COLUMBIA — After winning the Big 12 Conference championship this weekend, the Missouri softball team was honored Tuesday with three major conference awards and six All-Big 12 selections. The Tigers also swept the weekly conference awards.
Tigers coach Ehren Earleywine was selected as the Big 12 Coach of the Year for the second time in his tenure at MU. Earleywine led the Tigers (46-7, 15-3) to their first regular season Big 12 Championship since 1997. Earleywine was also the 2007 Big 12 Coach of the Year and was picked as the ACC Coach of the Year in 2005.
Sophomore Chelsea Thomas was picked as the league’s Pitcher of the Year. Thomas, who had the best ERA among Big 12 pitchers at 1.09, went 13-3 against her conference opponents, collecting 166 strikeouts against 27 walks in 115.2 innings pitched. For the season, Thomas is tied for second in the NCAA with a 0.81 ERA to go with her 27-5 record. In 208 innings pitched, Thomas has 323 strikeouts, which is a Missouri single-season record. Thomas is one of 10 finalists for USA Softball’s Collegiate Player of the Year Award.
Senior catcher Megan Christopher earned co-Defensive Player of the Year honors with Texas A&M’s Natalie Villarreal. Christopher has thrown out 42 percent of attempted base stealers during Big 12 play and committed just one error for a .995 fielding percentage. During the nonconference season, Christopher didn’t allow a single stolen base, and she has thrown out 48 percent of runners this year. Overall, she has a fielding percentage of .993 for the season with just two errors in 304 chances.
All-Big 12 First Team honors for the Tigers went to Thomas, sophomore outfielder Nicole Hudson, senior infielder Abby Vock and sophomore shortstop Jenna Marston. It is the second time Marston has been named to the first team, while Hudson earned second team honors last year. They are the first All-Big 12 awards for Thomas and Vock.
Hudson hit .371 during conference play with a .420 on-base percentage and a .565 slugging percentage. She hit two homers and doubled six times while driving in 14 runs. For the season, Hudson has 11 home runs and 44 RBIs to go with a .342 average.
Vock hit .357 during in league action, hitting a team-best five home runs, scoring 10 times and driving in 10 runs. She also hit three doubles and posted a .786 slugging percentage, the highest amongst all Big 12 hitters in conference play.
Marston hit .333 for the season, finishing second on the team with 21 hits, nine of them doubles, during Big 12 play. She scored 18 runs and stole three bases in as many attempts.
Senior Rhea Taylor and junior Ashley Fleming were named to the All-Big 12 second team. It is Taylor's fourth All-Big 12 honor while it is Fleming's second.
Taylor hit .302 during the conference season with seven runs scored and stole eight bases in eight tries, the most on the team.
Fleming hit .281 in 18 conference games, scoring 11 runs to go with three doubles, four home runs and a 15 runs batted in — tied for fourth-most among Big 12 competitors.
Missouri opens up the postseason with a first-round NCAA regional matchup against Illinois State at 6:30 p.m. Friday at University Field.