Coaching Management, 13.9, October 2005, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1309/bbpitcher.htm
When a pitcher finishes the season with a record of 32-1, compiling 20 shutouts and a microscopic 0.36 earned run average, she’s bound to garner some attention. Northern Kentucky University junior ace Krystal Lewallen did just that this spring, becoming only the second softball player to win the Honda Award as the Collegiate Women Sports Awards NCAA Division II Athlete of the Year.
Lewallen led the NKU Norse to a record of 55-2, setting the all-time NCAA record for consecutive team wins (55) and dominating the Great Lakes Valley Conference in an undefeated regular season (46-0). In addition to the national award, the NKU career leader in wins (79) and strikeouts (836) was honored as a first-team All-American, the Great Lakes Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year, and the MVP of the Division II Great Lakes Regional.
“The award is a tremendous honor for her, for our program, and for our university,” says Head Coach Kathy Stewart. “Krystal had a wonderful season, and she had a very good team behind her. I would hope that they all feel like they’re a part of this, because I know they are.”
Stewart says that with such an imposing force on the mound and the team on a roll from the start of the season, one of her main responsibilities was to keep the players mentally grounded. “Part of my job this year was consistently reminding the team that regardless of how well Krystal was doing or how many games we’d won, each day was a new opportunity for us to prove ourselves,” she says. “We didn’t talk about the all-time wins record—our goal was to win every game we played, one at a time. We had nine players out there who needed to do their jobs and remember that just because ‘K’ was on the mound didn’t guarantee a victory.”
While the team’s unprecedented success and the accolades Lewallen received made for a great year, Stewart admits that this off-season has been bittersweet, since she learned shortly before the award ceremony that her star pitcher will be leaving the program. “K” has decided to finish her college career at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, fulfilling her personal goal of competing for a Division I school. “It was hard to leave my teammates at Northern Kentucky,” Lewallen told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. “But once I explained my reasons for wanting to play Division I, they were very supportive. They were happy for me and wished me luck.”