LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The National Fastpitch Coaches Association and Diamond Sports announced on Thursday the 10 student-athletes that have earned the honor of being named as a 2015 Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year.
Nine of the 10 honorees are first-time selections with seven programs receiving recognition for the first time. Olathe Northwest's (Kan.) Reagan Hathaway is a repeat winner, while Kankakee Community College and Wenatchee Valley College have had one previous representative.
The Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year award is presented annually to the top catcher from an NFCA member institution in each of the following divisions: NCAA (Divisions I, II and III), NAIA, NJCAA (Divisions I, II and III), Cal JC, NWAC and high school.
A committee comprised of head coaches in each of the 10 divisions determined the winner of their respective award. The winners of the 2015 Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year award are as follows:
NCAA Division I
LEXIE ELKINS – LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE
Elkins, the NCAA’s 2015 home run champion, launched a program-record 32 long balls and played a key role in the Ragin’ Cajuns (42-12) reaching Super Regionals. Her 0.59 home runs per game fell just short of the NCAA single-season record of 0.60 held by Camilla Career of UTEP (2012). The NFCA First Team All-American is just one of eight players in NCAA Division I history to record 30-plus home runs in a season. Not just known for her power, Elkins was a stalwart behind the dish, making just one error in 403 attempts for a .998 fielding percentage. Setting numerous program records, Elkins became the fourth Cajun to garner back-to-back Sun Belt Player of the Year honors and the 13th two-time All-American in the Louisiana-Lafayette annals. The Victoria, Texas native and USA Softball Top 26 Player of the Year finalist finished her junior campaign with 83 RBI, a 1.077 slugging percentage, seven multi-homer games and a NCAA best 1.54 RBI per game. Elkins is the first student-athlete from the Sun Belt to garner this distinction as it becomes the fifth conference to have a representative of this award.
NCAA Division II
MARLA REITER – DIXIE STATE UNIVERSITY
A first team NFCA All-American, Reiter (pictured) was instrumental in helping Dixie State return to the Division II National Championship and post a runner-up finish in 2015. The senior is the first PacWest recipient of the award. Reiter’s presence behind the plate made it very hard for opponents to run as DSU opponent attempted just 13 stolen bases all season. Of those would-be base thieves, the Rolinda, Calif. native threw out eight of those with only five successes against her all season. At the plate, she hit .370 with 15 doubles, 10 home runs, 4 RBI and 30 runs scored. In addition, the first team PacWest selection started all but one game and caught a pitching staff that posted a 1.67 ERA, posted 18 shutouts and held opponents to a .209 batting average.
NCAA Division III
KIERIN STEVENS – UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT TYLER
Stevens, a sophomore catcher from Plano, Texas, was stellar in her second year with the Patriots, garnering First Team NFCA All-American honors, hitting .407 with 61 hits, 15 doubles, eight homeruns and 50 RBI. She also played in every game for UT Tyler, helping to lead the Patriots to a NCAA Div. III National Runner-Up finish. Stevens was also stellar behind the plate, throwing out 7-out-of-7 base stealers on the year, while also sporting a 1.000 fielding percentage and eight assists.
RANDI WIMPY – REINHARDT UNIVERSITY
A NFCA and NAIA first team All-American, Wimpy had a tremendous junior campaign as she was named Appalachian Athletic Conference Player of the Year for the second time. The Cartersville, Ga. native finished fifth in NAIA with a .912 slugging percentage and 22nd with 57 RBI. She led the Lady Eagles with a .447 batting average to go along with 16 doubles, 11 home runs, 53 runs scored, 42 walks and .575 on base percentage.
NJCAA Division I
MORGAN OLIVER – JEFFERSON COLLEGE
In helping her squad reach post a 56-6 record and reach the NJCCA Division I National Championship Tournament, Oliver was named a first team NFCA All-American. The sophomore hit a team-best .476 and also led the squad with 20 doubles. She added three triples, six home runs, 69 RBI, 55 runs scored, a .738 slugging percentage and .514 on base percentage. Behind the plate, she did not commit and error in 190 chances.
NJCAA Division II
BRITTANY PLIMMER - KANKAKEE COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Playing a key role in Kankakee’s NJCAA DII National Championship, Plimmer finished in the top 10 nationally in six categories, including home runs (16), doubles (25), runs scored (67), total bases (160) and slugging percentage (.988). A first team NFCA All-American and Murucci Elite Hitter selection, Plimmer hit a school-record .512 and was also perfect in the field, committing no errors behind the plate. Taking her talents to St. Xavier University in Chicago, she joins Leigh Farina (2004) as the other honoree from Kankakee.
NJCAA Division III
VIVI MARQUEZ – ROCK VALLEY COLLEGE
Named 2015 NJCAA Division 3 National Player of the Year, Marquez finished her 2015 campaign hitting .531 with 20 doubles, six triples, 14 home runs and 85 RBI – the latter two leading all of NJCAA DIII. Her numbers played a key role in Rock Valley’s second straight national title. The Roscoe, Ill. native and Wright State University commit also slugged .954, scored 69 times and was named the N4C Most Valuable Player and the NJCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Offensive Player.
LEILANI AKAI — COLLEGE OF SAN MATEO
Akai, a NFCA First-Team All-American selection, posted a .527 batting average with 16 long balls, 62 RBI, .600 OBP and 1.129 slugging percentage. Her home runs and RBI ranked fourth in all of CalJC. Along with All-American recognition, the sophomore was named to the All-State Team and earned first team Coast Conference honors as she helped San Mateo to Coast Conference and NorCal titles and a State Championship runner-up finish.
SIDNEY HAZEN – WENATCHEE VALLEY COLLEGE
A sophomore hailing from Boise, Idaho, Hazen hit .402 with 66 hits, 19 doubles, six home run, 63 RBI and 54 runs scored. Garnering first team NFCA All-American honors, she committed just two errors in 105 chances for a .981 fielding percentage. She joins Cassi Ellis (2011) as the other honoree from Wenatchee.
REAGAN HATHAWAY — OLATHE NORTHWEST (KANSAS) HIGH SCHOOL
Garnering her second straight Diamond Catcher nod, Hathaway launched a state record 18 home runs, which played a big part in her jaw-dropping 1.950 slugging percentage. The University of Texas signee and two-time NFCA All-American hit .640 with 61 RBI, 50 runs scored and a .750 on base percentage.
--- Photo Courtesy of Richard Hoppie