The Big Ten announced their end of season awards in softball on Wednesday, and Gopher sophomore Sara Groenewegen was named the Big Ten Player of the Year. She is the third Gopher to ever win the award and is the first since Kari Blank in 1991.
Groenewegen who was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year in 2014 is now just the third player in Big Ten history to win all three major awards. She is so valuable to Minnesota not only to her presence in the circle, but for her bat at the plate as well. She led the Gophers in Big Ten play in batting average (.435), home runs (6) and on-base percentage (.524), while also recording a 12-2 record with 155 strikeouts and four shutouts in the pitching circle.
If you take all of the Gophers non-conference games into the equation, Groenewegen leads the team in home runs with 12, slugging percentage (.686), and on-base percentage (.490). In the circle she is 28-4 with a 1.52 ERA. She has recorded 332 strikeouts in just over 202 innings pitched, good enough for third in the nation. She is also starting to recieve national attention for her efforts. Just this week she was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the fifth time this season, and was named the L Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Pitcher of the Week and the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Week on Tuesday and the ESPNW National Player of the Week on Wednesday.. She did have a rather impressive week throwing three complete-game wins and recording 47 strikeouts in 22 innings of work. She tied a career-high with 15 strikeouts in a shutout of Purdue and then broke the school record by fanning 19 batters in a second win over the Boilermakers.
At the plate, Groenewegen reached base in all five games and went 4-for-4 with two home runs against the Badgers. She finished the week batting .500. Not too shabby.
Then on Wednesday, Groenewegen was given another honor as she was named a Top Ten Finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award! She is the only sophomore nominated for the award with the remaining nine players being juniors and seniors.
Groenewegan was not the only Gopher player honored by the Big Ten on Wednesday. Joining Groenewegen on the All-Big Ten First Team was shortstop Tyler Walker and second baseman Danielle Parlich. Walker who became the Gophers fifth four-time All-Big Ten selection, hit .412 in the Big Tenseason with an .804 slugging percentage and 20 RBI in 15 Big Ten games. She is the Gophers first three-time first-team selection.
Parlich hit .427 in conference play, and takes a 19-game hitting streak into the Big Ten Tournament. She is also one of 25 finalists for the NFCA National Freshman of the Year Award. Unfortunately she lost out on the Big Ten Freshman of the Year Award to Northwestern's Sabrina Rabin.
Two other Gophers, Kaitlyn Richardson and Sam Macken were both named to the second team All-Big Ten squad. Richardson and Parlich were both also named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team, Parlich at 2nd base, and Richardson at first.
Congrats to all five honored Gophers. They will be back in action at the Big Ten Tournament this weekend in Columbus as the #2 seed. The Gophers won the tournament as the #3 seed a year ago.