VIENNA, W.Va. — Regular season champion University of Rio Grande placed six players on the all-conference first team and took home three of the four individual awards during Thursday night’s River States Conference Softball Awards Ceremony as part of the RSC Softball Championship at Jackson Memorial Park.
The RedStorm was represented on the first team by pitchers Kelsey Conkey and Raelynn Hastings, catcher Kenzie Cremeens, infielders Michaela Criner and Lexi Philen and outfielder Taylor Webb.
Criner was also named the league’s Player of the Year for the second straight season, while Webb was selected as the conference Newcomer of the Year and head coach Chris Hammond earned his fourth consecutive Coach of the Year honor.
Criner, a junior who hails from Bremen, Ohio, hit .404 with 10 home runs and 32 runs batted in during the regular season, while also finishing with 10 doubles and nine triples for a .788 slugging percentage.
Criner led the RSC in triples, runs scored (49) and total bases (119) , ranked second in home runs, total hits (61) and on-base percentage (.467), was third in RBIs and ranked fourth in batting average.
Her nine triples leads all of NAIA and she ranks 11th nationally in total bases.
Webb, a freshman from Willow Wood, Ohio, hit .384 with a home run and 25 runs batted in. She also tripled twice and clubbed a team-best 12 doubles.
Hammond, now in his fourth season, guided Rio to a 32-12 finish overall in the regular season and 17-1 mark in conference play.
That one loss came at the hands of Point Park’s Katie Tarr, who edged Conkey for the RSC Pitcher of the Year honor.
Tarr, a junior right-hander from Burgettstown, Pa., was 10-5 with a 1.13 earned run average and 177 strikeouts in 112 innings overall. Against conference foes, she was 7-1 with a 0.67 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 62.2 innings of work.
Conkey, a senior from Minford, Ohio and the winner of each of the last two RSC Pitcher of the Year awards, was 14-4 with a pair of saves and a 1.77 ERA in 22 appearances overall. The right-hander was 9-0 with a 0.75 ERA against RSC competition, with just 37 hits and seven walks surrendered over 56 innings.
As a hitter, Conkey batted .328 with six home runs and 30 runs batted in. She also had nine doubles.
Hastings, a sophomore from Commercial Point, Ohio, posted a 15-6 record with one save and a 2.73 earned run average. In 24 appearances, she allowed 129 hits in 128-1/3 innings with 13 complete games and a pair of shutouts.
Philen, a junior from Tallmade, Ohio batted .302 with a home run, two triples and 14 RBIs for the RedStorm, while Cremeens – a freshman from Ironton, Ohio – batted .298 with a conference-leading 11 home runs and 36 runs batted in.
Joining Tarr on the first team from Point Park was catcher Hailey Leitner, infielder Tiffany Edwards and outfielder Maddie Horn.
Regular season runner-up Indiana University Southeast had trio of first team honorees including outfielder Kyndyl Olds, utility selection Justice Kline and designated player Baylee Krueger.
Carlow University and Midway University had two first-team picks each. Representing the Celtics were pitcher Abby Stroud and infielder Annamarie Osiecki, while infielder Alyssa Yates and outfielder Carson Flynn were the Eagles’ honorees.
The remainder of the 20-player first team included WVU-Tech designated player Kayte Blandford, Brescia University infielder Cassie Moss and utility pick Deana Phillips of Asbury University.
The 17-player All-RSC Second Team included four selections from Cincinnati Christian University and three players each from WVU-Tech and IU Southeast.
Rio Grande was represented on the second team by sophomore Mary Pica (Minford, OH), who batted .310 with two home runs, 25 runs batted in and 10 doubles.
The conference also named a Champions of Character Team, with one player from each of the league’s 10 softball-playing schools who best represents the five core values of the NAIA’s Champions of Character Initiative – integrity, respect, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship.
Rio’s representative on the list was senior Carly Skeese (Newark, OH).
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.