The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) announced the 45 players chosen for the 2017 NFCA Division III All-America softball teams last night during the NCAA Division III Championship banquet at the Sheraton Hotel downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
For the fourth time in school history, Luther College had three players named NFCA All-Americans. First-team honors were presented to junior shortstop Anna Strien (Cedar Falls, Iowa/Waterloo Columbus); second-team honors to junior outfielder Ashley Burrows (Bondurant, Iowa/Bondurant-Farrar); and third-team honors to sophomore pitcher Samantha Bratland (Spring Grove, Minn.). This is the first time all three have been named an NFCA Division III All-American.
Earlier this year, all three were first-team all-Iowa Conference and NFCA all-Midwest Region selections. Strien was also named the Iowa Conference Position Player of the Year.
"It was an incredible night," commented Head Coach Renae Hartl. "I am so proud of Anna, Ashley and Samantha. All three had great seasons and we are excited that all three will be back in a Norse uniform next year. We are very proud to have their names added to the list of Luther's greatest softball student-athletes."
With this honor, Luther has now had 24 players earn 27 NFCA All-American honors. After last night’s honors, Coach Hartl has had 18 players earn 20 All-American honors during her 16-year career.
Coach Hartl on Anna: “I have never coached a player who goes harder playing the game than Anna. She wears her love for the sport and her teammates on her sleeve everyday. After coaching her for three years, she still can make me smile and shake my head at least once a practice because of a play she completes that I seriously have never seen at our level. She slows the game down and makes things look possible for others. Anna handled the changes in her plate appearances well as the year went on. I don't think she saw more than a handful of inside pitches in her last 50 at-bats. She runs the bases well and had to transition from hitting the RBI to being the RBI a lot in the second half of the season, which makes her 66 RBI even more impressive. Her efforts this season will be in our record books for a very long time.”
Coach Hartl on Ashley: “Ashley thrived in the lead-off position for us because she achieved that ultimate balance of attacking balls in the zone and taking the ones that were not. Teams had to decide how they were going to defend her, as she took advantage of any defensive shifts they applied. As someone who has watched her bunt, slap, and hit away thousands of times over three years, I used to be able to tell what she was going to do based on things she did pre-pitch. Now, I can't see what she is going to do pitch-to-pitch, out of her offensive arsenal. She has no weaknesses. Her commitment to improving herself as an athlete is second to none. Her speed, game-intelligence, and arm strength places her as one of our very best outfielders to ever wear a Luther uniform.”
Coach Hartl on Samatha: “Samantha is constantly learning. I don't know any coach in the nation that wouldn't dream of having a high-level, experienced sophomore pitcher who has already won 40-plus games and has recorded 300-plus strike outs. I am so proud of her commitment to develop her pitches so that she can throw on all four planes. She worked every day the entire year through foot pain and never complained. She has developed a unique ability to control the tempo of the game for us, which puts our defense in a great position to be successful every inning. I am excited about what she is going to next for her team in the coming years.”