The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) on Thursday announced the top twenty-five finalists for the second-annual Freshman of the Year award.
In the first-ever season that the award was presented in 2014, there was a tie atop the results as Tennessee's Annie Aldrete and Auburn's Kasey Cooper shared the trophy. 2015 presents another star-studded, talented class, but a few frontrunners are clear.
Even casual softball fans are liable to recognize some of the twenty-five names - Oklahoma's Paige Parker, she of the three perfect games thus far this season; Alabama's Alexis Osorio; Collegiate Player of the Year top 25 finalist Megan Good; Georgia State breakout star Ivie Drake; Georgia lightning-fast speedster Cortni Emanuel; Tennessee's slugging shortstop Meghan Gregg; and Carley Hoover & Allie Walljasper, two-fourths of the LSU Tigers' 'Fab Four', all headline the list.
Good is an obvious frontrunner for this award thanks to her also being the lone freshman representative on the National Player of the Year top twenty-five finalist list. Parker's incredible stats and three masterful gems are sure to earn her a number of votes. Emanuel, something of an unsung hero in the middle of an exceptionally-good SEC, has been the very essence of a spark plug for the UGA offense. Despite a flounder or two of late, both Hoover and Walljasper have been crucial to the Lady Tigers' success this season.
Eleven different conferences are represented in the list of finalists. The SEC leads the way with eight representatives, while the next-closest number is significantly smaller than that: both the PAC-12 and Southland conferences have three players a piece on the list. The Big Ten, somewhat surprisingly, only had one selection.
As with the National Player of the Year trophy and voting, this list of twenty-five will be whittled down to ten, then three before a winner is crowned prior to the start of the Women's College World Series.
See below for a full pictorial list of the twenty-five freshmen: