Williams' Erica Li and Tufts' Cassie Ruscz Named Co-Players of the Year
HADLEY, Mass. – Williams senior Erica Li (Salt Lake City, Utah) and Tufts junior Cassie Ruscz (Wolcott, Conn.) have been named the NESCAC Co-Players of the Year as selected by the league’s coaches. Li paces the conference in hits (62) and runs scored (43), while Ruscz sits atop the league with 16 home runs and 55 RBIs. Li is the third Eph to earn the award, joining Joey Lye (2009) and Allison Hart (2012), while Ruscz, who was also the NESCAC Co-Player of the Year last season, is the 11th Jumbo player to receive the accolade.
- Erica Li is the only Williams player to see action in every game this season, and helped the Ephs win their first NESCAC Championship since 2006. In addition to leading the NESCAC in hits and runs scored, the first-time First Team All-NESCAC selection is second in the league in total bases (91), fourth in batting average (.428) and one of three players to register six triples. She is also equally strong defensively in left field, as she committed just one error in 52 chances for a .981 fielding percentage.
- Cassie Ruscz, a three-time First Team All-NESCAC honoree, is part of a Jumbo team that went 12-0 in conference divisional play to win the NESCAC East Division for the 12th straight year. In addition to hitting eight more home runs than any player in the conference, Ruscz also paces the league with an .874 slugging percentage and ranks third in total bases (90) to go along with a .398 batting average.
- First-year Mackenzie Murphy of Williams became the third rookie in league history to be chosen as the NESCAC Pitcher of the Year along with Colby’s Lauren Olmsted (2003) and Tufts’ Allyson Fournier (2012). Murphy has posted a league-low 2.31 ERA in 100 innings, a 14-3 record and two saves for the NCAA Tournament-bound Ephs. Her 14 wins rank second in the conference, while she ranks third with 76 strikeouts. Offensively, the First Team All-NESCAC Selection has recorded nine doubles, six home runs and a triple en route to a .776 slugging percentage, which is second-best in the conference. Murphy is also third in the league with a .435 batting average and tied for third with 32 RBIs. She joins Clara Hard (2004-06) as the only Williams pitchers to garner the accolade.
- Amherst’s Sammy Salustri was named the NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year. The first-year second baseman recorded 50 assists and 65 putouts during the season, committing just two errors for a .983 fielding percentage. Salustri was also named First Team All-NESCAC after recording a .376 batting average, 45 hits, 28 runs, 16 RBIs and eight stolen bases. She is the first Amherst player and the first-ever rookie to be recognized as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
- Bowdoin first-year Caroline Rice was named the NESCAC Rookie of the Year and a First Team All-NESCAC selection. The outfielder made an immediate impact in the Polar Bear lineup as she ranks second among all conference players in batting average (.500) and hits (55), third in doubles (14) and fourth in total bases (78). Rice paced Bowdoin with 23 runs and a .709 slugging percentage, and was second on the team with 28 RBIs. Defensively, she committed only one error during the season for a .962 fielding percentage. She is the third Polar Bear to receive the award along with Erin Hanley, who was named Co-Rookie of the Year in 2001, and Emily Nelson, who was honored in 2004.
- Eight first-year players were recognized the all-conference squad, with five being named to the First Team.
- Tufts paced all teams with five all-conference selections, while Williams received four All-NESCAC picks.
- Wesleyan senior Su Pardo added a second First Team All-NESCAC accolade to her collection along with the recognition she earned in 2013 when she was also named the NESCAC Rookie of the Year. The pitcher owns the third-lowest ERA in the conference at 2.53 over 102.1 innings pitched, and ranks second with 86 strikeouts. Pardo helped her efforts in the circle by hitting at a .354 clip to go along with a .544 slugging percentage.
- Senior Christina Raso of Tufts was the only player elevated from last year’s Second Team to this year’s First Team. The 2014 NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year ranks in the top five of several offensive categories. Raso is tied for the league lead in stolen bases (13), tied for second in runs scored (38) and third in hits (48). The second baseman is also batting .361 heading into the NCAA Tournament.
- Hamilton’s Olivia Gozdz was selected to the First Team for the third time in her career, having been chosen in 2013 and 2015. The senior was one of the top hitters in the conference, ranking fifth in batting average (.420) and tying for fifth in hits (47). The outfielder was also dangerous on the base paths, as she stole 13 bases during the season.
- Tufts sophomore Raven Fournier earned First Team recognition for the second consecutive season. Last year’s NESCAC Rookie of the Year turned in a strong season, as she saw action at catcher and in right field. Fournier ranks second in the league with eight home runs, fourth with a .760 slugging percentage, fifth with 76 total bases and is tied for second with 38 runs to go along with her .390 batting average.
- First-year Courtney Erickson of Trinity provided an instant boost to the Bantam lineup at shortstop. She led the team in nearly every offensive statistical category, including batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.667), RBIs (32), hits (40), extra-base hits (17) and total bases (70).
- Amherst’s Kyra Naftel rounds out the All-NESCAC First Team selections. The first-year utility player posted a .416 batting average, while tying for fifth among all league players with 47 hits. She filled up the stat sheet with a .558 slugging percentage, six triples, 63 total bases and 26 runs.
- Caitlin Hitchcock of Trinity earned NESCAC Coach of the Year honors for the first time in her 14-year career. Hitchcock guided the Bantams to the NESCAC Championship for the first time since 2011 with 6-6 NESCAC East Division mark. The Trinity pitching staff has posted the lowest ERA in the league at 2.77 to help the team finish the season at 18-14 overall, a ten-win improvement from last season.
Softball All-Conference Teams