NFCA honors quartet of Rio softball standouts

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Four members of the University of Rio Grande softball team have been named to the 2017 National Fastpitch Coaches’ Association (NFCA) All-Great Lakes Region Team.

Freshman shortstop Michaela Criner (Lancaster, OH) was among those named to the First Team, while sophomore pitcher/outfielder Kelsey Conkey (Minford, OH), senior pitcher/outfielder Jenna Jones (Lancaster, OH) and senior second baseman Alex Stevens (Oak Hill, OH) were all named to the Second Team.

Criner is Rio’s first freshman to ever be honored on the list and is just the second RedStorm player to be named All-Region first team (Jenny Olding was the first in 2006).

Criner batted a team-best .477, while also leading the team in hits (74), triples (4) and slugging percentage (.652). She also had 10 doubles, three home runs and 32 runs batted in.

Conkey, the RSC’s Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, finished 22-2 (both losses were to Davenport) with two saves and a 0.94 earned run average. She finished with 18 complete games and 10 shutouts, while allowing 97 hits and 20 earned runs over 148-1/3 innings in the circle.

The right-hander also walked just 25, struck out 102 and allowed a miniscule .184 opponent’s batting average.

At the plate, Conkey batted .331 with a team-high 14 home runs and 53 RBI. She also had a .629 slugging percentage.

Jones posted a 13-5 record with three saves and a 1.91 ERA in the circle. She authored 12 complete games and four shutouts, while allowing the opposition to bat just .198 against her.

In 139-1/3 innings, Jones allowed 100 hits and 38 earned runs while walking 42 and striking out 110.

Stevens batted .392 with 10 doubles, two triples, a home run and 37 RBI. She led the team in runs (47), walks (26) and sacrifice hits (25).

The quartet – all of whom were also named to the All-River States Conference first team – helped lead the RedStorm to a school-record 47 wins, a school-record 26-game winning streak, a second straight regular season conference title and a third consecutive conference tournament championship.

Rio Grande, which also enjoyed the highest ranking in school history at No. 17 entering post-season play, got within one win of a trip to the NAIA World Series before falling to eighth-ranked Davenport (Mich.) University in the championship game of the Grand Rapids Bracket in the NAIA Softball National Tournament’s Opening Round.

Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing