OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Texas A&M senior Megan Gibson was named both the Big 12 Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year and garnered All-Big 12 accolades with five fellow Aggies as A&M head coach Jo Evans was named the Big 12 Coach of the Year, the league office announced on the first night of the 2008 Big 12 Softball Championship in Oklahoma City.
It was the first time in Big 12 history that a single athlete was named both the player and pitcher of the year.
“I’m so excited about Megan getting both honors. She really deserves it and she’s earned it,” Evans noted of her two-time All-American. “I’m pleased to see that the Big 12 coaches are giving Megan the respect that she deserves. She has been amazing throughout the conference season and has taken a lot on her shoulders with Amanda Scarborough going down. Megan has carried herself so well and has been relaxed and comfortable out there. She’s been a tremendous team leader for us and is the best player I’ve seen around the country all year.”
Evans earned her third coach of the year honor (’04, ’05, ’08) after leading the Aggies to their best ever start in Big 12 play, finishing the season 17-1. A&M captured its second Big 12 regular season title since 2005, as it swept eight of its nine conference series. Since arriving at A&M in 1997, Evans owns a 458-230-2 record. She is 771-440-2 overall in 23 seasons. Under the direction of Evans, A&M has made eight NCAA postseason appearances, including the last five consecutive seasons.
Gibson and A&M third baseman Jamie Hinshaw are receiving their fourth-consecutive All-Big 12 award while senior Jami Lobpries, junior Holly Ridley, sophomore Alex Reynolds and freshman Natalie Villarreal are receiving their first.
Joining Gibson on the first team are, Hinshaw, Lobpries, Ridley, and Reynolds. Villarreal was honored as a member of the All-Big 12 second team.
The five first-team selections ties a school-best set in 2005 by the Aggies’ first regular season Big 12 championship squad.
“It is nice to see several of our players recognized for their accomplishments during the Big 12 season,” Evans said. “It shows that our conference championship was a complete team effort. I am proud of our individual accomplishments, but more than anything, I am happy for our players to be a part of a championship title. I am also proud of our academic accomplishments and our players’ commitment to excellence in the classroom as well as on the field.”
Gibson has been dominant in the circle this season, boasting an impressive 30-1 record and a league second-best 1.08 ERA. The Spring, Texas-native has posted double digit strikeouts in eight games, averaging just over seven per game. At the plate, Gibson’s hitting .358 with 53 hits, including 13 doubles and a team-leading 13 homeruns. The two-time All-American leads the league in walks (45), wins (30), innings pitched (208), shutouts (14), and complete games (29). Gibson also ranks sixth nationally in wins (30) and walks (45).
“I think the fact that Megan also got pitcher of the year speaks to her determination to help our team win,” Evans concluded. “She had to do the things that she did to get us to win the conference. I love seeing her rewarded for that. She’s very unselfish and competitive. I know Megan puts her team first. So these awards will be exciting for her. But I think it’s a great tribute to our team, as well that Megan had a chance to win all those games because we hit the ball so well and played great defense.”
Hinshaw has started all 53 games at third base for the Aggies. The Missouri City, Texas-native leads the team at the plate, hitting .374 on the season. She also leads the team in hits (62), runs scored (42) and sits second in doubles (12) and homeruns (5). In Big 12 games this season, Hinshaw is hitting a league third-best .410. She ranks second in hits (25), runs scored (19) and total bases (40).
Lobpries found her stroke in Big 12 play, hitting .347 through 18 league games. The Wharton, Texas-native has posted eight multi-hit and multi-RBI games. Lobpries earned her first career Big 12 weekly award after leading the team at the plate in Week 10 going 5-for-9 in three victories, including a two-game sweep of then No. 7 Oklahoma. Against the Sooners, Lobpries was responsible for the game-winning RBI double in both Saturday’s 4-2 victory and Sunday’s 1-0 win. She also recorded a double in A&M’s 3-1 mid-week tally over Texas. Lobpries holds the team’s longest hitting streak of the season at eight games (3/29-4/16).
Ridley, a converted shortstop, has patrolled the outfield in 42 of the Aggies’ 53 games this season. The Sugar Land, Texas-native has logged six multi-hit and seven multi-RBI games. In a five-game span, Ridley record 10 RBIs off five hits, including two homeruns. Ridley was responsible for all three RBIs in the Aggies’ 3-1 win over Texas on Apr. 9 in Austin. In Big 12 games this season, Ridley ranks fourth in RBIs (15) and sixth in runs scored (14).
Reynolds has made 43 starts for the Aggies, primarily as the team’s designated player. The Tomball, Texas-native has posted seven multi-hit and four multi-RBI games. In Big 12 games this season, Reynolds is hitting .364 with 16 hits, including six doubles, six runs scored and 10 RBIs. The sophomore also posted a five-game hitting streak (3/19-3/29), where she logged multiple hits in three of the five games.
Villarreal has been solid in the middle infield for the Aggies, committing just three errors in 185 chances. En route to a .253 clip, Villarreal has registered 11 multi-hit and six multi-RBI games. The left-handed second baseman has scored 36 runs and driven in a team second-best 30 RBIs off 43 hits, including 10 doubles, a team-leading four triples, and four homeruns.
In addition to being honored for their efforts on the field, Lobpries, a sport management major, and Ridley, a communications major, were named to the Academic All-Big 12 first team while Bailey Schroeder and Scarborough earned second team accolades.
Schroeder, a sophomore from College Station, has appeared in 35 games for the Aggies, primarily in a pinch-running role. Schroeder logged 14 starts early in the season in right and leftfield. A nutrition science major, Schroeder holds a .375 batting average and has posted a flawless 1.000 fielding percentage.
After suffering a season-ending injury in February, Scarborough has turned her attention to helping the team from the bench. The communications major has assumed a player-coach role, helping Gibson, freshman Rhi Kliesing and catcher Erin Glasco with scouting reports each half inning. Before sustaining her mid-foot injury, Scarborough hit at a .447 clip with 13 RBIs off 17 hits, including three doubles and two homeruns.
The top-seeded Aggies will kickoff Big 12 Championship play on Saturday against the Iowa State Cyclones. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m. and can be heard locally in the Bryan/College Station area on Sports Radio 1150 the Zone or on aggieathletics.com. Live stats of the game will also be available online.
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