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Coquerille, Thomas headline softball team awards for ‘09

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Sophomore Lacie Coquerille and freshman Holly Thomas earned the top honors when Tennessee Tech softball coach Tory Acheson announced the Golden Eagle softball team awards for 2009.

Coquerille took home three team awards including Most Valuable Player, Best Defensive Infielder, and Best Offensive Player. Thomas was named Pitcher of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Senior Kristina Hortert captured the Coach’s Award, while sophomore Kaleigh Gates was named Most Improved and freshman Jordan Leff earned Best Defensive Outfielder.

A sophomore from Rocky Face, Ga., Coquerille led the team at the plate with a .320 batting average, 51 hits, 31 runs scored, and 11 sacrifice hits. A first-team all-OVC selection, struck out just 11 times in 183 plate appearances.

She also played solid defense at both shortstop and second base, helping the Golden Eagles turn twice as many double plays as their opponents. Coquerille’s 12 double plays ranked second on the team while she was third in total putouts with 99.

“Lacie had a solid year under trying circumstances,” Acheson said. “She was forced out of position a lot of the season and she did a good job of accepting the challenge. She had a productive season in spite of it.”

Thomas received a pair of post-season honors as Golden Eagle Freshman of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. A rookie from Ooltewah, Tenn., Thomas hurled a pair of one-hit shutouts against eventual OVC Tournament champion UT-Martin en route to her 14-16 won-loss record. She had a team-best ERA of 2.90 and struck out 118 batters in her 183.1 innings pitched. On the offensive side, belted five home runs and four doubles and led the team in walks with 24.

“Holly really had an impressive freshman season,” Acheson said. “She showed flashes of brilliance, and really stepped up, partly because of Maddie’s (Schmissrauter) injury, but mostly because of her own performances.”

The 2009 Coach’s Award, given to the player who demonstrates the most heart, went to Hortert, the only senior on the roster. A pitcher from Louisville, Ky., Hortert appeared in 22 games this year after missing her entire junior year due to injury. Coming into the season, she was the only player with more than one year of experience on the team. Acheson praised Hortert’s leadership.

“Tina was the ‘Unsung Hero’ of the team because of her leadership and hard work,” he said. “Even though her action on the field was limited, she did a tremendous job in leadership with the younger players, pushing them in the right direction.

“She was the bridge to our NCAA teams from a couple years ago, and she tried to educate the younger players on what it takes to have that kind of season,” Acheson said.

The Most Improved Player award went to Gates, a sophomore from Tucson, Ariz. Gates ballooned her batting average from .200 last year to .289 in the 2009 season. She hit her first five career home runs and played in 48 games. She more than doubled her total bases from 25 last year to 57 this season.

“Kaleigh really stepped up this year,” Acheson said. “She was much more disciplined at the plate and you could really see the light bulb going on, offensively and defensively. I think we’re going to see continued development and improvement in her career.”

Splitting her playing time between shortstop and left field, Leff impressed Acheson enough to be named the Best Defensive Outfielder for 2009. A freshman from Rowlett, Tex., Leff made several diving catches while committing just three errors all year.

“Jordan made some exceptional defensive plays, and she gets a great jump on the ball,” Acheson said. “She did a great job in the outfield, despite spending some time in the infield.