May 11, 2004
OKLAHOMA CITY - UA sophomore pitcher Alicia Hollowell was selected along with outfielder Iyhia McMichael of Mississippi State and pitcher-outfielder Jessica van der Linden of Florida State as the three finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award.
UA also had a candidate in the final three last year, senior shortstop Lovie Jung, now the starting second baseman for the U.S. Olympic Team under head Coach Mike Candrea, on leave from Arizona for the Games.
The Amateur Softball Association selected those three from among 25 candidates picked April 7, then narrowed to a group of 10 on April 30 -- including UA freshman outfielder Caitlin Lowe and sophomore outfielder Autumn Champion.
The award recognizes outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country at various levels of play.
Hollowell, of Suisun, Calif., has led the Arizona Wildcats to the 2004 Pac 10 title and kept the club ranked No. 1 for the past nine consecutive weeks. With a 38-2 record she is tied for third in wins in the nation and leads the country in strikeouts per seven innings with an average of 12.4. Her season total of 466 strikeouts is within reach of the Pac 10 record of 484 set by Cal's Michele Granger in 1993. Over half of her wins have been via shutout with 19 coming individually and three combined.
"This is one of the biggest honors I have ever received," Hollowell said. "We have worked all year through the wins and losses and no matter what, the hard work has paid off. I would never be able to do anything without my teammates. They are the ones who really make me look good."
UA coach Larry Ray concurred. "This is quite an honor for Alicia to be considered among the top three players in the country. There are so many great players out there, but she is certainly among the top," he said.
"She is the one that we go to when we have to get a win and she has come through for us all season. Hopefully her best performances are yet to come," Ray said.
MSU senior McMichael, of Nacogdoches, Texas, currently leads the nation in batting average (.484) and ranks in the top five in three other categories. She ranks second in runs per game with a total of 78 and 1.32 per game, second in triples per game with a total of nine and 0.15 per game and fourth in slugging percentage at .863.
She has been the catalyst for the Bulldogs and currently owns or shares 28 batting records at MSU, including four single-season records in 2004. She has a current 17-game hitting streak in which she has posted a .578 batting average (26-for-45) with eight extra-base hits, nine RBI, 28 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. During this streak Mississippi State is 15-2.
A top 10 finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in 2003, Florida State senior van der Linden, of Cerritos, Calif., has improved her stats from 2003 by lowering her ERA from 1.07 to 0.48 which ranks second in the nation. She has six more wins and one less loss. She has pitched 25 different games without allowing an earned run.
So far in 2004 she has set career records at FSU for doubles, walks and RBI. She is less than 20 strikeouts away from breaking the FSU career record that has stood since 1988. With 305 strikeouts this season she is just three shy of a new single season record. Of Florida State's 53 wins, van der Linden has won 31 of the 53 games with either a game-winning RBI or from inside the pitching circle. She is 24-5 on the mound and has a team-leading 17 game-winning RBIs.
The winner of the 2004 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award will be announced May 26 during the opening ceremonies of the NCAA Women's College World Series, and will be recognized and presented with the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year trophy during the ASA National Council Meeting in Mobile, Ala., in November.
A replica of the award will be placed in a permanent display in the ASA National Softball Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, along with photos of the winner. An additional replica of the award will be presented to the player's academic institution at a designated event in the fall.
Texas pitcher Cat Osterman, currently redshirting while participating with Team USA, won the award last year.