After capturing last year’s national championship, Oklahoma needed some other veterans to take over the leadership role left by departing senior Keilani Ricketts.

Shelby Pendley was the perfect candidate.

Pendley delivered a monster year as she hit .410 with 13 homers and a league-leading 63 RBIs to lead the Sooners to the Big 12 championship.

With her spectacular season, Oklahoma’s junior third baseman is the Tribune-Herald’s Big 12 softball player of the year. Baylor’s Whitney Canion is pitcher of the year while Texas pitcher Tiarra Davis is freshman of the year, and Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso is coach of the year.

Pendley’s prodigious numbers are no surprise after she hit .357 with 22 homers and 73 RBIs last season.

“She’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever had on a softball field,” Gasso said. “She has everything you want as far as strength, power and speed, and she can do things a lot of people can’t on the field. We’ve had her bat first, second and third in the batting order. I never bat her lower than that because I need her to get as many at-bats as possible.”

Pendley has needed to produce a great year with power hitter Lauren Chamberlain going down with a back injury in March.

“She leads the team in about every category, and has really stepped up with the loss of Lauren Chamberlain,” Gasso said. “She also plays a tremendous third base.”

Versatile player

Not only has Pendley come through at the plate, she volunteered to pitch to give the Sooners some depth behind ace Kelsey Stevens. In 18 appearances, Pendley went 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA and four saves. She allowed just 20 hits in 32 2/3 innings while striking out 28 hitters.

“When our pitching staff was in disarray, she said she pitched in high school,” Gasso said. “With that kind of athletic talent, you don’t dismiss it. So I brought her to the indoor facility and she looked really smooth and fluid, and her ball had natural spin to it. She’s been winning top Division I games, and that’s incredible.”

Coaching success

Gasso is the coach of the year after leading the Sooners to their third straight Big 12 title to mark the first time any school has accomplished that feat. Oklahoma finished 16-2 to win the conference by three games over Baylor.

Now in her sixth season at Baylor after two medical redshirt seasons, Canion has finished off her record breaking career in style by going 26-9 with a 1.43 ERA during the regular season.

Before the arm and knee injuries, Canion relied on riseballs that were routinely clocked at 70 mph, which is the equivalent of a 100-mph fastball in baseball.

But now she often throws in the mid-60s and changes speeds as she mixes screwballs, changeups and drop curves to complement her riseball. The left-hander struck out 244 batters in 195 1/3 innings during the regular season.

Changes in circle

“It’s been different because the strikeout numbers aren’t coming as much,” Canion said. “But my pitch counts have been lower. I still have a few strikeouts here and there, but I’m shocking people when I come with the drop curve, the screw and the changeup in any count.”

Baylor coach Glenn Moore has been impressed by how Canion has maintained her passion for the game through the injuries.

“For her to keep coming back with the wear and tear she’s put on her body motivates me as a coach,” Moore said. “She’s an elite pitcher who will go down as the best in the history of Baylor softball. She’s got the passion and is a natural leader, and the others raise their game because of that.”

Davis is the Tribune-Herald’s choice for freshman of the year after going 18-12 with a 2.35 ERA. She collected 162 strikeouts in 184 1/3 innings during the regular season.

*****

2014 TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 SOFTBALL TEAM

First team

Pos Player School Cl Avg HR RBI Notable

1B Brittany Williams Oklahoma Sr .356 10 43 .494 on-base pct.

2B Ari Hawkins Baylor Fr .365 3 22 20 stolen bases

SS Taylor Thom Texas Sr .386 9 37 54 runs

3B Shelby Pendley Oklahoma Jr .410 13 63 .771 slugging pct.

C Clare Hosack Baylor Sr .324 11 42 .633 slugging pct.

Util Georgia Casey Oklahoma Jr .373 11 45 15 stolen bases

OF Brejae Washington Texas Sr .427 1 17 .507 on-base pct.

OF Kaitlyn Thumann Baylor Jr .405 7 21 .512 on-base pct.

OF Lindsey Stephens Texas So .373 15 62 .753 slugging pct.

DP Kady Self Oklahoma So ..425 6 21 .528 on-base pct.

Pitcher School Cl W-L IP SO ERA Notable

Whitney Canion Baylor Sr 26-9 195.1 244 1.43 10 shutouts

Kelsey Stevens Oklahoma So 33-7 223 229 2.10 8 shutouts

Tiarra Davis Texas Fr 18-12 184 162 2.35 .204 opp. average

Second team

Pos Player School Cl Avg HR RBI Notable

1B Maddie Stein Kansas Jr .353 1 39 12 stolen bases

2B Stephanie Ceo Texas So .362 2 19 .422 on-base pct.

SS Jordan Strickland Baylor Jr .268 11 39 .529 slugging pct.

3B Sarah Smith Baylor So .321 5 26 .493 slugging pct.

C Mandy Ogle Texas Sr .302 7 24 10 doubles

Util Chaley Brickey Kansas So .375 11 38 .508 on-base pct.

OF Brittany Gomez Iowa State So .397 0 11 24 stolen bases

OF Shelby Davis Okla. St. Jr .385 0 15 41 stolen bases

OF Sydni Emanuel Texas Tech Fr .418 2 24 36 stolen bases

DP Linsey Hays Baylor So .342 12 46 11 doubles

Pitcher School Cl W-L IP SO ERA Notable

Simone Freeman Okla. St. Sr 21-17 249 286 2.31 .207 opponents avg.

Kelsey Kessler Kansas So 19-14 206 244 2.41 7 shutouts

Gretchen Aucoin Texas Tech So 14-9 132 141 2.43 6 saves

Statistics through regular season

Player of the year: Shelby Pendley, Oklahoma

Pitcher of the year: Whitney Canion, Baylor

Freshman of the year: Tiarra Davis, Texas

Coach of the year: Patty Gasso, Oklahoma

— Compiled by staff writer John Werner

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