June 21, 2011

Melody Christian named softball team MVP; Four others honored

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Sophomore Melody Christian has been named the Most Valuable Player on the Tennessee Tech softball team for the 2011 season, and four other Golden Eagles have received post-season honors announced this week by head coach Tory Acheson.

In addition to Christian's MVP award, she was also named the Best Offensive Player, Lacie Coquerille was named Best Defensive Infielder and won the Coach's Award, Kaleigh Gates was named Best Defensive Outfielder, Holly Thomas won the Best Pitcher Award, and Kayla Floyd captured both the Most Improved Player Award and the Freshman of the Year honor.

Christian, who won the Freshman of the Year award last season, followed up with the MVP honor and Best Offensive Player in her second season on the roster.  A versatile player from Kingston Springs, Tenn., Christian filled in at a variety of positions for the Golden Eagles. Projected as a starter in the outfield, she played some at third base, shortstop and left field – sometimes all three in one game.

Starting in 47 of the team's 48 games, she topped the team and ranked seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference with a .354 batting average. The left-handed leadoff hitter led Tech with 57 hits, 34 runs scored and ranked third in the league with 28 stolen bases in 32 attempts.

"Melody had a strong year for us offensively and was really the catalyst for our team," Acheson said. "When she got on base, we did well. Defensively, she did a good job filling in at different positions during the course of the year. She played in different spots and made some sacrifices."

Coquerille, who earned her third consecutive Academic All-District selection in May, claimed the team's Best Defensive Infielder Award for the fourth year in a row and also earned back-to-back Coach's Award honors. A senior from Rocky Face, Ga., Coquerille started all 48 games at second base and compiled a solid .972 fielding average with six errors in 211 chances. After claiming two straight MVP honors, Coquerille batted .258 in her final season. She was among team leaders in hits, doubles, home runs and RBI. She led the team in both sacrifice bunts and sacrifice flies.

"Lacie didn't have a 'fairy tale' ending to her career with a senior year that she was hoping for, but she remained a hard-working, committed and consistent player for us," Acheson said.  "She worked hard every day and overcame injuries and surgeries. She was a leader for this team for four years, both in the classroom and on the field. She's just an outstanding person."

While Coquerille was getting the job done in the infield, Gates captured the Best Defensive Outfielder honor. A senior from Tucson, Ariz., Gates played in 47 games and started 46, posting a .949 fielding average with two errors in 37 chances.

"Kaleigh was the most consistent of our outfielders," Acheson said. "She worked hard off the field, in the weight room, and in trying to improve her game."

Thomas, a junior from Ooltewah, Tenn., was the team's workhorse in the circle with 27 starts and 30 total appearances. She managed a 16-9 won-loss record with a 2.94 ERA, and had 17 complete games with six shutouts. Throwing 173.2 innings, Thomas piled up 131 strikeouts and held opponent hitters to a combined .209 batting average. Defensively, she handled 67 fielding chances without an error to lead the team with a perfect 1.000 fielding mark. She ranked fourth in the OVC in innings, complete games and shutouts, fifth in strikeouts and wins, and eighth in ERA.

"Holly was our best pitcher this year, and it was a demanding year on her," Acheson said. "When she's good, she's really good, and we're working with her to become more consistent. She won some big games for us."

Floyd, a freshman from Columbia, Tenn., developed into a contributor late in the season and actually posted the highest batting average on the team in her limited plate appearances. Playing in 41 games with nine starts, she managed a .389 batting average in 18 at bats, with seven hits and 12 runs scored. She was also 12-for-13 in stolen bases, and her .450 on-base percentage was second on the team. She was named both the Freshman of the Year and Most Improved Player.

"From the start of the year to the end of the season, Kayla was one of the most improved players I've ever coached," Acheson said. "She has become the total package and is a truly talented athlete. She had a lot of work to do to become a better play, and she did an excellent job learning to play the game at a higher level. She has a very bright future in the coming years."

From left: Christian, Coquerille, Gates, Thomas, Floyd