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Valdosta State’s Stephanie Carlson and Emporia State’s Megan Dennis Named Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division II National Player and Pitcher of the Week

Valdosta State junior Stephanie Carlson and Emporia State senior Megan Dennis have been named the Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division II National Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, the NFCA announced on Wednesday. Both players have been honored for their performances in the week ending May 3, 2009. This is the final set of Division II weekly awards for the 2009 season. 

Valdosta State’s Stephanie Carlson hit .438 over five games last weekend, including a .600 batting average (6-for-10) at the Gulf South Conference Tournament where the Blazers won the tournament championship. 

Carlson opened the week with a home run in a Monday doubleheader against Albany State before racking up multiple hits in each of Valdosta State’s three tournament games. In the Blazers tournament opener against Ouachita Baptist, Carlson went 2-for-3 including a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh for a 2-1 victory. Later that day, Carlson knocked a three-run home run in the top of the seventh to seal the 8-4 win for Valdosta State. 

In Saturday’s Championship game, Carlson once again went 2-for-3 against Arkansas Tech, including a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning to vault the Blazers from a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead, sealing Tournament MVP honors for the junior from Surrey, British Columbia. Carlson had home runs against both GSC Pitchers of the Year, East honoree Jillian Lafrance of West Florida and West Division honoree Kayla Jackson of Arkansas-Monticello. 

Valdosta State moved up to No. 3 in this week’s NNFCA Division II Top 25 Poll and will play host to an NCAA Regional site this weekend as the second seed in the South Region. 

Emporia State pitcher Megan Dennis went 5-1 last week with a save and pitched 35.0 of the Hornets 47.0 innings during MIAA Tournament play. In ESU’s tournament opener, Dennis scattered three hits over four innings and combined with Jennifer Heerey for a shutout in a run-rule win over Washburn. Dennis and ESU suffered their lone loss of the weekend in their second round game against Misouri Western, but Dennis rebounded with four consecutive wins to earn the tournament title. 

Against Fort Hays State, Dennis pitched a two-hit shutout with eight strikeouts, starting a string of 19.2 scoreless innings and 26.2 innings without allowing an earned run. Next up, Dennis earned a save against Central Missouri, coming on in relief with the bases loaded and one out and ESU holding a 2-0 lead. Both batters Dennis faced popped out, ending the threat and the game. She came back with a complete game five-hit shutout in the rematch victory over Missouri Western in the losers bracket championship game. 

Championship Sunday saw Dennis allow one earned run on five hits with six strikeouts and no walks in ESU’s 5-1 win over then-No. 25 Nebraska-Omaha to force the “if game.” In that final contest, Dennis came on in relief with the Hornets trailing 2-0 and a runner on third and did not allow an additional baserunner until two outs in the seventh inning with ESU leading 5-2. For the tournament, Dennis was 5-1 with a save and a 1.20 ERA. She struck out 26 batters as she led ESU to a sixth straight MIAA Tournament Championship. 

Emporia State will be a No. 4 seed in the South Central Region, opening NCAA Tournament play on Friday against Nebraska-Omaha at the site of top-seeded Angelo State.