NORMAN – The Oklahoma softball program had seven student-athletes named to the 2017 National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I All-Central Region Team, including five first-team honorees, the NFCA announced Thursday.
Junior Paige Parker, sophomores Fale Aviu, Caleigh Clifton and Shay Knighten and freshman Nicole Mendes were all selected for the All-Region First Team, while junior Nicole Pendley and sophomore Sydney Romero were placed on the All-Region Second Team.
It marks the fourth straight season that OU has had at least seven selections. Oklahoma was one of six teams with at least seven honorees this year, joining Arizona, Florida, James Madison, Minnesota and Oregon. Oklahoma's five first-team honorees tied for third in the country, trailing James Madison and Arizona, who had seven and six, respectively. The five first-team selections also tied a school record for Oklahoma, matching the mark set by the 2005, 2007, 2015 and 2016 squads.
For the third straight season Parker has coupled being the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year with being named to the All-Region First Team. Holding a 20-5 record this season, Parker has a 1.36 earned run average with 207 strikeouts to just 28 walks in just 160.0 innings pitched, while opponents are batting just .169 off her. She leads the Big 12 in ERA, strikeouts, strikeouts per seven innings (9.1) and walks per seven innings (1.23).
The Big 12 Player of the Year, Knighten has been OU's biggest run producer this year, leading the team with 55 runs batted in, a figure that also leads the Big 12 and is 21st nationally. She holds a .347 batting average with a .565 slugging percentage and .429 on-base rate. The team's starting first baseman for all but one game, Knighten ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 15.5 at-bats per strikeout and is sixth in total bases (96), eighth in hits (59) and ninth in slugging.
Clifton made the All-Region First Team for the second time in as many seasons. She leads the Big 12 and is 14th nationally with a .545 on-base percentage, a mark that would rank seventh in OU single-season history. The team's starting second baseman, Clifton also leads the conference in hit by pitch per game (0.36) and runs per game (1.07), marks that rank 10th and 15, respectively, in the country. She also leads OU in runs (62), walks (40), hit by pitch (21) and stolen base attempts (24).
After being named to the All-Region Third Team last year as a freshman, Aviu garnered First-Team honors this year. Starting 36 games as the designated player and 22 in the outfield, she was picked for the team as the DP or utility/non-pitcher. Aviu ranks second in the Big 12 in doubles (18), doubles per game (0.31), hit by pitch per game (0.28) and sacrifice flies (4) while ranking third with 18.1 at-bats per strikeout. Her doubles figure ranks ninth in the country and are is tied for sixth in OU single-season history.
Mendes' inclusion marks the third straight year that an OU freshman has been on the First Team. The Big 12 Freshman of the Year leads the Big 12 with a .622 slugging percentage and is second in batting average (.430), fourth in stolen bases per game (0.39) and runs per game (0.86) and fifth in OBP (.476).
Pendley and Romero earned Second-Team honors for the second time in their respective careers.
Pendley leads the team and conference in home runs with 13 on the year. The everyday centerfielder, she also ranks second in the league in home runs per game (0.22), third in RBI per game (0.86) and total bases (106) and fifth in slugging (.586). She's also tied for the team lead with three triples and is hitting .315 with 50 RBI.
Romero has started all but one game this year at third base and leads the squad with 66 hits, 109 total bases, 19 multi-hit games and 16 multi-RBI efforts. She's second in the conference in total bases, RBI/game (0.88) and 21.4 at-bats per strikeout. She's hitting .342 this year with a .379 OBP and .565 slugging percentage.
The awards honor softball student-athletes from the Association's 10 regions with first, second and third teams selected for each region. The all-region teams were voted on by NFCA member coaches from each respective region, and all the honorees now become eligible for selection to one of three 2017 NFCA Division I All-American teams.
The 2017 NFCA Division I All-America teams will be announced at approximately 5 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 31, via NFCA.org.