FRISCO, Texas – Sam Houston State senior outfielder Tori Benavidez was named the 2013 Southland Conference Softball Player of the Year by vote of the conference’s head coaches and sports information directors, the league office announced. She was also named the conference hitter of the year.
Pitcher of the year honors went to Central Arkansas senior Kelsie Armstrong. Houston Baptist junior outfielder Lauren Schwirtlich was selected newcomer of the year and sister teammate Kirsten Schwirtlich was tabbed freshman of the year. McNeese State coach Mike Smith received coach of the year honors.
Benavidez, a first-team all-conference selection, is the second Bearkat to earn player of the year honor since Jennifer Delcambre took the honor in 1993. A native of Midlothian, Benavidez led the league in Southland play in hits (41), runs scored (29), stolen bases (12), plate appearances (109) and at bats (99), she second in batting average (.414), third in triples (three), fifth in total bases (56), sixth in on-base percentage (.463), ninth in runs batted in (18) and 13th in slugging percentage (.566).
She is the fifth Bearkat to be named hitter of the year and first to be named player and pitcher of the year in the same season. Benavidez became the 11th player in Southland history to be named player and hitter of the year in the same season and first since Texas-Arlington’s Katie Jones accomplished the feat in 2007.
Armstrong is the first Central Arkansas player to be tabbed the conference’s pitcher of the year. The senior from Hot Springs, Ark., continued to make her mark as one of the Southland’s most dominant pitchers. In conference play, Armstrong led the league with 176 strikeouts, including 47 batters looking. She pitched 138.0 innings in conference while making 20 starts and picking up 13 wins. Conference opponents could only manage a .221 average against the right-hander as she compiled an 1.88 earned run average. On the season, Armstrong was 28-12, completing 37 of the 40 games she started. She struck out 344 batters in 207.0 innings pitched, setting a school record for the fourth consecutive season with strikeouts in a season.
Fourteen players made a return appearance to the all-conference teams led by Central Arkansas senior catcher Melanie Bryant, who is making her fourth consecutive appearance.
Benavidez is making her third appearance on the all-conference teams while 11 additional players make their second all-conference appearance led Armstrong, Sam Houston State seniors Shelbi Tucker, Kim Damian and Ashley Isbell and sophomore Hillary Adams, Stephen F. Austin junior Elizabeth Arana, Central Arkansas senior Melissa Bryant, McNeese State senior Meagan Bond, junior Alanna DiVittorio and sophomore Ashley Modzelewski, Nicholls State senior Ashley Bertot and Northwestern State junior Tara McKenney.
Sam Houston State led all teams with nine all-conference selections. Northwestern State had six selections while regular-season championship McNeese State had five.
Central Arkansas and Houston Baptist each received four all-conference selections followed by Southeastern Louisiana with three.