NORMAN, Okla. Oklahoma softball players Kristin Vesely and Norrelle Dickson have been named to the initial watch list for the 5th annual USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award, announced the Amateur Softball Association, the National Governing Body of Softball in the United States. It marks the second straight season that Dickson, a junior, has been named to the preseason watch list. Vesely was a semifinalist for the award last season, but was not on the initial 2005 preseason list.
This award, which is considered one of the most prestigious honors in women’s collegiate softball, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country. Past winners of this award include UCLA’s Stacey Nuveman, Florida State’s Jessica Van der Linden and two-time winner Texas pitcher Cat Osterman.
Vesely, a senior center fielder, sprung into the national scene last season and made a strong push for the USA Player of the Year award before being eliminated after the semifinal round. A 2005 second team All-American, Vesely led set a Sooner record with her 23-game hitting streak and led the Big 12 with a .451 batting average. In addition the three-time All-Big 12 selection garnered her first Midwest All-Region honor after recording OU single season bests in stolen bases (32) and hits (97).
Dickson is no stranger to USA Softball as she was a member of the 2004 USA Elite Team. Last season, the junior collected third team All-America honors after recording 20 multi-hit games and batting .361 for the season. The two-time All-Midwest Region selection took home first team All-Big 12 honors and ranked second in stolen bases behind Vesely in 2005.
The 2006 Pre-Season Watch List is comprised of 50 players representing 28 schools and 10 different NCAA Division I Conferences. USA Softball will announce its 25 finalists on April 5. A player does not have to appear on the initial watch list to be considered as a Top 25 finalist, but once the Top 25 is named the remaining finalist must be selected from that list.
Just days before the start of post-season play, a list of 10 finalists will be named and released on May 10. The three finalists will be announced May 31. The winner of the 2006 USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be announced during the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
A replica of the award will be placed in a permanent display in the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, along with photos of the winner. An additional replica of the award will be presented to the player’s academic institution.
Osterman was selected as the 2005 winner after leading her Texas Longhorns to the Big 12 Tournament title and a berth into the Women’s College World Series. This marked the second time the southpaw from Houston, Texas was named as a recipient of the award and will be back for her senior season at Texas in 2006.
This year’s watch list contains six players who were among the Top 10 finalists for the 2005 Award including Michigan’s Jennie Ritter, Arizona’s Caitlin Lowe and Osterman who were the final three finalists in Oklahoma City.
The preseason No. 12/13 Sooners open the 2006 season at the UNLV Alexis Resort Kickoff Classic where they will face No. 13/14 Washington and Kentucky on the opening day of the tournament.