On a rainy night in Akron, National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) announced the recipients of the regular season awards, including league player of the year.
The big award winner on the night was Iyhia McMichael from the Akron Racers. McMichael, who played college ball at Mississippi State University, won both the 2004 NPF Batting Championship and the 2004 NPF Player of the Year Award.
During the regular season, McMichael posted a batting average of .349, an on-base percentage of .443 and a slugging percentage of .430. The number one pick in the 2004 NPF Senior Draft tied for third in the league with four homeruns and was seventh in the league with 17 runs batted in.
The remaining three awards on the night went to members from the Texas Thunder. Manager Wayne Daigle was the recipient of the 2004 NPF Manager of the Year Award. The award was his fourth coach of the year award in his career, as he was named Big 8 Coach of the Year on three separate occasions.
The other winners from the Thunder were pitcher Christa Williams and second baseman Lindsay Gardner. Williams took home the leagues Pitcher of the Year award after leading the league with a 0.68 earned run average in better than 142 innings pitched on the season. Williams was second in the league with 14 wins, trailing Amanda Scott of the Juggernaut, and was fifth in strikeouts with 132. Gardner claimed the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year Award after a stellar season on the diamond. She finished the regular season with a .964 fielding percentage, 115 put outs and 101 assists. The University of Texas graduates helped lead the Thunder to a first place finish in the regular season with a record of 41-17.
In addition to the five regular season awards, the Cowles Cup will be awarded to the Championship team following the final game of the Championship series. The Cowles Cup was named in honor of the Cowles Family, founders of National Pro Fastpitch. The Cowles family began the dream of a professional softball league after daughter Jane presented the idea to them back in the 1980s. The Cowles Cup is a beautiful crystal bowl set atop a two-tiered cherry wood base. It will travel to the home of the winning team each year.
NPF, the worlds premier professional fastpitch softball league for women, consists of six teams located throughout the United States and features former USA Softball Womens National Team members, collegiate All-Americans and all-conference selections. The 2004 season has featured the inaugural NPF All-Star Game, the first-ever NPF Championship Semifinal and the first NPF Championship Series.
National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Denver, and has been in operation since 1997 under the names Womens Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Womens Pro Softball League (WPSL).
(Photo of Texas Thunder pitcher Christa Williams