UNI takes several MVC Softball awards - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

UNI takes several MVC Softball awards

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    Get the latest news and sports information about the University of Northern Iowa Panthers sports teams, including football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball.More >>

 Northern Iowa softball team is reaping the benefits of a Missouri Valley Conference regular season title.

The Panthers earned four specialty awards and totaled 11 honors as the league announced its all-conference honorees.

Senior Alyssa Buchanan earned MVC Pitcher of the Year after she posted a 9-1 mark to go along with an MVC-best 1.23 earned run average in league-games only. Buchanan also limited the opposition to a .174 batting average in MVC games. Buchanan pitched 80 innings in MVC play and gave up 14 earned runs while she struck out 67 batters. She is the second UNI player to earn MVC Pitcher of the Year honors (Jamie Fisher, 2012).

Senior Anna Varriano is the first UNI Panther to earn the league's Defensive Player of the Year award. Varriano started all 26 league games at catcher and threw out nine would-be base stealers. Varriano caught a Panther pitching staff that went 20-6 in MVC play with a 2.26 earned run average. Panther pitchers struck out 165 MVC batters. Varriano also batted .347 with 25 hits, five home runs and 12 RBI in MVC play. It marks the third straight season that Varriano has been named to the MVC All-Defensive team.

Freshman Sammey Bunch captured the MVC Freshman of the Year award. Bunch is the fourth Panther to garner the league's top freshman honor joining Lindsay Wood (1999), Mackenzie Daigh (2009) and Jamie Fisher (2011). Bunch led the Panthers in hitting in MVC play with a .386 batting average. She also posted team-highs in hits (32), runs (20), doubles (9), triples (2), home runs (5), RBI (27), slugging percentage (.723) and stolen bases (7). Over the Panthers' 50-game season, Bunch is batting .333 with 49 hits, 41 runs, 12 doubles, four triples and seven home runs. Bunch twice earned MVC Newcomer of the Week honors and was a one-time MVC Player of the Week this season.

The UNI coaching staff of head coach Ryan Jacobs and assistants Julie Starbuck and Matt Egger were named the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year. The Panthers captured a share of the MVC regular season crown by sweeping the Illinois State Redbirds this past weekend. It is the first time in program history that UNI swept a three-game series against the Redbirds. UNI's 20 wins in MVC play is the second-most in school history behind the 21-win campaign in 2012. It marks the third time under Jacobs that UNI has earned the MVC's top coaching staff honor as the Panther staff earned the award in 2009 and 2012. Former UNI coach Meredith Bakley was named the MVC Coach of the Year in 2000.

Bunch and Buchanan were each named to the all-MVC first team. Bunch earned the nod at shortstop, while Buchanan was tabbed at the utility/pitcher slot.

The Panthers had four players named to the second team led by Varriano at catcher. Junior outfielder Brittney Roby, freshman pitcher Jaclyn Spencer and freshman utility Ashley Chesser joined Varriano on the second team. Roby ranks as the 10th-toughest player in the nation to strikeout as she batted .289 on the season and .314 in MVC games. Spencer posted a 14-7 mark with a 2.30 earned run average in the circle, while striking out a team-high 138 batters. Spencer also batted .274 with four home runs and 16 RBI. Chesser played in 24 games (19 in MVC) and batted .362 (.350 in MVC).

UNI will look to capture the MVC Tournament title in Normal, Illinois. UNI earned the No. 1 seed for the tournament and will play its opening game in the field on Friday at 4 p.m. in the semifinals. The championship game is slated for Saturday at 1 p.m. All of the MVC Tournament games will be broadcast live on The Valley on ESPN3.
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