STARKVILLE, Miss. – Six Horizon League softball players earned National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-Region honors, the organization announced. Jessie Marinec (Alsip, Ill./Marist), Jordan Rutkowski (Alden, N.Y./Alden) and Brittany Duncan (Fairborn, Ohio/Fairborn) represented Valparaiso, while Loyola’s Brittany Gardner (Orland Park, Ill./Sandburg), Cleveland State’s Dara Toman (Westerville, Ohio/Central) and Youngstown State’s Haley Thomas (Simi Valley, Calif./Simi Valley) all earned accolades.
By virtue of their All-Region honors, all six are now eligible for All-American consideration.
Valparaiso’s honorees represented a program record, with Marinec collected First Team All-Midwest honors and Rutkowski and Duncan earned places on the second team.
Marinec receives the First Team nod at second base after hitting .331 with 44 runs scored and 23 RBIs in 2012. The redshirt sophomore is tied for third in a single season in program history with her 44 runs, also ranks among Valpo’s single-season top-10 in hits (58, t-5th) and total bases (90, 9th) and has tallied 16 extra-base hits, including seven home runs. Marinec also has been solid in the field for the Crusaders, committing just seven errors on the season while registering 100 assists, tied for fifth in the Horizon League.
Rutkowski earns the Second Team accolade at catcher after setting numerous Valpo single-season records in 2012. The senior is hitting .428 with 44 runs scored, 14 home runs and 60 RBIs this year, the latter two marks easily new Crusader records. The First Team All-Horizon League honoree also has set new single-season records in hits, total bases and doubles while also breaking Valpo career records in on-base percentage, total bases, home runs and RBIs.
Duncan earns the Second Team honor at designated player after enjoying a tremendous freshman campaign. The rookie was tabbed the Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and has hit .388 with nine home runs, 51 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 2012. Her 51 RBIs rank second in the league, as well as in a single season in Crusader history, while she also ranks third in the league in home runs and walks.
Gardner earned a place on the All-Great Lakes Region Second Team, becoming the fourth player in Loyola softball history to earn all-region accolades and is the first to do so since Tara Miller in 2006. She is just the second pitcher in Loyola history to be an all-region pick.
Gardner, who was named 2012 Horizon League Pitcher of the Year and also collected First Team All-Horizon League accolades, went 18-10 with a 2.69 ERA in 169.1 innings of work as Loyola went 26-23 overall and advanced to the title game of the Horizon League Championship.
The southpaw set Loyola single-season records with 205 strikeouts and 10 shutouts this spring and tossed a pair of no-hitters, while recording 10 or more strikeouts on six occasions. She hurled the sixth no-hitter in Horizon League Championship history, and the first since 2006, when she held Green Bay without a hit in a 2-0 victory on May 10.
Although her season got off to a bit of a slow start, Gardner finished the year strong, going 16-6 with a 1.55 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 144.1 innings over her final 23 appearances. She yielded only 89 hits and 58 walks over that season-ending stretch.
Toman and Thomas each earned spots on the All-Midwest Team, with Toman receiving first team honors and Thomas being placed on the second team.
Toman, named to the Horizon League First Team, hit .405 with a school single season record and league-high 19 home runs. She led the league during the regular season in runs with 45 and tied for third with her 42 runs driven in.
Her .892 slugging percentage was far and away the best in the league with the next closest finisher slugging at a .795 clip. Toman reached base at a .553 rate - thanks in large part to a school single season record 43 walks. She reached safely in 36 consecutive games to end the season. During the regular season, no other player in the league reached base at a rate of .500.
Toman's totals ranked her seventh in the country in slugging percentage and tied her for 10th nationally in home runs during the regular season.
Thomas, who was named the 2012 Horizon League Player of the Year and First-Team All-Horizon League, becomes the fifth YSU player to earn all-region accolades and the first since Kristen McDonnell in 2006.
Thomas also finished her career as the only player in school history to record at least 200 hits, 25 home runs, 45 doubles, 25 stolen bases and a batting average above .360.
Thomas currently ranks 18th nationally with a .431 batting average and set the single-season hits (72), stolen bases (15) and runs (42) records. Her batting average is also the second-highest single-season average in school history.
She also ranked second on the single-season doubles list with 17 and her 40 RBI's ranks tied for second.
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