The Central Connecticut softball team boasts this year's NEC Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, Coaching Staff of the Year and eight members to the All-Northeast Conference list, the league announced Thursday. Sophomore Kat Malcolm earned both NEC Player of the Year and Most Improved Player in addition to being named to the All-NEC First Team.
Four Blue Devils earned a spot on the All-NEC First Team. Malcolm was joined by senior Nicole Springer, junior Arielle Bruno and sophomore Laura Messina. Four additional squad members were awarded places on the All-NEC Second Team including senior Kelsey Barlow, junior Tessa Brown, and freshmen Evie Rentzel and Brittany Ernst.
Kat Malcolm: Malcolm has enjoyed an explosive sophomore season. She has broken the single-season records for most hits (66) and most runs scored (46). She also ranks second in career slugging percentage (.597) and 10th in career home runs (11). Malcolm is just one home run away from tying the CCSU single-season record (10) in the category. Recently, Malcolm was also named to the Capital One Academic All-District First Team.
"This is an incredible honor for Kat," Head Coach Jeff Franquet said. "She has worked incredibly hard to come back from last year and she is so deserving of these awards. I am so proud to be her coach."
Nicole Springer: In her two years as a Blue Devil, Springer has posted impressive numbers at the plate. This year, she hit eight home runs, rendering her just two short of tying her own CCSU single-season record. She ranks first in Blue Devil history in career slugging percentage (.614), third in career batting average (.341) and fifth in RBI (80). She is tied for third in career history with 18 home runs and shares the record for most RBI in a single season (45).
"I am so proud of Nicole," Franquet said. "She has had to work so hard managing her diabetes and playing at a high level. She is an amazing athlete and a great person and I couldn't be happier for her to finish her career with such a great honor."
Arielle Bruno: Bruno has capped off her junior year ranking in the top 10 in CCSU history in nine career offensive categories. She has scored the most runs in the history of the program (113), ranks third in hits (162) and she is tied for third in career home runs with 18, eight of which have come this season alone. She is just two homers away from tying the single-season record. She has posted a .329 batting average, registered 48 hits, 11 doubles and 29 RBI on the season.
"I have always said Arielle is one of the best athletes in the NEC," Franquet said. "Now she has received this honor twice in her career and I am so glad that she plays for our team."
Laura Messina: Messina has picked up her sophomore campaign right where she left off, breaking numerous CCSU long-standing records and also surpassing many that she set last year as a freshman. Messina shattered the CCSU career shutout record this year registering 12 on the season for a grand total of 19, nearly double the old record (10). This season, she also became the winningest pitcher in CCSU history with 46 wins and tops the career strikeout record with 430. She ranks in the top five in six career pitching categories and owns five single-season records, including strikeouts (223). Messina tied the CCSU record for most appearances in a single season (35) last season. She is currently just three away from breaking the record and has the potential to do so this weekend at the NEC Championship Tournament.
"I think Laura has had an incredible season," Franquet said. "Anytime you win 24 games, you are one of the best pitchers in the league. She has an awesome work ethic and definitely deserves to be first team All-Conference."
Kelsey Barlow: Barlow shattered the CCSU career home run record this season, posting nine to take the lead with 28 over her career. She also tops the record book in RBI with 109 and has the chance to add to it this weekend at the NEC Tournament. She ranks in the top 10 in five career offensive categories. Barlow has racked up 35 hits, posted a .541 slugging percentage and scored 24 runs this season.
"I am so beyond happy for Kelsey," Franquet said. "She has become one of my favorite players I have ever coached and she has come a long way from her freshman year. I have so much respect for her and how important she is to our program and our success."
Tessa Brown: Brown posts a .277 batting average this season with 36 hits, including six doubles, one home run and 18 RBI. She has scored 16 runs on the season and is just four RBI away from cracking into the top 10 in CCSU career history.
"Tessa has really emerged as one of our leaders," Franquet said. "I am so happy that all of her hard work has paid off."
Evie Rentzel: Rentzel is one of two freshmen to make the All-Conference list for Central. She has proven to be a strong force at the plate and in the field. She boasts a .360 batting average over 125 at bats including 45 hits, seven doubles, four triples, five home runs and 31 RBI. She was consistently ranked in the top of the NEC in triples and even ranked in the top 40 in the nation in triples.
"It is such a great honor to be All-Conference as a freshman," Franquet said. "Evie works so hard and we are fortunate to be able to watch her play for three more years."
Brittany Ernst: Ernst has filled the critical utility player role this season and has been extremely effective at the plate and around the bases. She has scored 22 runs this season, registered 16 hits, hit four doubles and driven in six in just 50 at bats. She boasts a .320 batting average, a .400 slugging percentage and a .433 on base percentage. The freshman also appears in the outfield and yields a perfect fielding percentage.
"I am so happy for Brittany for being named All-Conference as a freshman," Franquet said. "She has so much potential and athleticism. I am looking forward to watching her play for the next three years."
Franquet and Assistant Coach Breanne Gleason were named NEC Coaching Staff of the Year this season. In his four years at Central, Franquet has led the program to three-consecutive record-breaking seasons as the 2011 team set a record of 29 wins, the 2012 squad broke it with 31 and this year's team heads into the NEC Tournament with 32 wins, including 16 in the NEC. Sixteen NEC wins is the most conference wins in CCSU history.
"We are incredibly humbled by the respect of our peers in the NEC," Franquet said. "This is an award that truly mirrors the team because without their success, we could not receive this award. We have been through so much adversity this year and we have stayed on course to qualify for the NEC Tournament. We are so proud of our team and we truly thank the coaches in the NEC for their respect of what we are doing here at Central Connecticut in 2013."
The Blue Devils will begin their second NEC Tournament in the history of the CCSU softball program today, Thursday, May 9, against Monmouth in Moon Township, PA. First pitch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.