May 8, 2013
TAMPA, Fla. – University of Notre Dame junior Laura Winter was named BIG EAST Conference Softball Player of the Year, as announced Wednesday evening during the league’s annual awards banquet. Winter was one of seven Irish players to claim all-BIG EAST citations, and became a three-time first team honoree.
Sophomore Emilee Koerner, who earlier in the day was named a top 10 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, joined Winter on the first team, while senior Amy Buntin copped second team honors for the second straight season. Senior Kelsey Thornton made her second consecutive all-league appearance leading four Notre Dame players on the third team, along with first-time choices sophomore Jenna Simon, sophomore Cassidy Whidden and freshman Micaela Arizmendi.
The Notre Dame coaching staff was tabbed as the BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year for the seventh time in program history. The Irish have received the award four times under head coach Deanna Gumpf and associate coach Kris Ganeff, while associate coach Lizzy Lemire has been a part of the last two award-winning staffs.
Winter led the BIG EAST in six major statistical categories during league play, drilling a conference-best nine home runs and 37 RBI in 64 at-bats. She also paced the conference with a .922 slugging percentage and 59 total bases. Winter is currently tied for the Notre Dame single-season record in overall home runs (17), and has chipped in a team-high 52 RBI.
The 2012 BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year, Winter made just as big of an impact in the circle, posting a conference-high 14 wins while walking only four batters in 96.1 innings, striking out 115. The 6-1 right-hander earned a total of four BIG EAST weekly awards (one player of the week, three pitcher of the week) during the regular season, and became the first Notre Dame student-athlete to win both USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week and Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Player of the Week honors this season.
She became the eighth Irish player to earn the BIG EAST’s top honor during the team’s 18 years as a conference member, and the first primary pitcher to cop the award.
Koerner’s first career all-league citation made her the first Notre Dame sophomore field player on the league’s top team since Alexa Maldonado in 2010. Koerner led the BIG EAST with a .492 batting average, 26 runs and eight doubles in 22 conference starts. The Tustin, Calif. native is third in the NCAA with a .479 overall average, and is the Irish single-season record holder with 21 doubles this season.
A 2012 NFCA All-America second team selection, Buntin batted .373 with two home runs, 16 RBI and a .394 on-base percentage in BIG EAST regular season play. The senior captain added a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in 135 overall chances behind the plate, the best fielding percentage to chance ratio in the conference. Buntin’s 13-game on-base streak to open BIG EAST play was the best among all Irish hitters.
Thornton answered a 2012 all-BIG EAST second team selection with another solid season in conference action, batting .328 with two RBI, two stolen bases and eight runs scored. The senior captain logged 18 of her 19 hits during the league slate on infield singles, including seven by way of a bunt.
Simon led all Notre Dame slap hitters with a .348 batting average in 22 BIG EAST starts, adding a team-high eight stolen bases. She finished in a tie for second behind Koerner in the league rankings with 25 runs scored, and contributed 32 putouts and 30 assists while playing every inning at second base during BIG EAST games.
Whidden emerged as a power threat in the middle of the Notre Dame lineup, batting .350 with five home runs, 15 RBI, a .825 slugging percentage and 15 runs scored in only 17 BIG EAST starts. The Irish designated player logged 13 of her 15 RBI with two outs. Whidden provided the game-winning Notre Dame hits against Rutgers April 14, (walk-off three-run home run) and No. 9 Louisville May 5, (two-run double) to help lead the team to the regular season conference championship.
Arizmendi copped all-conference recognition after batting .318 with a double, home run, four RBI and six runs scored in only 22 at-bats as a true freshman. The Notre Dame first baseman posted a spotless percentage on 76 chances in the field, finishing second behind the catcher Buntin in putouts with 74.
All awards are voted on by the league’s head coaches, who are not permitted to cast votes for their own players.
Top-seeded Notre Dame opens the BIG EAST Championship at 12:30 p.m. (ET) Thursday at the USF Softball Stadium against No. 8 Seton Hall.
BIG EAST Player of the Year
Laura Winter, Notre Dame
BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year
Sara Nevins, USF
BIG EAST Rookie of the Year
Tori Nirschl, Pittsburgh
BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year
2013 All-BIG EAST Teams
P Laura Winter, Notre Dame
P Sara Nevins, USF *
C Shikara Lowe, Georgetown
1B Alicja Wolny, Louisville *
2B Katie Keller, Louisville
3B Katelyn Mann, Louisville
SS Kourtney Salvarola, USF *
OF Samantha Dodd, DePaul
OF Jordan Trimble, Louisville *
OF Emilee Koerner, Notre Dame
U/P Kirsten Verdun, DePaul *
DP/U Mary Connolly, DePaul
P Caralisa Connell, Louisville
P Rachel LeCoq, Louisville
C Amy Buntin, Notre Dame
1B Jasmine Watson, Syracuse
2B Maria DeLuca, Seton Hall
3B Kenshyra Jackson, USF
SS Whitney Arion, Louisville
OF Kim Silva, Connecticut
OF Hannah Kiyohara, Louisville
OF Jessie Bryant, Providence
OF Shirley Daniels, Syracuse
U/P Danielle DeStaso, Seton Hall
DP/U Marissa Guches, Connecticut
P Tori Free, St. John’s
P Lindsey Richardson, USF
C Maggie Ruckenbrod, Louisville
1B Micaela Arizmendi, Notre Dame
2B Jenna Simon, Notre Dame
3B Jackie Reed, St. John’s
3B Corinne Ozanne, Syracuse
SS Brittany Hammer, Seton Hall
OF Alexandria Anttila, Georgetown
OF Kelsey Thornton, Notre Dame
OF Tori Nirschl, Pittsburgh
U/P Megan Hyson, Georgetown
DP/U Cassidy Whidden, Notre Dame