Notre Dame, Syracuse and DePaul Win BIG EAST Softball Year End Awards

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The BIG EAST softball year end awards and All-BIG EAST teams were announced tonight at the 2011 BIG EAST Softball Championship banquet with Notre Dame, Syracuse and DePaul taking top honors. Notre Dame senior Heather Johnson was named the BIG EAST Player of the Year, while the Irish skippers took home Coaching Staff of the Year accolades. Syracuse junior Jenna Caira was named BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year and DePaul freshman Kirsten Verdun was chosen as the BIG EAST Rookie of the Year.
Johnson led the BIG EAST in three major offensive categories in conference play this season. She led all hitters with a .967 slugging percentage. The senior blasted eight home runs, while recording 29 RBI for the Irish. She also led the league in total bases with 59, while boasting an on-base percentage of .556. She batted .475 in conference play going 29-of-61 at the plate for Notre Dame. Johnson became the first player in BIG EAST history to be named BIG EAST Player of the Week for three consecutive weeks, April 4-18.
Caira led the BIG EAST in conference play in strikeouts with 115, including 38 looking. She also tallied the most wins in league play with 14 for the Orange, while just having four loses. The righty recorded a 1.81 ERA over 93.0 innings pitched. Opponents hit .213 against the junior in conference play. Overall this season, Caira went 30-9 in the circle and earned three saves with a 1.47 ERA. She fanned 292 batters over 243.1 innings of work with 39 starts and 21 complete games for Syracuse.
In the circle this season for DePaul, Verdun recorded a 2.22 ERA, good enough for fifth in conference play. She posted a 12-0 record, while fanning 55 batters over 60.0 innings pitched. The rookie had an outstanding campaign in her debut for the Blue Demons, finishing first in BIG EAST games with a .571 on-base percentage. Verdun was second in the league in RBI with 27, batting .377 and slugging .811.
This is the sixth Coaching Staff of the Year honor for the Irish and first since 2004. Notre Dame (44-8, 19-1 BIG EAST) posted a .950 winning percentage in BIG EAST play and an .846 mark overall. The Irish captured their second consecutive BIG EAST regular-season title and 13th overall. Notre Dame ended the season on a 13-game winning streak. In BIG EAST play, the No. 21/24 Irish led the league in batting (.385), slugging percentage (.636), on-base percentage (.459), runs scored (162), hits (204), RBI (145), doubles (39), total bases (337) and stolen bases (37).
The 2011 Softball Championship is an eight-team, single-elimination tournament. This year's championship will be held at Ulmer Stadium on the campus of the University of Louisville. The Championship runs from May 12-14. The first round and semifinals will be streamed live on the BIG EAST's Championship Central site, while the championship game on May 14 at 5 p.m. will be televised live on ESPN2.
All-BIG EAST First Team^
P        Laura Winter, Notre Dame
P        Sara Nevins, USF
P        Jenna Caira, Syracuse
C        Alexia Clay, Notre Dame
1B      Alicja Wolny, Louisville
2B      Katie Keller, Louisville
3B      Heather Johnson, Notre Dame *
SS      Julie Towers, Connecticut
OF      Hannah Kiyohara, Louisville
OF      Alexa Maldonado, Notre Dame
OF      Sadie Pitzenberger, Notre Dame
U/P     Kristen Verdun, DePaul
DP/U   Amber Curry, St. John's
All-BIG EAST Second Team^
P        Caralisa Connell, Louisville
P        Brittany O'Donnell, Notre Dame
C        Holly Stevens, Pittsburgh
1B      Megan Coronado, DePaul
1B      Mandy Craig, Rutgers
2B      Stephanie Watts, Syracuse
3B      Kelly Hmiel, Pittsburgh
SS      Katie Fleury, Notre Dame
OF      Alex Morocco, DePaul
OF      Brianna Jorgensborg, Notre Dame
OF      Reba Tutt, Pittsburgh
U/P     Mackensey Carter, Georgetown
DP/U   Jasmine Watson, Syracuse
All-BIG EAST Third Team
P        Alyssa O'Connell, Pittsburgh
P        Lindsey Richardson, USF
C        Andrea Huelsenbeck, Connecticut
1B      Kely Saco, Syracuse
2B      Allie Braden, DePaul
3B      Hallie Gibbs, Syracuse
SS      Colby Wherry, Louisville
OF      Samantha Dodd, DePaul
OF      Sean Plese, DePaul
OF      Jennifer Esteban, Louisville
OF      Gina Kafalas, USF
DP/U   Courtney Goff, USF
^additional members added due to tie in voting
*unanimous selection
Player of the Year
Heather Johnson, Notre Dame
Pitcher of the Year
Jenna Caira, Syracuse
Rookie of the Year
Kirsten Verdun, DePaul
Coaching Staff of the Year
Notre Dame