipment innovations and fastpitch news.


NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year Finalists

Kelly Barnhill (Florida) | Pitcher

Ashley Diaz  (Arkansas) | First Base

Ebonee Echols (Michigan State) | SS/2B (DP/OF)

Taty Forbes (Coastal Carolina) | Outfield

Sydney Golden (Cal State Fullerton) | Pitcher

Carsyn Gordon (Florida State) | OF/IF

Megan Hensley (Louisville) | P/OF/DP

Jessica Hughes (Fordham) | Second Base

Kelsey Horton (New Mexico State) | First Base

Brianna Jones (Southern Illinois) | Pitcher

Shay Knighten (Oklahoma) | Infield

Amanda Lorenz (Florida) | Outfield

Hailey Lunderman (Ole Miss) | Shortstop

Taylor Lynch (Oklahoma State) | Third Base

Maggie MacBeth (Butler) | Second Base

Makayla Martin (Auburn) | Pitcher

Keeli Milligan (Texas A&M) | OF

Meehra Nelson (Oregon State) | Pitcher

Hayley Norton (Saint Francis) | Outfield

Claire Oberdorf (Marist) | 2B/C

Sydney Romero (Oklahoma) | IF

Samantha Show (Texas A&M) | Pitcher

Sydney Smith (LSU) | Pitcher

Brooke Vines (Tennessee) | OF

Kyla Walker (Baylor) | DP/RF

Ali Wester (Notre Dame) | OF/IF

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