Henderson earns PCSC Divisional Player of the Year
By SCOTT WARD
Northern Colorado Sports Information
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Northern Colorado's Kelli Henderson capped an impressive senior season Tuesday when the Pacific Coast Softball Conference anointed her its 2011 Mountain Division Co-Player of the Year.
Henderson, who was also a unanimous selection as the division's top Pitcher-Utility player, led a group of eight Bears selected to the 2011 All-PCSC Mountain team.
Senior Kailee Vessey (second base) and freshman Megan Wilkinson (first base) joined Henderson on the First Team, while sophomore Melanie Buol (third base) junior Erin Geddis (outfield) and senior Jamie Juelfs (pitcher) earned Second Team honors.
Senior Megan Hamilton (shortstop) and junior Erin Wilkinson (catcher) earned Honorable Mention on Tuesday, and Northern Colorado coach Mark Montgomery, in his first season with the Bears, split the division's Coach of the Year honor with Portland State's Tobin Echo-Hawk and Utah Valley's Todd Fairbourne.
The PCSC began divisional play in 2010 and honors annually an all-division team in its Coastal and Mountain Divisions. Each divisional team and individual award winners are voted on by each division's head coaches.
"I'm very proud of all the girls," Montgomery said, "because it recognizes their individual improvement as it helped us reach some of our team goals this year. To have three on the First Team and three on the Second Team is fantastic for us. We set out to change the culture a little bit this season, and I think we did that with the way we finished down the stretch. Today's announcement further solidifies that shift in direction."
At the plate, Henderson hit at a .369 clip in 2011 (third in the PCSC) with 29 RBIs, 16 doubles and four home runs. In the circle, she finished with an 11-18 record with a 4.71 earned-run average in 44 appearance, including 28 starts. She struck out 158 and walked just 85.
In PCSC play, Henderson batted .418 with 14 RBIS, six doubles and one home run and was 7-5 with a 3.52 ERA in 16 appearances.
Henderson struck out 74 in 72 2/3 innings in PCSC play, while walking just 25. She split the 2011 Player of the Year honor with Portland State infielder Carly McEachran.
"For Kelli to be a unanimous pick on the First Team speaks volumes to her consistency throughout the year," Montgomery said. "All year long she (pitched) at least one game and sometimes more than that in the circle, and she always gave us a consistent, steady effort. But, even more impressively than that, when she wasn't leading our pitching staff, she was hitting -- and hitting really well. She had great numbers, and that was a week-in-week-out sort of thing."
Vessey led all PCSC second basemen in 2011 league play with 20 runs scored, five home runs (eight overall) and seven stolen bases. She topped Northern Colorado with six homers two seasons ago (2009) but lost her power stroke last season and didn't hit any.
Her power was a welcome addition to the Bears' lineup this season, and Montgomery counted on her near the top of the lineup in nearly every game.
"Vessey put together a great season for us out at second base," Montgomery said. "She won some Player of the Week honors, and they were more than deserved with the way she played at times. She and Megan Wilkinson saw their stats shoot upward when our PCSC schedule started. They provided a lot of the power for one of the league's better offenses."
Megan Wilkinson was a welcome addition and surprise in 2011. She led all PCSC first basemen with five home runs in league games and hit six overall while slugging .468 and driving in 25 RBIs in her first season with the Bears.
She batted .273 on the year and .350 in conference and was one of just two freshmen placed on the All-Mountain First Team, joining Utah Valley outfielder Amanda Robinson.
Megan Wilkinson played in 51 games and started 48 in 2011 and will be a fixture in the Bears' lineup for the next three seasons.
"Megan really got better and better and better as the year went on," Montgomery said. "By the end of the year, she had really settled into the five hole in our lineup, which is a key RBI position, and she came through more often than not. For her to step up to that challenge in a freshman season was huge.
"We expect Megan to be a dominating hitter in this conference for years to come."
Buol hit a surprising .346 in conference games in 2011 after entering PCSC play with a .116 batting average. She slugged the first two home runs of her collegiate career in the Bears' series at Utah Valley.
Geddis finished second in the PCSC with 15 stolen bases on the year, and she also hit .329 in conference and .300 overall.
Juelfs suffered through a frustrating nonconference schedule but bounced back and starred in Northern Colorado's 13-7 run through its PCSC schedule. She finished with a team-best 2.80 ERA in league play with 25 strikeouts against just five walks in 40 innings.
Juelfs saved her best for last, too, when she had arguably the best pitching weekend of her four seasons in Greeley in her final two outings. She limited Seattle to no runs in 10 innings pitched on May 7 and 8 and held the Redhawks to a .176 batting average against.
Her best performance came in the Bears' season finale and Juelfs' career finale on May 8, when she surrendered just one hit and struck out four in five innings of a dominant 10-0 win.
"I'm glad we had eight players honored," Montgomery said, "but, to be honest, that's something we should carry as an expectation. As we get deeper into our development as a program, hopefully we'll end up with even more"
The PCSC doesn't take into account defensive statistics in its postseason honor process, which probably cost the Bears a little more love in Tuesday's announcement. Erin Wilkinson, for example, threw out seven of 15 base runners (.682) and committed no errors in 124 chances. Hamilton committed just three errors in 73 tries (.959) from shortstop, a premium defensive spot.
"Erin is one of the best players in this league, and is probably a little higher, defensively, than a couple of the catchers who finished ahead of her, but we wore her out behind the plate. That affected her offense. And Megan Hamilton was a rock for us on defense at the shortstop position. They didn't quite have the offensive numbers to warrant some postseason votes, but they had great years."
Regardless, Montgomery said Tuesday he considers his first year in Greeley a success -- kind of. He quickly quipped that he'd throw all the awards back if it meant his team was headed to an NCAA Regional this weekend. He was flattered but said he wasn't pleased with the season.
"It's nice to be acknowledged," Montgomery said when asked about the Coach of the Year honor, "but it's really a team award, or, at least, a 'Coaching Staff of the Year' honor. We did some good things -- from our players to the coaches -- but our goal is much more than that. We wish we were making NCAA arrangements today instead of talking about the season that was. We'll get there, though. This was just Year One."
|C||Deianna Russell||JR||Utah Valley|
|1B||Karmen Holladay -#||JR||Portland State|
|1B||Megan Wilkinson -#||FR||Northern Colorado|
|2B||Carly McEachran -#||SO||Portland State|
|2B||Kailee Vessey -#||SR||Northern Colorado|
|3B||Crysta Conn||FR||Portland State|
|SS||Arielle Wiser||SR||Portland State|
|OF||Jenna Krogh||JR||Portland State|
|OF||Amanda Robinson||FR||Utah Valley|
|OF||Meghan Yocom**||SR||Utah Valley|
|UTL||Sadie Lopez||SO||Portland State|
|P-UTL||Kelli Henderson -!||SR||Northern Colorado|
|P||Anna Bertrand**||SO||Portland State|
|P||Nichole Latham***||SR||Portland State|
|C||Terah Blackwell -#||SO||Idaho State|
|C||Lacey Holm -#||JR||Portland State|
|1B||Erin Olander||SR||Idaho State|
|2B||Katee Wiley||FR||Idaho State|
|3B||Melanie Buol||SO||Northern Colorado|
|OF||Becca Bliss||SO||Portland State|
|OF||Erin Geddis||JR||Northern Colorado|
|OF||Erika James||JR||Weber State|
|UTL||Symbree Minniear||JR||Weber State|
|P-UTL||Britnie Hardine||SR||Weber State|
|P||Jamie Julefs||SR||Northern Colorado|
|P||Josi Summers||FR||Utah Valley|
Charlee Cisneros (SO, UTL), Utah Valley; Kandis Clesson (SR, P), Idaho State; Korryn Coates (SO, 3B), Utah Valley; Megan Hamilton (SR, SS), Northern Colorado; Hannah Klein (JR, 3B), Seattle; Lyndsey Minnich (JR, 2B), Weber State; Brittany Olsin (SR, OF), Idaho State; Amanda Perez (JR, 1B), Utah Valley; Samantha Telarroja (SR, SS), Utah Valley; Erin Wilkinson (JR, C), Northern Colorado.
Co-Players of the Year:
Kelli Henderson (SR/P-UTL), Northern Colorado; Carly McEachran (SO, 2B), Portland State
Pitcher of the Year:
Nichole Latham (SR, RHP), Portland State
Freshman of the Year:
Amanda Robinson (FR, OF), Utah Valley
Co-Coaches of the Year:
Tobin Echo-Hawk, Portland State; Todd Fairbourne, Utah Valley; Mark Montgomery, Northern Colorado
* - Number of first-team selections
! – Unanimous selection.
# - Tie