LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The National Fastpitch Coaches Association and Diamond Sports announced on Friday the 10 student-athletes that have earned the honor of being named as a 2014 Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year.
Nine of the 10 honorees are the first selection in program history for their school. The exception is Nicole Cardoza, who is the second Southwestern Oregon Community College player to be honored in the recently renamed Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) division.
The Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year award is presented annually to the top catcher from an NFCA member institution in each of the following divisions: NCAA (Divisions I, II and III), NAIA, NJCAA (Divisions I, II and III), Cal JC, NWAC and high school.
A committee comprised of head coaches in each of the 10 divisions determined the winner of their respective award. The winners of the 2014 Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year award are as follows:
NCAA Division I
TAYLOR EDWARDS — UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
Edwards helped lead the (44-18) Huskers to a share of its first Big Ten regular-season championship, the seventh 40-victory season in school history, program records of 18 road wins and 18 conference triumphs. Nebraska advanced to the NCAA Super Regional, where it was eliminated with a pair of one-run losses to eventual national runner-up Alabama. The senior from Murrieta, Calif., played a big part in the Huskers setting school marks in home runs, runs batted in and extra-base hits, batting .346 with eight doubles, 43 RBI and career bests in homers (18), runs (58) and hits (65). She led all Big Ten catchers in pickoffs, runners caught stealing and opponent stolen base percentage, recording a .990 fielding mark while playing in all 62 of Nebraska's games, finishing her career with 123 straight starts at catcher. She holds 17 school records and NCAA Division I records for most grand slams in a game (two) and most consecutive games with a homer (six in 2011).
NCAA Division II
NATALIE WIDEMAN — CALIFORNIA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Athlete of the Year Wideman set career marks for average (.454), on-base percentage (.535) and runs scored (49) in a senior season that saw the (37-7) Vulcans go unbeaten in divisional play to earn their first conference title since 2000 and garner the top seed for their NCAA Regional. The Mississauga, Ontario, native also collected 11 doubles, six homers, 31 RBI and 22 stolen bases, while making just four errors in 297 fielding chances (.987) and throwing out 47 percent of runners attempting to steal.
NCAA Division III
JO CLAIR — TUFTS UNIVERSITY
Clair, the co-Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship with Tufts batterymate Allyson Fournier, helped lead the Jumbos to their second straight national championship. The senior from Glastonbury, Conn., ranked in the NCAA's top three in four offensive categories, including first in homers (24) and RBI (69), second in homers per game (0.47) and third in slugging percentage (1.006). She batted .439 with 14 doubles, 59 runs, 68 hits and just nine strikeouts in 189 plate appearances over 51 games, while being walked 30 times. On defense, Clair made just two errors in 418 fielding chances (.995). Her 67 career homers rank second in Division III history and her 220 RBI rate fifth all-time.
MICHELE RUPARD — CENTRAL METHODIST UNIVERSITY
Heart of America Athletic Conference Player of the Year Rupard led the (43-8) Eagles in seven offensive categories, including setting single-season school records in walks (39) and on-base percentage (.546). Her walk total tied for the ninth-most in NAIA history. The junior from Kansas City, Mo., hit .402 with 53 hits, 17 doubles, seven homers, 45 runs, 29 RBI and a .689 slugging average. Rupard made just two errors in 223 chances (.991) on defense.
NJCAA Division I
AMY SZYMANOWSKI — COLLEGE OF CENTRAL FLORIDA
The sophomore from Land O'Lakes, Fla., signed with Florida State on the strength of a second stellar season for the (48-15) Patriots, who forced a decisive second title game with NJCAA Division I champion Angelina College. Szymanowski batted .381 with six doubles, three triples, 22 homers, 59 RBI, a .510 on-base percentage and an .869 slugging average. She hit four homers in seven games at the NJCAA Division I National Championship in St. George, Utah.
NJCAA Division II
SARAH ROTHE — HUTCHINSON COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Rothe hit .378 with 12 doubles, 11 homers, 37 RBI, a .404 on-base percentage and a .732 slugging average to help lead the (17-25) Dragons to a berth to the Region VI District Tournament. The freshman from Hutchinson, Kansas, made two errors in 218 fielding chances (.991) and caught 35 percent of baserunners trying to steal.
NJCAA Division III
SAMMY SMALDONE — HERKIMER COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE
The sophomore from Delmar, N.Y., ranked in the top 10 nationally in six offensive categories for the NJCAA Division III runner-up Generals, including second in doubles (23) and third in hits (72). She batted .541 with 48 runs, 72 hits, 23 doubles, nine homers, 53 RBI, a .559 on-base percentage and .917 slugging average, as Herkimer went 34-7 and fell one win short of its second straight NJCAA Division III championship. In 173 chances on defense, Smaldone committed one error (.994 fielding average).
TREASURE RODRIGUEZ — SAN JOSE CITY COLLEGE
Sophomore Rodriguez had a .421 average, nine doubles, seven homers and 33 RBI to lead the Jags to a 22-17 record and a berth in the CCCAA Regionals. The Sunnyvale, Calif., native compiled a .675 slugging percentage and .472 on-base average, while committing just one error in 117 chances on defense (.991) to earn a spot on the California Community College Fastpitch Coaches Association's All-Northern California Region Team.
NICOLE CARDOZA — SOUTHWESTERN OREGON COMMUNITY COLLEGE
The freshman from Modesto, Calif., batted .394 with 34 runs, 33 RBI and 43 hits, including seven doubles and nine homers for Southwestern Oregon (30-17), which reached the NWAACC Championship Tournament in Portland, Ore. She made one error in 237 fielding chances to become the first Laker catcher since Emily Matekel in 2009 to earn NFCA Diamond Sports Catcher of the Year honors.
REAGAN HATHAWAY — OLATHE NORTHWEST (KANSAS) HIGH SCHOOL
Hathaway, a junior, holds eight school records for the Ravens and is within range of six more marks next season. The University of Texas signee hit .759 with 11 doubles, six homers and 36 RBI, while amassing an 1.316 slugging percentage, .865 on-base average while striking out just once and committing one error.