NFCA reveals 2017 NAIA All-American awards

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The NFCA revealed 32 student-athletes from 21 different institutions have been selected 2017 NFCA NAIA All-American teams, announced by the Association on Monday afternoon.

Two-time defending champion Oklahoma City University led the way with six All-Americans, three of which made the first team. Columbia College (Mo.) earned three honors, two on the first team. Eastern Oregon University, Reinhardt University, Peru State College and Campbellsville University each earned two nods.

2017 NFCA NAIA All-Americans

Additionally, OCU’s Jaci Smith was selected Diamond Catcher of the Year and Niki Cook of Georgia Gwinnett College was named the New Balance/NFCA Golden Shoe Award recipient.

Garnering first-team accolades for the Star were Smith, shortstop Kali Pugh and at-large pitcher Georgia Wall. Pugh joins an elite club earning her fourth NFCA All-America selection, garnering two at Palomar Community College and two with the Stars.

The trio played a key role in OCU’s 68-1 overall record and the program’s 10th national title. Smith, a sophomore, was third in the NAIA with a team-best .516 batting average and 111 hits. She ended the year on a 14-game hitting streak and recorded at least one hit in 54 of the 68 games she played in this season. Her 80 RBI and 23 doubles rank sixth and tied for the seventh in the NAIA.

Pugh, the Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year, led the NAIA with 182 total bases and finished second in the nation with 86 RBI, 114 hits and 23 home runs. Finishing the season with a .462 batting average, 23 doubles and a .850 slugging percentage, Pugh, a senior, garnered the NAIA’s Player of the Year honor.

Wall, the two-time NAIA World Series MVP, finished 2017 with an unblemished 33-0 record and 0.63 ERA. Ranked highly in several of the NAIA’s statistical categories, the sophomore righty posted top-10 numbers in wins (t-3rd), ERA (2nd), opponent’s batting average (.152 / 4th), saves (4 / t-6th) and hits allowed per seven innings (3.71 / 4th).  The SAC Pitcher of the Year went 9-0 in the postseason allowing just three earned runs in 61.2 innings, which included a no-hitter against Bellevue (Neb.) in the NAIA Opening Round.

Outfielder Carly Spalding and at-large shortstop Molly Carter represented Columbia College on the first team, each earning their second All-America honor. Spalding, a senior outfielder, finished in the NAIA’s top-10 in 14 offensive categories, including first in runs scored per game (1.491), second in stolen bases (57), third in runs scored (82), sixth in hits (95), eighth in batting average (.473) and ninth in total bases (147). Her stolen bases and hits are both program records.

Carter led the nation with a Columbia College record 87 RBI. In addition to the RBI mark, she launched a program-record 14 home runs. The American Midwest Conference Player of the Year finished 2017 hitting .430 with 53 runs scored, 21 double and an .804 slugging percentage. 

Kathleen Daniel of Brenau was named the first-team pitcher. As a freshman, Daniel struck out an astronomical 579 batters, breaking the NAIA’s previous mark of 540 set by Oklahoma City’s Lilly LaVelle in 1988. The NAIA’s Pitcher of the Year, led the nation in wins (43), opponents’ batting average (.121), hits allowed per seven innings (3.02), ERA (0.56) and innings pitched (327). Her 43-3 marked played an integral part in the program’s record 52-7 mark.

Eastern Oregon senior Chey Barker earns the first-team nod at first base. She hit .394 with a a team-best 14 home runs, 50 RBI, 39 runs and .788 slugging percentage. Additionally, Barker also recorded 52 hits, 10 doubles and recorded a .788 on-base percentage.

Coming in with the second base honor is Reinhardt’s Maddi Evans. The senior ranked tied for sixth and 10th in the NAIA with seven triples and 22 doubles, respectively. Evans hit .400 on the year with 78 hits, a homer, 44 RBI and 49 runs scored.

Sharpe, a sophomore, took home the first-team plaudit at third base. She posted one of the best offensive seasons in school history, earning North Star Athletic Conference Player of the Year. Sharpe led the NAIA with a program-record 28 long balls and was second overall with a .950 slugging percentage. She set a single-season record with 79 RBI as well. Evans added a .427 batting average and 49 runs scored.

Joining Spalding in the outfield in Golden Shoe recipient Niki Cook of Georgia Gwinnett and Oregon Tech’s Tara Moates. It marks the second time Cook has garnered these honors, earning All-America and Golden Shoe accolades as a freshman at Shorter (NCAA DII).

Cook ran away with NAIA’s batting title (.603), hitting 71 points higher than her nearest competitor. Compiling a historic season for the Grizzlies, the speedster swiped a NAIA-best 71 bases, second most in the Association’s history, and tied the NAIA hitting streak record at 33 games, while recording a base knock in 58 of 60 games. Her 117 hits were second most in NAIA history and her .667 on-base percentage was 47 points better than the second-ranked NAIA player. The Association of Independent Institutions Player of the Year hit three home runs, all inside-the-park, including a grand slam against Kentucky Wesleyan.

Moates, a three-time NFCA All-American, batted .448, leading the Owls in hits (78), doubles, (24), home runs (12), runs (49), slugging (.793) and RBI (53). Moates’ doubles rank tied for fourth in the NAIA.

At designated player, Danelle Billings played a vital role in LSU-Alexandria’s most successful season in the program’s ten-year history. The junior smashed the school’s home run record with 19, ranking tied for fourth in the NAIA, while it also set a Red River Athletic Conference record. Her home runs, .465 batting average and 81 RBI helped her capture the RRAC’s triple crown and key the Generals to a third-place finish at the NAIA World Series. 

Kennedy Vinchattle earned the All-America nod at the utility position. The junior infielder was the NAIA’s top slugger at 1.065 and the North Star Athletic Association top hitter at .468. She tied single-season program records with 18 home runs and 132 stolen bases. Vinchattle produced a team-high 58 hits, 61 RBI, 18 doubles, 36 runs. 29 walks and .561 on-base percentage.

Rounding out the All-America first team squad are at-large selections, Alexis Paulo-Meyers of Peru State College, Kaisey Carson of Indian Wesleyan and Tori Humphrey of Campbellsville. Paulo-Meyers is a junior shortstop hits .440 with 18 home runs and a .915 slugging percentage. She ranks third in home runs per game (0.383), fourth in slugging, sixth in total base per game (2.745) and sixth in long balls.

Carson, a senior outfielder and pitcher, helped the Wildcats reach the NAIA World series. One of the top offensive players in NAIA, she led the Association with 27 doubles and ranked in the top-10 in a total of 15 offensive categories. She hit .491 (5th) with 20 home runs (3rd), 82 RBI (4th), 79 runs (4th)104 hits (4th) and a .920 slugging percentage (3rd). The Crossroads League Player of the Year also posted a 24-10 record with a 1.97 ERA in the circle.

Humphrey, the 2017 Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year, led Campbellsville, hitting .450 with 17 doubles and .509 on-base percentage. She added eight home runs, drove in 43, scored 39 times and slugged .738.