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Softball Broncos take coach and player of the year awards

by Mat Kanan

May 12, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of WMU's Gracie Barstad.
Gracie Barstad
MAC Player of the Year
KALAMAZOO--Three members of the Western Michigan University softball team were named Wednesday to the Mid-American Conference First Team, Kathy Leitke was named MAC Coach of the Year for the second time, and Gracie Barstad became the first Bronco ever named MAC Player of the Year in softball.

Leitke, in her 11th season as the Bronco head coach, has taken the WMU team to the top of the West Division and the conference with a 14-6 record. Western Michigan claimed the regular season MAC title, its fourth in program history, first since 2006 and third under Leitke, after missing the conference tournament a season ago.

Photo of WMU coach Kathy Leitke.
The Broncos won eight straight after starting the MAC season 4-4. WMU did not lose in its final nine home games this season and won two games in its last at bat to take the division lead.

WMU played three teams--Alabama, Arizona State and Michigan--that have been ranked No. 1 in the country for at least one week this season, and defeated Notre Dame, now ranked No. 21, to snap the nation's fifth longest win streak.

Leitke was previously named MAC Coach of the Year in 2006, the last time WMU won the regular season championship.

MAC Player of the Year Barstad and teammates Lexi Jager and Meredith Whitney were named First Team All-MAC. This is the second first team nod for Jager and Whitney, who was the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2009.

Photo of WMU's Gracie Barstad.
Gracie Barstad, a junior marketing major from Canby, Ore. (Canby High School), has started all 20 MAC games this season, serving primarily as the Broncos' third baseman. As the third baseman, Barstad is hitting .444 with 24 hits, including six doubles and nine runs scored. She leads the team with a .476 batting average in conference play with only two strikeouts in 63 at bats. She also leads the team in hits (30) and doubles (7) in conference action. Barstad has 10 multi-hit games in MAC play with a season-best three hits in a game on four occasions.

Photo of WMU's Lexi Jager.
Lexi Jager, a senior majoring in pre-physician assistant from Kalamazoo (Comstock High School), leads WMU in at bats (72), triples (3), RBIs (18), total bases (56) and slugging percentage (.778). Six of her seven home runs this season have come against conference opponents. She has started all 20 games in right field with a .913 fielding percentage. Jager has 10 multi-hit games and four multi-RBI games with a career high five against Central Michigan (April 1). She is hitting 51 points above her overall batting average in conference at .389.

Photo of WMU's Meredith Whitney.
Meredith Whitney, a junior from Scottsdale, Ariz. (Desert Mountain High School), majoring in interdisciplinary health services, ranks second on the team with a .418 batting average in conference play, while appearing in games as a pitcher (14), designated player (5) and outfielder (6). She is hitting .348 when in the game as a pitcher, .700 as an outfielder and .455 as a designated player. In the circle, Whitney is 11-3, and has not lost in conference play since the series finale against Buffalo, April 9. She has 85 of her 147 strikeouts this season against MAC opponents.

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