Smith Caps Banner Year with First-Team All-MVC Selection
PEORIA, Ill. -- After driving the Missouri State offense throughout the 2009 season, senior shortstop Jessie Smith has been named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team, which was announced at Wednesday’s pre-championship banquet at Weaver Ridge Golf Club.
The all-conference nod is the second for Smith, who was a first-team pick as a freshman outfielder in 2006. The Blue Springs, Mo., native leads the Bears and ranks third in the conference with a .389 batting average heading into this week’s State Farm MVC Softball Championship. She has posted team highs in nearly every offensive category this season while taking her place among some of the greatest players to ever don the Missouri State uniform. Smith’s .664 slugging percentage is a single-season record at MSU, while her season marks for batting average, home runs and total bases all rank among the top five figures in school history.
Smith, who will make her 200th consecutive start in Thursday’s tourney-opener against Bradley, has broken MSU career records for home runs (27), slugging percentage (.556) and total bases (328). Last Saturday at Bradley, she added another record to her resume when she equaled Kate Madden’s career mark for runs scored (123) by a Bear.
Additionally, Smith has been the toughest player in the Valley to strike out in 2009 and ranks 17th nationally in the same category. She has fanned only five times through her first 131 at-bats this season and just twice in 56 at-bats during conference play.
Regular-season league champ Creighton took home the top two individual honors Wednesday. Junior first baseman Renae Sinkler was named the conference’s MVP after leading the circuit in slugging and on-base percentage and tying for the top home run total. Junior right-hander Tara Oltman picked up MVC Pitcher of the Year honors for the third consecutive season after pacing the Valley and ranking in the top-15 nationally in wins, strikeouts and shutouts.
The UNI coaching staff, led by head coach Ryan Jacobs, earned the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year award after guiding the Panthers to a 34-21 record and third-place finish in the league after being tabbed 10th in The Valley’s preseason poll. Panther freshman Mackenzie Daigh was named MVC Newcomer of the Year after batting .327 and finishing among the top-10 in hits and runs scored in league play.
The seventh-seeded Bears (19-24, 8-12 MVC) will open the MVC tourney against No. 6 Bradley at EastSide Centre in East Peoria, Ill., on Thursday (May 7) at 1:30 p.m.