Criner, Conkey headline Rio RSC softball honorees

By Randy Payton - For Ohio Valley Publishing

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande produced three major award winners and six all-league honorees during the 2018 All-River States Conference Softball Awards Ceremony, which took place last Friday, during the opening day of play in the RSC Softball Tournament at Jackson Memorial Park in Vienna, W.Va.

Five members of the RedStorm squad — junior pitcher Kelsey Conkey (Minford, OH) and senior Mallory Powell (Flatwoods, KY), sophomore infielder Michaela Criner (Bremen, OH), junior outfielder Kelly Fuchs (Williamsport, OH) and freshman catcher Kayla Slutz (Navarre, OH) — were named to the All-RSC First Team, while freshman infielder Mary Pica (Minford, OH) was a Second Team all-league pick.

Rio Grande also led the way in terms of the conference’s individual awards, with Criner named RSC Player of the Year, Conkey earning RSC Pitcher of the Year kudos and third-year head coach Chris Hammond recognized as RSC Coach of the Year.

Criner, the RedStorm’s starting shortstop, leads the RSC and all of NAIA in hitting with a .533 batting average. She also ranks first nationally with 89 hits and 147 total bases entering the national tournament.

Criner has 13 homers and 49 RBIs and ranks third in the NAIA in slugging percentage at .880. She has started all 46 games for the RedStorm (35-11).

Conkey earned her second straight RSC Pitcher of the Year honor and takes a record of 17-2 with 15 complete games and a 1.56 ERA into the national tournament.

In 121.1 innings pitched, Conkey has struck out 107, walked just 16 and allowed 82 hits. She has limited the opposition to just a .191 batting average this season.

Hammond captured his third straight Coach of the Year award after leading the RedStorm to the RSC regular-season and tournament championships. Rio Grande has been receiving votes nationally in the NAIA Top 25 for the whole season and enters the national tournament on an 11-game win streak.

Entering national tournament play, Hammond sports a 123-30 career record as the head coach of the RedStorm.

The only individual honor not going to someone connected with the Rio softball program was the RSC Newcomer of the Year award, which was presented to Carlow University sophomore pitcher Abby Stroud. After transferring into the league this year, Stroud earned a spot on the All-RSC Second Team at pitcher by compiling a record of 13-7 with a 1.94 ERA across 129.2 innings.

The all-conference teams and award winners were determined through voting of the conference’s 10 head coaches.

The All-RSC Softball First Team consisted of 20 players with three pitchers, two catchers, five infielders, four outfielders, a designated player, a utility player and four at-large selections for the next-highest vote getters regardless of position. The All-RSC Second Team featured 16 players from the previously mentioned positions and no at-large mentions.

The 20-member All-RSC First Team was represented by eight different schools.

Rio Grande led the way with five players selected first team followed by IU Southeast with four and Cincinnati Christian with three. The 16-players on the second team come from nine different schools with Midway, Cincinnati Christian and Carlow getting three each and IU Southeast two.

The conference also named a Champions of Character Team with one representative from each school who best represents the five character values of NAIA Champions of Character, which are respect, responsibility, integrity, servant leadership and sportsmanship.

Rio Grande’s representative on the list was Powell.

By Randy Payton

For Ohio Valley Publishing

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

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