May 12, 2011 at 2:41 AM CDT - Updated August 21 at 10:51 PM
CHARLESTON, Ill. – Freshman pitcher Tiffany Harbin earned Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year honors and led a group of six Jacksonville State softball players on the All-OVC squads, which were released at Wednesday's pre-championship banquet.
Harbin, who split the honor for the league's top freshman with UT Martin's Amanda Brandenburg, was also one of three Gamecocks on the All-OVC First Team. Senior infielder Amanda Crow and junior infielder Kristin Graham also earned first-team honors, while juniors Kaycee Crow and Abbey Stepp and sophomore Krystal Ruth were named Second Team All-OVC. Harbin, Graham and Stepp were also selected to the OVC's All-Newcomer Team.
The six Gamecocks honored were the most of any team, just ahead of regular-season champion and host Eastern Illinois, while the three JSU players on the first team were also the most in the league.
Harbin, a native of Hazel Green, Ala., had one of the best seasons in the circle by a Gamecock in program history. She racked up 229 strikeouts, second-most in the league and the fifth-highest total in JSU history, while also leading the conference with 22 wins. Her 8.61 strikeouts per seven innings rank her in the top 40 nationally, while her 2.59 earned run average is the league's sixth-best.
Amanda Crow, a third baseman from Sharpsburg, Ga., earned first-team honors for the first time in her senior year after an all-newcomer campaign a year ago. She has also enjoyed a memorable season, belting 16 home runs to rank second in the conference and place her third on the school's single-season list. She holds a .318 average and drove in a team-best 48 runs.
Graham, a first baseman and pitcher from Warner Robins, Ga., is second on the team and 10th in the OVC with a .349 average, while her 13 home runs are fourth in the league and her 32 RBI were third on the team. A transfer from Virginia Tech, Graham started the season on fire. She was batting over .500 after the midway point of the year before her bat cooled over the past few games. In the circle, she holds a 3-2 record and a 2.84 ERA.
Kaycee Crow, the team's catcher from Ringgold, Ga., earned her first All-OVC nod after batting .290 with a team-high 11 doubles that rank sixth in the conference. She has also made a name for herself as one of the top backstops in the league with a .995 fielding percentage that saw her commit just two errors in 420 chances. She also threw out 42 percent of runners that attempted to steal this season, while homering seven times and driving in 30 RBI at the plate.
Stepp, a transfer from Versailles, Ky., made a splash in her first season at JSU, primarily as the team's designated hitter. Stepp led the Gamecocks and was ninth in the OVC with a .351 batting average, while her 40 RBI were second on the Gamecocks and eighth in the conference rankings. She belted nine home runs and doubled seven times, while not committing an error in 101 chances at first base. In OVC play, she hit a team-best .370.
An outfielder from Wylie, Texas, Ruth batted .303 to earn all-conference honors for the first time in her two-years at JSU. She homered six times and drove in 27 runs for the Gamecocks, mostly from the team's leadoff spot. Sure-handed in the field, she didn't commit an error as the team's starting right fielder all season.
The second-seeded Gamecocks will open play in the tournament at 3 p.m. Thursday after a first-round bye. They will face the winner of the 10 a.m. game between #3 UT Martin and #6 Murray State in the six-team, double-elimination tournament.
All of JSU's games in the event will be carried live on the Gamecock Radio Network and can be heard on WLJS 91.9 FM and on WVOK 1580 AM or online at www.jsugamecocksports.com.