Greatness was expected of Paige Parker the minute she stepped on the Oklahoma campus.

The talented sophomore left-hander hasn’t let anyone down.

For the second straight season, Parker is the Tribune-Herald’s Big 12 pitcher of the year after a brilliant regular season.

Baylor third baseman Sarah Smith is the player of the year while Oklahoma first baseman Shay Knighten is the league’s freshman of the year. Patty Gasso is the coach of the year after leading the Sooners to a 47-7 overall record and a 17-1 conference mark.

Parker finished the regular season with a 28-3 record while posting a Big 12-low 1.45 ERA. She collected 211 strikeouts in 183 innings and limited opponents to a paltry .178 batting average.

Parker was perfect in the Big 12 with a 13-0 record with a 1.43 ERA.

“Paige is ahead of the curve because she can pinpoint pitches and hit her spots really well,” Gasso said. “She works the count well and is poised. There’s no panic from her and that sets her apart. She’s very intelligent when it comes to pitching.”

The numbers Parker has delivered are no shock for anyone who has seen her pitch the last two seasons. As a freshman last year, Parker was the best pitcher in the conference with a 24-5 record and a 1.45 ERA.

Following an injury-plagued junior season, Smith finished her Baylor career in style by hitting .418 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs. All those numbers ranked among the best in the Big 12.

Smith collected 13 doubles and two triples as she amassed a .725 slugging percentage. She also had a good eye at the plate, as she walked 23 times to give her a .508 on-base percentage.

“I’m not going to get a chance to play softball again after this,” Smith said. “I wanted to make this year my best.”

Smith has been a dangerous hitter since arriving at Baylor four years ago as she’s hit .363 with 27 homers and 134 RBIs in her career. But due to injuries, she hit a career-low .316 last season.

She’s bounced back in a big way with her tremendous senior year.

“Every at-bat is a challenge to her and she’s a smart, smart hitter,” Baylor coach Glenn Moore said. “She’s one of the smartest hitters I’ve ever coached. I’ve watched her for four years pick apart pitchers and they have trouble beating her multiple times.”

After a rough day, Smith isn’t the type of hitter who will take practice swings all night. She believes it’s better to take a step back and analyze what went wrong and try to improve the next game.

“If I have a bad day, the best thing for me is to go home and think about why I had a bad day,” Smith said. “I just visualize and think about what I was doing in the box. Then I go out there and change that. Hitting is physical but is also very mental.”

Smith is also a superb defensive player at the hot corner who provides a lot of confidence for Baylor ace Heather Stearns.

“Sarah has brought so much to this team,” Stearns said. “She’s such a strong defensive player. She leads in her own way and people follow.”

In a league filled with tremendous freshmen, Knighten made the biggest impact as she hit .382 with 11 homers and 48 RBIs for the No. 3 seeded Sooners.

The Big 12 freshman class was so good that eight made the Trib’s all-conference teams. After hitting .445, Baylor outfielder Kyla Walker joined Knighten as a first-team all-Big 12 selection.

Second-team freshman picks included three Oklahoma players: second baseman Caleigh Clifton, outfielder Fale Aviu and third baseman Sydney Romero. Oklahoma State third baseman Taylor Lynch and designated player Madie Sue Montgomery and Texas Tech outfielder Kiani Ramsey also made second team all-conference in their first year of college softball.


First team

1BShay KnightenOklahomaFr.3821148.674 slug pct.
2BBrittany GomezIowa StateSr.40101324 stolen bases
SSChaley BrickeyKansasSr.387104818 doubles
3BSarah SmithBaylorSr.4181047.508 on-base pct.
CVanessa ShippyOklahoma St.So.43042755 runs
OFErin MillerOklahomaSr.401947.701 slug pct.
OFLinsey HaysBaylorSr.327134319 doubles
OFLindsey StephensTexasSr.4011229.796 slug pct.
DPKyla WalkerBaylorFr.44501011 stolen bases
UtilKierra MilesTexas TechJr.3441750118 total bases
Paige ParkerOklahomaSo28-31.45183.1211.178 opponent BA
Heather StearnsBaylorSr19-61.91168.02066 saves
Player of the year: Sarah Smith, Baylor
Pitcher of the year: Paige Parker, Oklahoma
Freshman of the year: Shay Knighten, Oklahoma
Coach of the year: Patty Gasso, Oklahoma

Second team

1BShelby FriudenbergBaylorSo.3211151.560 slug pct.
2BCaleigh CliftonOklahomaFr.390435.581 on-base pct
SSKelsey ArnoldOklahomaSo.3880714 stolen bases
3BTaylor LynchOklahoma St.Fr.401639.444 on-base pct
CLea WodachOklahomaSo.331728.413 on-base pct
OFNicole PendleyOklahomaSo.344533.503 slug pct.
OFFale AviuOklahomaFr.355844.406 on-base pct
OFKiani RamseyTexas TechFr.3480218 doubles
DPMadie MontgomeryOklahoma St.Fr.32795338 runs
UtilSydney RomeroOklahomaFr.35263040 runs
Tiarra DavisTexasJr22-91.72195.01663 saves
Andie FormbyKansasSo16-72.26149.0113.243 opponent BA

*Statistics through regular season

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