Michigan's Jessica Merchant Named 2004 Big Ten Player Of The Year
May 12, 2004
Park Ridge, IL - Michigan, the 2004 Big Ten softball champion, claimed three of the League's four postseason honors on Wednesday when junior Jessica Merchant was named the Conference's Player of the Year, junior Nicole Motycka was tabbed as the Pitcher of the Year and mentor Carol Hutchins earned Coach of the Year laurels. Northwestern pitcher Eileen Canny was named the Freshman of the Year.
Merchant, who hails from Wayland, Mich., paced the Wolverines to one of the best regular seasons in school history. The Maize and Blue will host this weekend's Big Ten Softball Tournament as the No. 1 seed and are currently ranked No. 6 in the latest NFCA Coaches Top 25 Poll. The junior shortstop is the 12th student-athlete in the team's history to be honored as the League's Player of the Year, and the third in the last four seasons. Merchant hit .375 in Big Ten play this season, racking up seven runs, nine RBI, a .650 slugging percentage and a .500 on-base percentage. Defensively, Merchant's play sparked Michigan to a League-best .980 team fielding percentage. She tallied just two errors for the entire Conference slate for a .964 fielding percentage.
Motycka, from Sarasota, Fla., finished the regular season with a 9-0 record and registered three saves in League action. She tied the Conference-low with a 0.67 ERA while pitching 72.2 innings in 14 appearances. Big Ten opponents hit just .192 and scored only seven earned runs against Motycka this season. The junior closed out the regular season by pitching a complete-game shutout against then-No. 2 Florida State. She is the seventh different Michigan hurler to earn Pitcher of the Year honors in the award's 13-year existence.
Canney, a native of Paradise, Calif., is the fourth student-athlete in Northwestern school history to earn the Freshman of the Year accolade and is also the seventh player or coach in school annals to record on of the Big Ten's four major postseason honors in softball. Like Motycka, Canney also completed the League schedule with a spotless 9-0 record. In 70.2 innings on the mound, she posted a 1.58 ERA and held Big Ten opponents to a .188 batting average. She also recorded fanned 88 batters for an average of 1.2 strikeouts per inning.
Hutchins led her Wolverines to their ninth Big Ten title and the top seed in the Big Ten Softball Tournament en route to claiming the eighth Coach of the Year honor of her career. Michigan finished the regular season with 17-3 Conference mark and a 50-9 overall record. Hutchins earned the honor from her peers in 1985, the first year the Big Ten recognized a Coach of the Year, and also in 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2001. She will be looking to guide the Wolverines to their seventh League tournament title this weekend and the program's 12th appearance in the NCAA Championships.
The 2004 Big Ten Softball Tournament gets underway on Thursday, May 13, through Saturday, May 15. The Tournament's final game will be aired live on CSTV at 2:30 p.m. ET. Visit www.bigten.org for additional Tournament information.
A complete list of the 2004 Big Ten softball postseason honors follows.
2004 ALL-BIG TEN SOFTBALL TEAMS AND POSTSEASON HONORS