The Northeast Mississippi Community College softball team is in rare company after a handful of student-athletes were recognized for their roles in producing yet another successful season.
The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) named five Tigers to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II All-South Region team.
Five is the most honorees one institution can receive according to NFCA regulations. Northeast is one of only seven programs in the entire country and one of just two schools in the Magnolia State to garner the maximum amount of recognition.
“It’s great to see our kids get recognized for their hard work on the field,” said Tigers head coach Jody Long. “They were each big factors in our overall success. I’m very proud these young ladies were honors for the dedication they had this season.”
Freshman record breaker Caleigh Wallace leads the group of Northeast standouts to earn laurels from the NFCA with a first-team all-region nod from the designated player position.
The Killen, Ala., native set new program records for most home runs and RBIs in a single season. She connected on 16 dingers, which led the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC), and drove in 46 runs.
Wallace had 47 hits on the year with 25 of them going for extra bases. She also compiled team-highs of an .829 slugging percentage and 107 total bases to go with a season-best 14-game hitting streak that lasted from March 26 through April 18.
She also toed the rubber for Northeast with nine starts, a 5-4 record and a 3.17 earned run average (ERA) in 75 innings of action. Wallace topped the MACJC and finished fifth nationally with five saves to her credit.
The tandem of Tianna Castillo, Paige Dill, Lizzy Van Manen and Shaquera Wilson were all tabbed with second-team all-region distinction. Castillo and Dill were saluted for their play in the outfield while Van Manen and Wilson gained praise for their efforts at catcher and in the infield, respectively.
Castillo started in multiple positions for the Tigers throughout the campaign including catcher, designated player, left field and right field. She had a solid glove no matter the location with a stellar .973 fielding percentage.
The East Union High School alumnus placed fourth in the MACJC with nine homers. She moved into second on Northeast’s all-time career home runs list behind only Wallace with 13 over a two-year period.
She had 16 doubles, which trailed only Breanna Tarpley’s 18 two-baggers for most on the squad. Castillo pieced together 30 RBIs, 29 runs scored and a .677 slugging percentage as well.
Dill provided a boost to the Tigers from the left-handed side of the batters box. The slapper became the only Northeast player to collect over 50 hits this season with 52 overall in a team-high 153 at bats.
The Lewisburg High School graduate frequently showcased her speed. Dill safely swiped 23 bases, which was tied for fifth most in a single year in program history, and was only caught stealing twice.
She and Wallace ended in a stalemate with a team-best 42 runs scored. Dill led the Tigers with 25 walks and four triples as well plus hit the first two home runs of her entire softball career, including an inside-the-park job against Spoon River (Ill.) College at the Rush Invitational in Meridian.
Van Manen worked her way into the everyday role of commanding Northeast’s pitchers from behind the plate. She performed admirably with only eight passed balls all year and a .959 fielding percentage.
The Pella, Iowa, product also showed out offensively with a team-high .368 batting average. She had 11 extra base hits, including three triples and a pair of long balls, and 22 RBIs.
She had one of just three four-hit games by the Tigers this season. Van Manen accomplished her feat in a 23-run outburst against Mississippi Delta Community College, which was tied for the third most runs posted in a contest ever by Northeast.
Wilson transitioned from third base to second base during her sophomore campaign on the Booneville campus. The move paid dividends for the Tigers as she turned a team-best 14 double plays and committed only eight errors in 163 chances.
She specialized in getting on base with 28 free passes between walks and hit by pitches. That resulted in a sensational .455 on-base percentage, which was the highest on the squad.
Wilson, who hails from Columbus, was one of only two Northeast athletes to appear in all 47 matchups this year alongside Tarpley. She wrapped up her tenure with the Tigers with 12 home runs, which is knotted for third most all-time.
The NFCA splits NJCAA Division II members into three regions, including East, Midwest and South. The South Region encompasses schools in states across the country such as Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
These are the first NFCA All-Region selections for Northeast since 2010 when Devin Reader grabbed first-team honors as an outfielder. All five Tigers are now eligible for NFCA All-American status.
CUTLINE (PHOTOS: Michael H. Miller/Northeast Public Information)
Head shots of Tianna Castillo, Paige Dill, Lizzy Van Manen, Caleigh Wallace and Shaquera Wilson, who were all named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) All-South Region team for National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II schools.