Several months ago, when Missouri senior Chelsea Thomas was snubbed on the Southeastern Conference’s preseason all-league team, it was clear that the Big 12’s two-time defending pitcher of the year would have to earn some respect.
Over the course of the SEC regular season, that’s exactly what she did, finishing at the top of the league in wins (13), strikeouts (117) and opposing batting average (.176). On Tuesday, she was chosen SEC pitcher of the year by the same coaches that left her off the preseason team.
“I think she’s one of the premier pitchers in the entire country,” said Tennessee coach Ralph Weekly, whose Vols were no-hit by Thomas last Saturday.
Thomas, who was also the league leader in overall ERA (1.25) and overall opposing batting average (.155), allowed just 12 extra-base hits in her 107 1/3 innings pitched during SEC games. She was chosen SEC pitcher of the week five times, the second player to do so.
Thomas, who was also chosen to the SEC’s all-defensive team, was joined on the all-league first team by Missouri teammate Jenna Marston, a senior catcher who tied for ninth in the league with a .371 batting average and boasted a team-best .489 on-base percentage. She also had a .985 fielding percentage and caught four runners stealing as a catcher. Marston, who has compiled a 3.99 cumulative GPA as an industrial engineering major, was also chosen SEC scholar-athlete of the year.
Thomas and Marston will now lead Missouri into the SEC Tournament, which starts Wednesday at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky. The Tigers, who moved up to No. 7 in the latest ESPN/USA Today softball poll, will battle No. 21 Arkansas in the quarterfinals Thursday at 3 p.m.