SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Southern Conference claimed five players across five SoCon softball teams to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I All-Region Teams as announced by organization Thursday. ETSU outfielder Danielle Knoetze was the only SoCon player to earn second team honors as she landed on the Mideast Region Second Team. Joining Knoetze in the Mideast Region is UNCG second baseman Jasmine Palmer who nabbed a third team distinction. In the South Region, Furman left-handed pitcher Lindsey Bert, Mercer outfielder Meghan Rud and Samford outfielder Shelby Maze were all named to the NFCA South Region Third Team.
Knoetze, who was named Southern Conference Player of the Year earlier this month, is the first player in ETSU history to receive an all-region nod after earning second team honors in the Mideast Region. The senior is hitting .358 (62-for-173) on the season with 15 doubles, 11 home runs, 33 runs and 43 RBI in 52 games (50 starts). Knoetze leads the team in multi-hit (17) and multi-RBI (13) games, while she became the fourth player in program history to hit double-digit home runs this season. The San Diego, California, native is among ETSU single-season leaders in hits (4th) and RBI (2nd), while she ranks second all-time in batting average (.316) and third home runs (28). Knoetze is the SoCon leader in home runs, slugging percentage (.636) and total bases (110), while ranking second in RBI, fourth in hits and doubles, fifth in batting average, seventh in runs, and 10th in on-base percentage (.397). Knoetze and the Bucs won their first-ever conference championship last weekend in Chattanooga and are gearing up for their NCAA Tournament debut, which gets underway Friday afternoon at seventh-seeded Auburn.
Bert fashioned an 18-12 record, 2.10 ERA and fanned 197 batters while walking just 44 in 196.2 innings of work during the 2017 season en route to earning Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year honors and first team All-SoCon accolades. The left-hander paced the SoCon in wins, ERA, shutouts (9) and strikeouts to help the Paladins to a 31-23 overall record and a share of its first SoCon regular season title since 1995. A native of Tallahassee, Florida, Bert captured SoCon Pitcher of the Week honors a school-record five times during the 2017 campaign and was named SoCon Pitcher of the Month in February, March and April to become the first league pitcher to ever earn the honor in three consecutive months. She fanned 10 or more batters five times in 2017, including a career-high 12 strikeouts in a two-hit shutout of Mercer on April 14. Against SoCon regular season co-champion UNCG on April 22, Bert tossed a complete-game shutout and struck out eight Spartans. With 197 strikeouts this season, Bert moved into third place on Furman's career strikeouts ledger with 562. Her 60 career wins in the circle also rank in the top five in Furman history. Bert is the first Paladin to earn NFCA All-South Region honors since shortstop Sieara Bishop was named to the third team following the 2015 season.
Rud led the Bears with a .393 batting average – the eighth-best mark in school history – and set a school record with 38 stolen bases while her average of 0.67 stolen bases per game ranks 18th in the country and first in the Southern Conference. Her 76 hits this season ranks 14th nationally and second in the SoCon while her batting average was second in the league and 75th nationally. She enters her senior season just four stolen bases away from becoming the all-time leader in career steals at Mercer, finishing this season with 90 career stolen bases to her credit. Her career stolen base percentage of .900 is second all-time at Mercer, just below Christine Hall's .914 mark from 1998-2001. This is the first all-region honor for Rud and the sixth by a Bear player in program history. Previous Mercer players recognized include Kristen Stevens (P, 2015 Third Team), McKenzie Woody (OF, 2012 and 2013 second teams), Katie Rosentreter (UT, 2006 second team) and Nikki Bowey (OF, 2003 second team).
Palmer reached base in over half of her plate appearances, recording a SoCon-best .511 OBP. Palmer ranks fourth in the NCAA with 0.44 HBPs per game, finishing the regular season having reached base in 29 consecutive games and 42 out of 45 games overall. Palmer also tied for second in the league in runs scored (42) and ranked second in walks (32), seventh in slugging percentage (.537) and fourth in assists (103) and double plays (12). Earlier this month, Palmer joined a group of five Spartans named All-SoCon, earning the second base selection on the second team. The Enka High School product is the second base selection on the third team in the Mideast Region. With the nod, Palmer makes it five consecutive years that UNCG has received at least one all-region nod.
Maze recently wrapped up a stellar junior season. She finished the season as the national leader in hits with a school-record 90 on the season. She also tied a school record with 22 stolen bases. Maze led the Southern Conference in batting average (.423), hits (90) and triples (5). She also ranked second in the league in runs scored (42) and total bases (105), and third in stolen bases (22). Throughout the season, Maze collected an impressive 29 multi-hit games, and she had a team-best 11-game hit streak during the year. In her three seasons in a Samford uniform, Maze's .387 career average is the best in school history. With one season left, she already ranks second in career hits with 225, just 49 hits away from Dowdy's career record of 274. The Morris, Alabama, native is just the fourth player in Samford history to be named to the NFCA All-Region team. Megan Dowdy was named third team as a junior in 2015 and first team in 2016, while Mollie Hanson and Callie Brister were both named third team in 2016.
In total, 667 student-athletes from 175 programs received 2017 NFCA Division I All-Region accolades. The awards honor softball student-athletes from the Association's 10 regions with first, second and third team selections. NFCA member coaches from each respective region voted on the teams, and all the honorees now become eligible for selection to the 2017 NFCA Division I All-American squads.
Mideast Region Second Team
Danielle Knoetze, ETSU, Sr., OF
Mideast Region Third Team
Jasmine Palmer, UNCG, So., 2B
South Region Third Team
Lindsey Bert, Furman, Jr., P
Meghan Rud, Mercer, Jr., OF
Shelby Maze, Samford, Jr., OF