Five Softball Standouts Named to 2009 NCCAA All-Region Team

Written By: Michael Brown, Palm Beach Atlantic University SID

Pictured Left to Right: All-Region Selections: Heather Laird, Candace Horton, Caitlin Bouschet, Ashley Jones, and Mari Stokes. Pictured Left to Right: All-Region Selections: Heather Laird, Candace Horton, Caitlin Bouschet, Ashley Jones, and Mari Stokes.

FRANKLIN SPRINGS, Ga.- Upon completion of the 2009 National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) South Regional softball tournament last weekend, the All South Region team was announced with five Palm Beach Atlantic University players represented in the prestigious listing. Ashley Jones, Caitlin Bouschet, Heather Laird, Candace Horton, and Mari Stokes were named while Jones was awarded as the South Region Player of the Year.

While PBA was not a participant in the NCCAA South Regional this season with the University already holding an automatic bid to the National Tournament by hosting the event, the five players still were voted in by the Region coaches.

“It’s great to see the hard work that these girls have put in be recognized with an NCCAA All-Region selection,” said head coach Kimmy Bloemers.

“The best part perhaps of it all is that each one of these players will be back next year and I know with each one that they will strive to be even better next season. We are very much looking forward to the NCCAA National Tournament in a few weeks and we expect these girls to help lead us,” added Bloemers.

Jones was named a unanimous selection as Region Player of the Year as she has compiled her best season yet in this her junior campaign. The Jensen Beach, Florida native leads the Sailfish pitching staff with a 20-7 record to date with a microscopic 1.18 earned run average in 184.1 innings pitched. Jones has compiled eight shutouts, three saves, 23 complete games, while striking out 221 batters and walking just 28 through 30 appearances. Opposing hitters are hitting just .181 against her.

Finishing second in the All-Region POY of the year voting was Jones teammate and star shortstop Caitlin Bouschet (Pictured, Right). A sophomore and a local product from Palm Beach Central High School, Bouschet was already coming off a terrific rookie season last year where she batted in the middle of the order and played shortstop every single game of the season.

Some might have fallen victim to a sophomore slump, but not Bouschet as she simply improved nearly every aspect of her game in 2009. The team’s leading hitter at .314, Bouschet also paces the Sailfish with seven homeruns and 28 RBI’s. A force in the middle of the order, Bouschet has also scored 23 runs while collecting six doubles and 43 total hits.

Perhaps most impressive about Bouschet’s sophomore season has been her improved defense. While committing only four errors might be impressive enough, the amount of game-saving plays with her glove is what has people around the state of Florida talking in terms of defensive shortstops.

Pairing up alongside Jones for most of the season as the team’s other starting pitcher has been fellow junior Heather Laird (Pictured, Right.) Laird has been gaining momentum as the season has gone along and now stands with an 8-7 record in 22 appearances including 18 starts. Laird has registered a career-high 109.1 innings this season while also registering career-highs with 124 strikeouts against only 37 walks.

Laird has registered 10 complete games while also posting three shutouts and a 2.56 earned run average.

Proving valuable behind the plate and at third-base has been the steady play of junior Candace Horton (Pictured, Right). A solid catcher in her first two seasons with the Fish, it wasn’t until this season that Horton has developed into a dangerous offensive weapon as well. Batting near the top of the lineup for the second-half of the season, Horton sits second on the team with a .294 batting average while adding in six doubles, 10 RBI’s, and 14 walks. A troublesome spot in her hitting past, Horton has also greatly cut down on her strikeouts as she has been struck out only ten times in 2009.

One of the more vocal leaders for head coach Kimmy Bloemers, Horton makes her presence felt behind the plate or at third-base as the Orlando native has committed just one error in 200 chances for a .995 fielding percentage.

Rounding out the All-Region selections for PBA is freshman second-baseman Mari Stokes (Pictured, Below). Stokes has given the Sailfish a formidable double-play combination as the Port St. Lucie product has teamed up with Bouschet to commit only four errors a piece.

Not just a solid player with her glove, Stokes has also proven mighty with the bat as she is second on the team with five homeruns while scoring a team-high 24 runs in her first collegiate season. Stokes also paces the team with 12 doubles  while driving in 19 runs and stealing four bases in five attempts.

The Sailfish are 30-16 on the season with six regular season games remaining and then the NCCAA National Softball Tournament on May 7-9. 

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