Fifty outstanding softball players have been chosen for the inaugural NFCA/Schutt Sports Division III National Player of the Year watch list, which will be paired down in the coming weeks until just one player remains at the conclusion of the 2016 season.
Twenty-six returning NFCA All-Americans top the list, including four first-team honorees, nine second-team selections and 13 from last year’s third team. The remaining 24 members of the group all earned first team NFCA All-Region recognition last season.
Texas-Tyler, last year’s national runner-up, boasts five players on the initial list — seniors Kelsie Batten, Vanessa Carrizales and Jackie Mendez, and juniors Lexi Ackroyd and KK Stevens — while Heidelberg has three — seniors Marissa Smego and Mikaela Mitsch, and sophomore Abbey McKee. Eight schools — Averett, East Texas Baptist, Luther, Rowan, Salisbury, three-time reigning NCAA titlist Tufts, Wheaton (Mass.) and Worcester Polytechnic Institute — have two players each. Luther's players are 2015 second team All-American senior Carli Radil, and Iowa Conference Pitcher of the Year junior Amanda Witzlib.
There are 24 seniors, 17 juniors and nine sophomores in the group.
The list is a collaborative effort between the NFCA’s Division III Head Coaches and All-America committees. The list will subsequently be cut to 25, 10 and then the three finalists that will vie for the award.
The list will be adjusted to assure the best players during the season are considered, with the eventual winner coming from the group of 25.