ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Valley Conference announced its 2019 softball award winners Wednesday and regular-season runner-ups Southern Illinois took home a bevy of honors.
In addition to six All-MVC accolades and an All-Defensive team honor, junior catcher Katelyn Massa was named the MVC Defensive Player of the Year while first-year shortstop Ashley Woodwas named MVC Freshman of the Year.
Massa is the second-straight Saluki to win MVC Defensive Player of the Year, as Maddy Vermejantook home the award last season. SIU is the first program to win back-to-back MVC Defensive Player of the Year awards since the league began handing out the honor in 2015.
Wood, meanwhile, is the fifth Saluki, and first since 2003, to win the MVC Freshman of the Year award.
Massa, second baseman Maddy Vermejan, outfielder Jenny Jansen and pitcher Brianna Jonesclaimed spots on the All-MVC First Team, while Wood and designated player Jordan Spicer earned All-MVC Second Team recognition.
Massa totaled three awards Wednesday. In addition to taking home MVC Defensive Player of the Year and earning a spot on the All-MVC First Team, the Wildwood, Mo. native also was honored on the MVC All-Defensive Team for the first time in her career.
Massa becomes just the second Saluki catcher to earn three All-MVC selections and the first since Brook Hatterman earned three-straight all-conference nods from 1997-99. The junior right-handed hitter had a tremendous season behind the plate for the Salukis. She played in all of SIU’s 45 games, including 40 behind the plate, and slashed .321/.534/.413 with 10 doubles, six home runs and 37 runs batted in.
Defensively, Massa was charged with just one error and threw out six of the 17 runners that attempted to steal on her. She was a big reason why SIU held opponents to just 21 stolen bases- the fewest allowed in the MVC.
Wood earned MVC Freshman of the Year as well as a spot on the All-MVC Second Team. The Orland Park, Ill. native has had one of the best freshman seasons in program history. She leads all Valley freshmen in home runs (9), RBI (44), batting average (.360), on-base percentage (.427) and slugging percentage (.612) and ranks second in the league among first-years in total bases (85), runs scored (29) and hits (50). Her .360 batting average is the second-best for a freshman in program history while her 44 RBI are the third-most by a Saluki first-year.
Jansen earned her second-straight All-MVC nod after she finished top-10 in the MVC in six statistical categories including fourth in total bases (90), tied for fourth in doubles (12), fifth in batting average (.395), sixth in RBI (40), eighth in hits (58) and ninth in slugging percentage (.612). The Warrenton, Mo. native had 20 multi-hit games- which are the most by a Saluki since at least 2003 while her .395 batting average is the eighth-best in a single-season in program history.
Jones was the fourth Saluki named to the All-MVC First Team, which marked the fourth-straight season in which the Manchester, Tenn. product has earned First-Team Honors. She joins Amy Harre and Shelly Gibbs as the only players in program history to earn four First-Team selections. Jones was again superb in the circle, as she went 23-8 with a 2.04 ERA in 175.1 innings of work. The senior hurler tallied four shutouts, four saves and 131 strikeouts during a season in which she became SIU’s all-time leader in wins, appearances and innings pitched.
Vermejan led the league in fielding percentage and is the only second baseman nationally to not record an error. The Lemont, Ill. native led the MVC in hit by pitches and finished fourth in runs scored, fifth in on-base percentage and tied for ninth in walks. The right-handed hitter hit .323 with a team-best .494 on-base percentage and was even better against Valley opponents. Vermejan slashed .413/.683/.580 with four home runs and five doubles in SIU’s 23 league games. Her .580 on-base percentage in conference games was the best in the Valley.
Spicer earned her first career all-conference honor after she claimed a spot on the All-MVC Second Team. The Hendersonville, Tenn. native had the best season of her Saluki career, as she hit .301 with a double, seven home runs and 10 driven in. The right-handed designated player did significant damage at the dish in MVC play, as she sported a .727 slugging percentage with six home runs and 14 RBI in league play.
The Salukis have had at least five earn all-conference honors in four-straight seasons and their six selections are tied for the second-most in head coach Kerri Blaylock‘s 20 seasons at the helm. Only the 2005 Salukis (8) had more honorees.
Southern is back in action this weekend at the 2019 MVC Tournament, hosted by Bradley University. The Salukis will await the results of Wednesday and Thursday’s games before knowing their opponent for Friday’s tilt.