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Softball - Mon, May 8, 2017

Taylor Nearad (Kirkwood) named Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year while Molly Jacobsen (DMACC) earns Pitcher of the Year.

After another phenomenal Division II softball season in the ICCAC — which saw four teams finish the regular season ranked in the NJCAA top 20 —  the All-Region teams have been released. Nominated players were voted on by the league's eight coaches and placed on to either first, second, or honorable mention teams. In addition, a plethora of ICCAC athletes led the NJCAA individual leaderboards. The conference also saw four returning All-Americans return for their second season.

DMACC and Kirkwood finished the regular season tied for first in the conference standings. DMACC finished the regular season 41-7 and Kirkwood finished 49-4 overall. Both teams went 24-2 in conference, with one loss coming to one another, and another from Southwestern and Iowa Lakes, respectively.

It's no surprise that both of these teams were well represented on the First Team All-Region. Seven players were both selected from DMACC and Kirkwood to the 18-deep list. All stats below are through the Region XI Tournaments, although the voting for selections was based off regular season statistics. 

DMACC's Molly Jacobsen was the overall top vote-getter in the region, receiving five out of eight first-place votes for best player in the conference. Jacobsen was also voted the Region XI Pitcher of the Year. Jacobsen, from Adel, Iowa, has produced an All-American caliber season for the Bears in the circle. Leading the NJCAA in ERA among players over 25 appearances, the freshman leftie is sitting at 0.97 on the season. Going 23-3 on the season ahead of their District G Championship, Jacobsen's only three losses came to top tier teams (defending Division I national champion, undefeated and current No. 1 Butler (Kan.), DI and National Tournament-bound Indian Hills, and Division II No. 2 Kirkwood). Jacobsen is also second nationally in total strikeouts.

Infielder Claire Dudek was named to the All-Region First Team for the second year in a row. A returning Second Team All-American, Dudek played in all 51 games for the Bears. Dudek stole 47 bases, good for sixth-best nationally. The sophomore from Urbandale, Iowa batted .432 on the season; driving in 41 runs, scoring 64 runs and tallying 77 hits.

Teammate Kenzi Sutton is also a returner to the All-Region First Team and a returning All-American. From Adel, Iowa, the sophomore was named to the utility spot of the First Team list for her ability to play multiple positions. Batting .413 on the season, Sutton recorded 72 hits. In addition, Sutton batted-in 67 runs in addition to the 44 times she crossed home plate. Sutton hit nine home runs during the 2017 campaign.

Kerigan Torres was selected to First Team for her play as an outfielder. The sophomore from Des Moines, Iowa recorded 80 hits, which currently is 21st best in the NJCAA. Torres recorded 75 hits on a .463 average on the season and reached base in just over half of her at-bats. Torres scored 50 times and assisted her teammates in scoring with 26 RBIs on the season.

Abby Gehringer was named to First Team as a designated player. In 135 at-bats this season, Gehringer hit for an average of .457 and a slugging percentage of .765. As a freshman, Gehringer recorded 46 RBIs and 35 runs. The native of Indianola, Iowa hit eight home runs this season.

DMACC also held both of the at-large spots on the First Team. Megan Rushing and Bre Hunter both earned spots there.

Rushing, who was also named to All-Region First Team last year, had another great year for the Bears. The third baseman from West Des Moines, Iowa recorded 44 hits this season, including 13 doubles and seven home runs. The sophomore's on-base percentage hovered just below .500 this season and she held a slugging percentage of .651.

Hunter played primarily in the outfield. A hometown freshman from Boone, Iowa; Hunter batted a .389 average and had a team second-best 61 RBIs on the year. Hunter scored 41 times and recorded 23 multi-base hits, including seven home runs.

Kirkwood's seven players also returned a host of talent, including the NJCAA Player of the Year among returning two All-Americans and six All-Region players. Kirkwood scored 641 runs this season through 56 games, nearly 80 more than the second-best team in DII softball.

Returning NJCAA National Player of the Year, Taylor Nearad, has helped lead such a talented team through the season. Nearad picked off where she left of and then some, as her numbers lead the NJCAA Division II individual leaderboard in several different categories; runs (101), hits (107), doubles (34), and total bases (208).

From Solon, Iowa, the sophomore has several other impressive stats such as 17 home runs and 74 RBIs from the leadoff spot in the lineup. Both her homerun and runs batted in numbers are top 10 nationally. Nearad also had an unbelievable slugging percentage— 1.030 and was only one of four players nationally to be above 1.000. Nearad's season had her voted as both the Region's Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year.

Maddie Hansen is clearly another candidate for major postseason honors. A sophomore from Ely, Iowa, Hansen is a returning First Team All-American. The catcher played in 56 games for the Eagles and recorded 102 hits (second nationally, only to teammate Nearad). Hansen batted a .537 average and collected 79 runs while batting teammates in 90 times. Her RBI mark is tops on the NJCAA DII leaderboard.

A duo of athletes named Lexi also did a lot of work for the Eagles this season.

Lexi Kinnaird was the ace pitcher for the Eagles this year. Kinnaird completed 27 of the 34 games she pitched. She recorded a 28-3 record, and much like Jacobsen of DMACC, her only three losses of the season came to high caliber teams (Division II No. 1 Jones County, Division I and National Tournament-bound Indian Hills, and Division II  No. 19 Iowa Lakes). She pitched wins in several big games, including over then No. 1 LSU-Eunice and No. 5 DMACC. Kinnaird's 28 wins, 12 shutouts, and 258 strikeouts are NJCAA bests. Kinnaird's ERA of 1.30, 27 complete games, and 10.13 strikeouts per game are all top 10 nationally. Kinnaird is a sophomore from Tiffin, Iowa and this marks the second straight season she has been on First Team All-Region.

Lexi Ferrari, of Rock Island, Ill., scored 79 times for the Eagles this season. The sophomore infielder batted in 73 of her teammates. Ferrari batted .460 on the season and recorded 87 hits. Her 13 home runs added onto her team's impressive total of 98 for the season. Ferrari also recorded 151 total bases, good for sixth nationally.

Angie McBeain filled one of the few roles Kirkwood needed filled this season. Kirkwood needed a freshman to fill the No. 2 pitcher role, and McBeain accomplished that. Appearing in 27 games this season, McBeain recorded 116 strikeouts in 109.1 innings pitched and 13 complete games. McBeain went 19-1 on the season. The freshman from Prior Lake, Minn. also played in the infield, too. She recorded 74 hits and scored 57 times while batting in 61 teammates.

DoniRae Mayhew earned First Team honors from the infield for the Eagles this year. Another utility player, Mayhew pitched in 11 games for the Eagles, mostly in relief, but went 5-0 on the year from the circle. In 173 at bats, Mayhew recorded 78 hits and made it around the bases 60 times. The freshman from Bettendorf, Iowa homered 16 times— good for 10th nationally.

Morgan Frost rounds out the selections for the Eagles to the First Team.  The sophomore outfielder provided firepower for the Eagle offense. Recording 91 hits and scoring 84 runs, Frost joins several teammates in the top 10 nationally in several categories. Frost also had 23 doubles and 142 total bases to her name— both good for top 10, also. Frost comes to Cedar Rapids from Gilbertville, Iowa.

Iowa Central and Iowa Lakes each had two players named to First Team All-Region. Both teams had great seasons that saw each team ranked for a vast majority of the season.

Iowa Central's Alexis Egan led the nation in stolen bases this season with 73. A freshman from Sterling, Colo., Egan recorded 102 hits (second-best nationally). Egan batted a .490 average on the season and had on-base and slugging percentages above .500. Egan scored 59 times and batted in teammates for 25 runs.

Kama Kaeo comes to Fort Dodge from Waianae, Hawaii. A freshman, Kaeo had an immediate impact for the Tritons. Mostly playing the shortstop position, Kaeo recorded 83 hits and 63 runs. Her 76 runs batted in are sixth best in Division II NJCAA softball. Other impressive statistics for Kaeo include 13 home runs, 146 total bases, and 33 stolen bases.

Iowa Lakes' Deanna Gerrard was a force for the Lakers behind the plate. The catcher from Saskatchewan recorded 76 hits and scored 62 runs during the 2017 season. Gerrard had 46 stolen bases and six triples: both of which are top 10 in NJCAA Division II softball. The sophomore batted an average of .478 and had a slugging percentage of .836.

Laker teammate Lauren Hein rounds out the Region XI First Team selections. The sophomore had 166 at-bats and recorded 62 hits. Hein scored 56 times and batted in 45 runs. A power-hitter, Hein homered 18 times, which is third in Division II softball. Hein is from Andover, Minn.