Three student-athletes from the SEC are among the 25 initial finalists for the Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year award, which will be presented prior to the start of the 2017 NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
This year's finalists from the SEC include Bailey Hemphill from Alabama, Braxton Burnside from Missouri and Caylan Arnold from Tennessee. Hemphill, who has divided her time between catcher and designated player, has started all 45 games for the Crimson Tide. She currently owns a .330 batting average and is ranked second in the SEC in walks (43) and tied for first place with her 1.000 fielding percentage (180 putouts, 6 assists). Burnside, starting shortstop for the Tigers, has recorded a .338 batting average over 45 games during her rookie campaign and is ranked in the SEC's top 10 in several categories, including hits (ninth - 48), RBI (fourth - 45), home runs (tied for second - 11) and total bases (third - 93). Arnold has made 29 appearances in the circle for the Vols this season. She is 17-4 with a 1.67 ERA and has struck out 115 batters in 117.2 innings of work.
The list of finalists will be narrowed down to the top 10 on Thursday, May 11, while the top three finalists will be selected and released on Wednesday, May 24. The Schutt Sports/NFCA Division I National Freshman of the Year trophy will be presented during a live ceremony on Wednesday, May 31.
The award was created in 2014 from an idea to honor outstanding athletic achievement among Division I freshmen softball student-athletes. In the inaugural year, Auburn's Kasey Cooper and Tennessee's Annie Aldrete, were co-winners. Oklahoma's Paige Parker took home the honor in 2015 and Florida's Amanda Lorenz captured the award in 2016.