LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – After putting together an impressive junior season together with the No. 5 Georgia Gwinnett softball team, Niki Cook took home the top honors in the Association of Independent Institutions on Wednesday night as she was named the A.I.I.'s Player of the Year at the annual pre-tournament banquet on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Cook, who led the NAIA and A.I.I. with 104 hits, 80 runs scored, and 65 stolen bases and carried a .598 batting average in 174 at-bats, is one of four honorees to take home a special award from the league. Georgia Gwinnett's Taylor Hansis was named the league's Pitcher of the Year, and she was joined by teammate RaeQuinn Rossetti as the A.I.I.'s Freshman of the Year. Rayne Wright of Central Christian (Kan.) was also named the league's Newcomer of the Year.
GGC's Kat Ihlenburg, who led the fifth ranked Grizzlies to a 45-7-1 record on the season, claimed the A.I.I.'s Softball Coach of the Year honors. This is Ihlenburg's third A.I.I. Coach of the Year selection as she shared the award with Kentucky Christian's Dave Miller in 2016 and California State-San Marcos' Laurie Nevarez in 2015.
A league-best nine GGC players were named to the All-A.I.I. First Team, including infielders Hailey Burnham, Brashante Dareus, and Elyssa Melton, catcher Sydney Willhite, designated player Anya Vandersip, and pitcher Chelsi Palazzo as well as Cook, Hansis, and Rossetti.
Fisher (Mass.) earned two spots on the first team with pitcher Morgan Selmi and outfielder Corrie Edstrom. Infielder Taylor Espinoza of Talladega (Ala.), outfielder Brashella Keys of Edward Waters (Fla.), and utility player Kasi Kraus of Central Christian rounded out first-team selections.
Both Edward Waters and Kentucky Christian led the way on the second team with three honorees. Representing EWC was pitcher Yessenia Moreno, outfielder Kaileigh Kirton, and designated player Bryttani Ellis-Vance. Kentucky Christian's Cassandra Adkins, McKenzie Vanover, and Kailey Rigdon represented the Knights. Haskell (Kan.) and Fisher each claimed two second-team selections apiece, while GGC, Talladega, Rochester (Mich.), and Central Christian rounded out the squad with one honoree apiece.
The three-day A.I.I. Softball Championship tournament will begin on Thursday, May 4 at the Grizzly Softball Complex on the campus of Georgia Gwinnett.
Player of the Year: Niki Cook (Georgia Gwinnett)
Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Hansis (Georgia Gwinnett)
Freshman of the Year: RaeQuinn Rossetti (Georgia Gwinnett)
Newcomer of the Year: Rayne Wright (Central Christian)
Coach of the Year: Kat Ihlenburg (Georgia Gwinnett)
All-A.I.I. First Team
P - Taylor Hansis (Georgia Gwinnett)
P - Chelsi Palazzo (Georgia Gwinnett)
C - Sydney Willhite (Georgia Gwinnett)
INF - Brashante Dareus (Georgia Gwinnett)
INF - Hailey Burnham (Georgia Gwinnett)
INF - Morgan Selmi (Fisher)
INF - Taylor Espinoza (Talladega)
INF - Elyssa Melton (Georgia Gwinnett)
OF - Niki Cook (Georgia Gwinnett)
OF - Corrie Edstrom (Fisher)
OF - RaeQuinn Rossetti (Georgia Gwinnett)
OF - Brashella Keys (Edward Waters)
DP - Anya Vandersip (Georgia Gwinnett)
UTL - Kasi Kraus (Central Christian)
All-A.I.I. Second Team
P - Katie Jo Goodwin (Georgia Gwinnett)
P- Yessenia Moreno (Edward Waters)
C - Cassandra Adkins (Kentucky Christian)
INF - McKenzie Vanover (Kentucky Christian)
INF - Jenna Domenik (Rochester)
INF - Kailey Rigdon (Kentucky Christian)
INF - Kristina Brown (Fisher)
INF - Melony Nelson (SO/Valley Center, CA ) (Haskell)
OF - Rebecca Collison (Fisher)
OF - Jamara Thomas (Talladega)
OF - Mariah Grijalva (Central Christian)
OF - Kaileigh Kirton (Edward Waters)
DP - Bryttani Ellis-Vance (Edward Waters)
UTL - Brianna Smith (JR/Cherokee, NC) (Haskell)
Jason Hendrix | A.I.I. Director of Sports Information | 678-367-5179 | [email protected]