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OKLAHOMA CITY — The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) is proud to announce that the University of Texas at Tyler’s Ashley Perez has been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division III National Freshman of the Year award.

Perez, a catcher from Pflugerville, Texas, heads into the NCAA Division III Championship in Oklahoma City with a .473 batting average, 32 runs, 70 hits — including 22 doubles and 18 homers — and 67 RBI for the (43-3) Patriots, who are ranked third in the latest NFCA Top 25 poll.

She is tied with Grinnell College freshman Darice Wheeler for second nationally in home runs, and they are one behind Laurren Ladwig of Manchester University, who has 19. Perez is tied for third in Division III in doubles this season.

The honorees were recognized on Wednesday during the NCAA Division III Championship banquet at the Sheraton Hotel Downtown in Oklahoma City.

Last year’s recipient of the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division III National Freshman of the Year award was Virginia Wesleyan University pitcher Hanna Hull, who also won Schutt Sports/NFCA Division III National Player of the Year honors. Hull and Perez are both in the group of 10 finalists for this season’s Player of the Year, which will be chosen following the completion of the NCAA Championship next week.

Virginia Wesleyan pitcher Kandis Kresinske won the inaugural Freshman of the Year award in 2016.

The Schutt Sports/NFCA Division III Freshman of the Year and the NFCA Division III All-America softball teams are selected by eight NCAA Division III head coaches representing each of the eight NCAA regions. Those earning first team All-Region recognition were eligible to move forward to be considered to be chosen by the committee as All-Americans. NFCA member coaches nominate and vote for the Association’s All-Region teams.

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