NORMAN — A nation-high five members of the back-to-back reigning national champion Oklahoma softball team were named to the 2018 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List, USA Softball announced Wednesday.
Senior pitchers Paige Lowary and Paige Parker and junior infielders Caleigh Clifton, Shay Knighten and Sydney Romero are among the 50 student-athletes on the preseason watch list.
The top 25 finalists for the 2018 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced April 25. While an athlete does not have to be on the "Watch List" to be considered for the top 25, the eventual USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will come from the top 25 finalists. The top 10 finalists will be announced May 9 and the top three announced May 23. The 2018 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be revealed May 29.
A 2017 All-Big 12 First Team and WCWS All-Tournament Team selection, Lowary enters her senior season holding the Oklahoma career record for saves with 11 despite playing just one year as a Sooner. Lowary recorded a 1.53 ERA in 2017, including a 0.77 mark in 10 postseason appearances (36.1 innings pitched). She led the nation in saves and finished 11th in hits per seven innings pitched (4.01) and 34th in ERA.
Parker has earned All-America recognition three times in as many seasons with Oklahoma softball, named an NFCA First-Team All-American in 2016 and Second-Team All-American in 2015 and 2017. She was tabbed the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year in 2015, 2016 and 2017, also receiving All-Big 12 First Team honors in those seasons. Parker was named a top-34 finalist for the 2017 USA Collegiate Player of the Year and a top-25 finalist in 2016.
Clifton was recognized by the NFCA as a 2017 Second-Team All-American and was a first-team all-region pick in both 2016 and 2017. Named an All-Big 12 Second Team honoree in both 2016 and 2017, Clifton ranks second in OU history in career on-base percentage (.533) and times hit by pitch (42). In 2017, the infielder led the team in on-base percentage (.528), runs (70), walks (45), times hit by pitch (26) and stolen base attempts (28).
At the 2017 WCWS, Knighten was selected as the Most Outstanding Player and named to the all-tournament team. She was named the 2017 Big 12 Player of the Year, a 2016 and 2017 NFCA Second-Team All-American and a 2016 and 2017 All-Big 12 First Team honoree. Knighten's 70 RBIs in 2017 led the team and were seventh most in the country.
Romero led the Sooners in hits (80) and at-bats (236) in 2017, with her 80 hits ranking 14th in the country. Additionally, her 132 total bases ranked 19th nationally and her 59 RBIs ranked 21st. Romero was named a second team all-region pick and an All-Big 12 Second Team selection in both 2016 and 2017.
Oklahoma alumna Keilani Ricketts was a two-time recipient of the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, considered the most prestigious honor in NCAA Division I Softball.
The Sooners open the 2018 season Feb. 9 in Phoenix when they take on Weber State (3:30 p.m. CT) and Grand Canyon (6:30 p.m. CT) in the GCU Kickoff Tournament. OU will also play Montana and University of the Pacific in the event, as well as Grand Canyon a second time.