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.
2016 TRIBUNE-HERALD ALL-BIG 12 SOFTBALL TEAM
|1B||Shay Knighten||Oklahoma||Fr||.382||11||48||.674 slug pct.|
|2B||Brittany Gomez||Iowa State||Sr||.401||0||13||24 stolen bases|
|SS||Chaley Brickey||Kansas||Sr||.387||10||48||18 doubles|
|3B||Sarah Smith||Baylor||Sr||.418||10||47||.508 on-base pct.|
|C||Vanessa Shippy||Oklahoma St.||So||.430||4||27||55 runs|
|OF||Erin Miller||Oklahoma||Sr||.401||9||47||.701 slug pct.|
|OF||Linsey Hays||Baylor||Sr||.327||13||43||19 doubles|
|OF||Lindsey Stephens||Texas||Sr||.401||12||29||.796 slug pct.|
|DP||Kyla Walker||Baylor||Fr||.445||0||10||11 stolen bases|
|Util||Kierra Miles||Texas Tech||Jr||.344||17||50||118 total bases|
|Paige Parker||Oklahoma||So||28-3||1.45||183.1||211||.178 opponent BA|
|Heather Stearns||Baylor||Sr||19-6||1.91||168.0||206||6 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|
|1B||Shelby Friudenberg||Baylor||So||.321||11||51||.560 slug pct.|
|2B||Caleigh Clifton||Oklahoma||Fr||.390||4||35||.581 on-base pct|
|SS||Kelsey Arnold||Oklahoma||So||.388||0||7||14 stolen bases|
|3B||Taylor Lynch||Oklahoma St.||Fr||.401||6||39||.444 on-base pct|
|C||Lea Wodach||Oklahoma||So||.331||7||28||.413 on-base pct|
|OF||Nicole Pendley||Oklahoma||So||.344||5||33||.503 slug pct.|
|OF||Fale Aviu||Oklahoma||Fr||.355||8||44||.406 on-base pct|
|OF||Kiani Ramsey||Texas Tech||Fr||.348||0||21||8 doubles|
|DP||Madie Montgomery||Oklahoma St.||Fr||.327||9||53||38 runs|
|Util||Sydney Romero||Oklahoma||Fr||.352||6||30||40 runs|
|Tiarra Davis||Texas||Jr||22-9||1.72||195.0||166||3 saves|
|Andie Formby||Kansas||So||16-7||2.26||149.0||113||.243 opponent BA|
*Statistics through regular season