Denison senior Lauren Secares (Wilmette, IL/New Trier) and Wittenberg senior Chelsea Zang (Cincinnati, OH/Seton) were named the Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively, to highlight the 2018 All-North Coast Athletic Conference softball team after balloting by the league coaches.
Zang, who is making her fourth-straight appearance on the All-NCAC first team, is now the first player in NCAC history to win the Pitcher of the Year award in three consecutive seasons. Zang was dominant once again in the pitching circle against league foes as she posted a 6-1 record after allowing just 11 earned runs and striking out 27 batters in 41.2 innings of work for a 1.85 earned-run-average. Although she didn't earn the pitching win in the game, she tossed the first two innings of a combined no-hitter with freshman Katelyn Niswonger (Dexter, MI/Dexter) in a 19-0 win over Kenyon on April 13th. She also pitched a combined 9.0 innings in a doubleheader sweep at Ohio Wesleyan on April 25th to help the Tigers maintain their hold on the top spot in the NCAC standings. Zang also contributed at the plate for the Tigers in their 16-game conference slate, hitting .458 (11-for-24) with one double, three RBI and three runs scored.
Secares, who was also named to the All-NCAC first team for the fourth year in a row, earned the 2018 NCAC Player of the Year award after having success both at the plate and in the pitching circle against league opponents this season. She is the first Big Red player to earn the NCAC Player of the Year award since Julie Rooney in 2014. In the 16-game NCAC schedule, Secares hit .462 (24-for-52) at the plate and posted a league-leading .942 slugging percentage after leading the conference with 10 doubles and sharing the league lead in homers with junior teammate Laura Bagan (Winnetka, IL/New Trier) with five apiece. She had one of her top offensive games of the season in a 5-3 win at Oberlin on April 7th as she went 3-for-4 at the plate with two homers, one double, two RBI and two runs scored. In the pitching circle, Secares made an appearance in seven conference games, striking out 11 batters and allowing nine earned runs on 19 hits in 16.2 innings of work for a 3.78 ERA.
The DePauw duo of senior right-handed pitcher Emma Baldwin (Oak Park, IL/Oak Park-River Forest) and senior outfielder Liz Getz (Bloomington, IN/South) joined Secares and Zang on the top team for the fourth year in a row, while Wooster senior utility player Maddy Chase (Pleasant Prairie, WI/St. Joseph's) landed on the first team for the second year in a row after also collecting honorable-mention laurels in 2016. Wittenberg junior designated player Abby Curnutte (Urbana, OH/Urbana) was also a repeat selection on the top team this year.
Two player elevated to the top team this spring after earning back-to-back nods on the second team, including Denison senior utility player Sarah Herold (Orland Park, IL/Carl Sandburg) and Wittenberg senior pitcher Abby Haab (Dublin, OH/Jerome).
Wooster sophomore infielder Marina Roski (Diamond Bar, CA/Diamond Ranch) made the jump to the top team from the 2017 second team, while Allegheny senior catcher Jessica Zavolta (Level Green, PA/Penn-Trafford) and Wittenberg junior outfielder Lauren Buelow (Hilliard, OH/Darby) both elevated to the top this season from the honorable mention squad last year. Zavolta was also an honorable-mention selection in 2015.
The final three players on the first team are making their All-NCAC debut this season, including Allegheny freshman outfielder Kelly Lafferty (Suffolk, VA/Nansemond River), Denison sophomore infielder Emilie Fisher (Oregonia, OH/Clinton-Massie) and DePauw sophomore infielder Jordyn Fera (Hoffman Estates, IL/Hoffman Estates).
In addition to being named to the first team, Lafferty was also named the 2018 NCAC Newcomer of the Year after helping lead the Gators to a 10-6 mark in league play and a trip back to the NCAC Tournament for the first time since 2015. In 15 conference games, Lafferty hit .431 (22-for-51) with eight doubles, 11 RBI and 15 runs scored. Her top game of the season came in a 7-6 win over Ohio Wesleyan on April 22nd as she went a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles, one RBI and two runs scored. She is the first Gator to win the NCAC Newcomer of the Year award since Bessie Artino in 2009.
Finally, Allegheny head coach Beth Curtiss was named the NCAC Coach of the Year for the first time in her career after leading the Gators to an overall record of 18-15, which included a fourth-place finish in the NCAC standings with a 10-6 mark in league play. Now in her sixth year with the program, Curtiss owns a record of 86-93-1 in Meadville, highlighted by leading the Gators to the NCAC Tournament title in her first year with the team in 2013. She is the first Allegheny coach to earn the NCAC Coach of the Year award since Sandra Sanford collected the award in 2012.
Note: Based on NCAC stats