LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Eight finalists, one from each of the NCAA’s eight regions, have been selected by the Association’s Division II All-America Committee for the 2022 Schutt Sports / NFCA Division II National Freshman of the Year award.
California University of Pennsylvania’s Caleigh Rister (Atlantic), Harding’s Leigha Harris (Central), Caldwell’s Jessica Klein (East), Southern Indiana’s Josie Newman (Midwest), Nova Southeastern’s Ashley Connor (South), Cameron’s Kaiden Boren (South Central), Emory & Henry’s Lydia Taylor (Southeast) and Cal State San Marcos’ Paige Donnelly (West) are now in the running for the award, which will be announced on Thursday, May 26.
Created in 2015, the award honors the outstanding athletic achievement among freshman softball student-athletes throughout NCAA Division II. To be eligible, student-athletes must come from a NFCA member institution.
Five of the eight finalists were voted NFCA First- or Second-Team All-Region and five honorees – Rister (PSAC West Division), Harris (GAC), Klein (CACC), Connor (Sunshine State) and Boren (Lone Star) - captured their league’s Freshman-of-the-Year accolade. A sixth, CSUSM’s Donnelly, was named the California Collegiate Athletic Association Newcomer of the Year.
Five of the finalists are representing their institutions for the first time, while it is the second nod for Cameron (Khmari Edwards - 2019), Harding (Autumn Humes - 2017) and Southern Indiana (Jennifer Leonhardt - 2017).
Past winners include Janessa Bassett (Dixie State – 2015), Autumn Humes (Harding – 2017), Bailey McKittrick (Central Oklahoma – 2019), Callie Nunes (Concordia Irvine – 2018), Charlotte Romero (Colorado Christian – 2016) and Kenzee Smith (UIndy – 2021).
Cal State San Marcos
Emory & Henry
The NFCA (National Fastpitch Coaches Association) is the professional organization for fastpitch softball coaches. Known for its highly-regarded Schutt Sports/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.