LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Stanford University’s NiJaree Canady, Duke University’s D’Auna Jennings and Indiana’s Taryn Kern are the three finalists for the 2023 TUCCI/NFCA Division I Freshman of the Year award, the Association revealed on Thursday afternoon. The winner, which is voted on by the Association’s Division I All-America Committee, will be announced on Tuesday, May 30, prior to the start of the 2023 NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Canady is the nation's leader in ERA (0.46), strikeouts per seven innings (11.8) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.00), while ranking third in hits allowed per seven innings (3.29). Over 106.1 innings of work, she is 15-1 and leads the Cardinal with 180 strikeouts and a 0.64 WHIP, while walking only 18 and holding her opponents to a miniscule .137 batting average. Canady, who has two no-hitters on her resume, recorded a season-best 18 strikeouts against Villanova, the most since Missy Penna's school record of 19 back on March 23, 2009.
Jennings, the offensive catalyst for the fifth-ranked Blue Devils, leads the team in batting average (.471), stolen bases (21) and base hits (80). The NFCA First-Team All-Region outfielder also has six doubles, 47 runs scored, a .529 slugging percentage and a .497 on-base percentage. Jennings had a program-best 17-game hitting streak snapped in the NCAA Regional opener, but bounced back by going 7-for-7 in a pair of wins over Charlotte, lifting Duke to host its first-ever Super Regional against Stanford.
Kern, who earned First Team All-Region accolades, captured the Big Ten Freshman and Player of Year honors. The top offensive threat for the Hoosiers, she led the squad with a .404 batting average, 63 hits, 23 home runs, a .942 slugging percentage, 68 RBI, 68 runs scored, 45 walks and a .578 on-base percentage. Kern added 13 doubles, one triple and was plunked a team-high 22 times. She currently ranks tied for second nationally in home runs, is fourth in slugging and fifth in on-base percentage.
The TUCCI/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award was created in 2014 to honor outstanding athletic achievement among Division I freshmen softball student-athletes. To be eligible, student-athletes must be nominated by their member head coach and in their first year of NCAA Division I collegiate competition as a true freshman or redshirt freshman.
In 2023, the NFCA will award Freshman of the Year honors to a student-athlete from NCAA DI, NCAA DII, NCAA DIII and NAIA. For more information about all NFCA Awards, visit nfca.org.
Previous winners include Jordy Bahl (2022 – Oklahoma), Tiare Jennings (2021 – Oklahoma), Danielle Williams (2019 - Northwestern), Jocelyn Alo (2018, Oklahoma), Rachel Garcia (2017 – UCLA), Amanda Lorenz (2016 – Florida), Paige Parker (2015 – Oklahoma) and inaugural recipients – Annie Aldrete (Tennessee) and Kasey Cooper (Auburn) – in 2014.
The NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) 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 Convention.