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Carbondale defeats Missouri State in softball

Missouri State's Erika Velasquez Zimmer is caught stealing second as SIU second baseman Maddy Vermejan catches the throw from catcher Katelyn Massa and then tags Zimmer out in the third inning of the first game against Missouri State last season at Charlotte West Stadium.

The Southern File Photo

ST. LOUIS — SIU second baseman Maddy Vermejan was named the Missouri Valley Conference defensive player of the year Wednesday.

Vermejan had 104 putouts from 170 chances on the season (.982 fielding percentage) with 63 assists for the Salukis (29-21, 12-12 MVC). She committed only three errors all year and was a key cog in the defensive system of the Salukis which led them to a third seed for the 2018 MVC championship. Vermejan was one of five Salukis honored by the league's coaches.

Joining Vermejan on the MVC first team were sophomore catcher Katelyn Massa and junior pitcher Brianna Jones. Senior Sydney Jones and freshman Jenny Jansen were both named to the second team.

Massa, a sophomore catcher, hit .307 with 10 home runs, 11 doubles and 47 RBIs, the third-most in a single season in school history. She led the Valley in RBIs and runners caught stealing (11). Jones set career-bests with her 24-7 record and 2.13 ERA, and led the Valley in wins, appearances and innings pitched. The right-hander is top-10 in the Valley in ERA, strikeouts (197), saves (two), starts (28) and complete games (12). She earned first team all-conference honors for the third straight year.

Jones made the All-MVC second team for the third straight year after batting .250 with five doubles, five home runs and 28 RBIs. Her four sacrifice flies ranked third in the league. Jansen put together one of the best freshman seasons in school history, hitting .335 with 11 doubles, eight home runs and driving in 27 runs.

The Valley announced its all-conference teams following a banquet with all 10 teams in Des Moines, where the MVC tournament kicks off Thursday morning. Regular-season champion Drake claimed most valuable player, most valuable pitcher and coaching staff of the year recognition. Fourth-seeded Valparaiso took newcomer of the year while Evansville had the MVC freshman of the year. 

Drake’s Mandi Roemmich was honored as the MVC MVP. During conference play, Roemmich batted .429 and had 21 runs scored and 12 RBIs on 33 hits. For the 2018 season, she has five top-10 rankings in The Valley. She ranks second in doubles, third in runs scored, seventh in hits, eighth in batting average and ninth for on-base percentage. Roemmich also leads the Bulldogs in seven categories, including batting average, slugging percentage, runs scored, hits and total bases.

Nicole Newman of Drake was named most valuable pitcher. In all of NCAA Division I Softball, she ranks first in strikeouts per seven innings, second in ERA, sixth in hits allowed per seven innings, eighth in strikeout-to-walk ratio, 19th in shutouts, 23rd in strikeouts and 35th in victories. Newman (19-3) pitched 11 complete league games, earning 12 wins against Valley opponents. She has a 0.41 conference ERA and a 0.64 overall ERA with 213 strikeouts.

Seven freshmen were named to the all-conference first or second teams, led by freshman of the year Eryn Gould of Evansville. In MVC action, Gould had a .402 batting average with nine of her 37 hits for extra bases. She ranks in the top-10 in conference play for batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, doubles and total bases.

Valparaiso’s Kelsie Packard was chosen as the 2018 MVC newcomer of the year. In the circle against Valley foes, Packard ranks third in opposing batting average (.216), fourth in strikeouts (78) and earned run average (1.78) and ninth in innings pitched (67). In all Division I Softball, she ranks 54th in strikeouts per seven innings and 85th in strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Rich Calvert and his assistants Kasey Griffith and Tina DeAngelo won this year’s Coaching Staff of the Year Award. They led their team to a 41-10 overall record and a 24-1 mark in the MVC, clinching the top seed and their third regular-season title. It also marks the third time in school history that the Bulldogs have captured coaching staff of the year honors. Their 41 wins ties for 11th best in league history.

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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