Conkey, Criner named to NAIA All-America teams

Rio Grande pair comes away with 2nd team honors

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Two members of the University of Rio Grande’s record-setting softball team have been named to the 2017 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-America teams.

Sophomore pitcher Kelsey Conkey (Minford, OH) and freshman shortstop Michaela Criner (Lancaster, OH) both were named to the Second Team by the NAIA All-America committee.

Conkey, who was named the River States Conference Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year, finished 22-2 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.

Conkey led the RSC in wins, shutouts and ERA.

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.

Her earned run average ranked sixth nationally and she finished in the Top 15 nationally in runs allowed and opponent batting average. Her 14 home runs also ranked 14th nationally.

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.

Criner led the RSC in batting average and hits, was second in triple and finished third in slugging percentage. Her batting average was the seventh-best figure nationally.

Conkey and Criner 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.

One other player from an RSC school – Midway University junior catcher Kelsey Gravens – also was named to the All-America Second Team.

Kali Pugh of Oklahoma City was named the NAIA Player of the Year, while Kathleen Daniel of Brenau (Ga.) was honored as the NAIA Pitcher of the Year.

Pugh, a senior, capped off a fantastic season earning her second-straight NAIA All-American status, the Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year and the NAIA National Player of the Year.

Pugh finished No. 1 in three statistical categories: total at bats (247), total bases (210) and total runs scored (95). The Stars earned their second straight – and NAIA record 10th – World Series title last week.

Daniel finished a stellar freshman season breaking the NAIA national record for most batters struck out (579). The previous record holder was Oklahoma City’s Lilly LaVelle set in 2012 (540).

Daniel finished the season ranked No. 1 in five statistical categories: wins (43), opp. batting average (0.129), hits allowed per game (3.02), earned run average (0.560) and total innings pitched (327).

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

Rio Grande pair comes away with 2nd team honors

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing