WINTHROP, Mass. – Simmons University's Brook Capello (Hanover, Mass.) was named the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Softball Coach of the Year, while Maddie Castigliego (Bristol, R.I.) was selected the league's Rookie of the Year. In addition, six Sharks were named to seven spots on the All-Conference squad, it was announced by the GNAC.
Lauren Del Vacchio (Murrieta, Calif.) was named to the First Team as an outfielder, while Castigliego earned First Team honors as a designated player and Second Team accolades as a pitcher. Christie Bott (Seaford, N.Y.) and Alex Morang (Windham, Maine) were both named to the Second Team as a catcher and third base, respectively, while Danielle Carson (Ashland, Mass.) and Hailey Yabroudy (Amherst, N.H.) were selected to the Third Team as an outfielder and pitcher, respectively.
The seven all-conference spots mark the most selections from a Simmons team in school history, while Capello becomes just the second coach named in school annals and the first since the former Annie Hennigan was selected in 2011. Castigliego is the fifth Shark to earn Rookie of the Year accolades and the first since Lauren Backhaus was tabbed following the 2012 campaign.
Capello was named by her fellow coaches following a season that saw Simmons advance to the GNAC Championship game for the first time since 2014. The honor marks the second time in her career that she has earned top coaching recognition from a conference after being tapped the top skipper for the New England Collegiate Conference while at the helm of Newbury College following the 2013 season. The Sharks posted a 13-3 mark in conference play for the second best record in the league in 2019. The league mark was part of a 22-23 overall record against a .537 strength of schedule, which was the second-toughest in the conference and featured six games against foes, who were either currently ranked or soon-to-be-ranked among the top 25 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association weekly poll. The field general watched Simmons sweep six conference opponents in double-header play and dropped games to just two opponents all season in league action. The Sharks swept the eventual conference champion University of Saint Joseph (Conn.) in the regular-season meeting, before bowing to them in the championship contest. Under Capello's direction, Simmons put together a nine-game win streak, which was the longest since a nine-game string during the 2011 season. The Sharks were the most potent offensive team in the GNAC under Capello suffering just two shutouts – 39 games apart – for the entire season. The squad led the circuit in runs scored (256), hits (401), doubles (76), triples (20), runs batted in (231), total bases (559) and walks (115) and also posted the lowest earned run average (2.15) and opponents' batting average (.237) in conference-only games to make them one of the most complete teams in the league. Simmons' triples per game rate of 0.44 ranked 15th among the nation's leaders and the team batted .324 (401-1238) to go with a formidable .390 on-base percentage. Her players received honors throughout the season, with four combining to be named Player of the Week for five straight weeks to mark the first time in conference history that any team has achieved that feat, three different players earning rookie of the week designation and one player being tapped Pitcher of the Week.
Capello has seen the Sharks improve dramatically since her first year with the program, taking the team from a ninth-place conference finish to the third-best league record last year and the second-best this season. The team has posted a 28-12 (.700) record in conference play over the last two seasons and has won at least one playoff game in each of the last three years. The Simmons mentor has overseen 20-plus-win seasons in each of the last two campaigns for the first time at the school since 2013-14 and has won 72 games in her four seasons at the helm for the Sharks to add to 76 victories from a five-year stint with Newbury. In addition, the former Stonehill College standout has coached a dozen all-conference selections and two all-region honorees during her tenure at Simmons.
Castigliego is named the GNAC Rookie of the Year as well as First Team All-Conference as a designated player and Second Team as a pitcher to achieve the rare feat of being named All-Conference for two different spots. The first year was limited to hitting in a deep line-up primarily when she pitched, thus not having enough plate appearances to qualify among the league's batting leaders. Despite having 24 fewer plate appearances than any of the top five ranked runs batted in leaders, she still managed to place sixth among GNAC players with 28 RBI and was sixth with three triples and a team-high four home runs. The six-hitter in the Sharks' line-up swung a torrid bat in league-games, hitting .556 (46-91) to go with a .600 on-base percentage and a staggering .889 slugging mark in GNAC contests. For the season, the Exercise Science/Physical Therapy major batted .389 (28-72) against all opponents, while owning a .423 OBP and a .708 slugging percentage for a 1.131 OPS. Castigliego ranked second on the team with eight multi-RBI outings and owned a season-best eight-game hitting streak. The right-handed hitter was extremely dangerous at the plate with runners in scoring position, hitting a .517 (15-29) clip, while leading the team with 13 two-out RBI. The St. Mary Academy-Bay View product was outstanding from the pitching circle as well, leading the conference in games started (21), innings pitched (139), victories (14) and placed third with 24 appearances, fourth in strikeouts (74) and sixth in earned run average (3.12). The rookie was even stingier in league match-ups, owning a 2.15 ERA, while holding opponents to a .218 batting average for the second-lowest mark in the league. She held foes to two or fewer earned runs on 12 occasions and hurled a shutout in five complete innings, while allowing just one hit and two walks to go with four strikeouts vs. Lasell College on April 24. The Rhode Island native fanned a career-high nine batters and gave up three runs (one earned) on six hits and a walk to earn a win over Eastern Nazarene College on April 3. Castigliego enjoyed an impressive run to close out the season, winning three games in the conference tournament, including a nine-inning complete game victory over Emmanuel College (Mass.), where she allowed two runs (one earned) and scattered 11 hits to go with a base on balls and five strikeouts on May 4 and was named to the All-Tournament Team. Her season win-total ranks as the fifth-most of any Simmons pitcher in the last 15 years, while her inning pitched puts her sixth and her complete game tally ranks her eighth for the Sharks.
Del Vacchio earns an All-Conference nod for the third straight season to become the first Shark to earn All-League honors in her first three campaigns since Lauren Backhaus was chosen in from 2012-14 and the first Simmons player to be named First Team in consecutive seasons since Emily Cunningham was selected in 2013 and 2014. In addition, the West Coast native is the first Shark to earn First Team honors in consecutive years, but at a different position since Courteney Collier in 2011 (utility) and 2010 (pitcher). The center fielder led the GNAC with a school-record 22 walks while ranking second with 56 hits, 40 runs scored, 44 games played, 11th with nine doubles and 19th with a pair of home runs. Despite batting leadoff for most of the season, the five-foot, two-inch Del Vacchio still knocked in 28 runs to place sixth among league leaders and her .400 (56-140) batting mark in all games was the 11th-best mark among GNAC hitters. The outfielder was even better in conference-only games, hitting .472 (25-53) to place seventh in the league. A graduate of Vista Murrieta High School, Del Vacchio led the team with 17 multiple-hit efforts and nine multi-RBI outings. She strung together the longest hitting streak on the team, batting safely in 11 straight games from April 13-28 and hit safely in 33 of 44 games, while going hitless in consecutive games just three times all season and for no longer than two games in a row.
For her career, the Web Design and Development major has started 123 of 124 games she's appeared in while owning a .393 (147-374) batting mark to go with 64 runs batted in, 104 runs scored, 58 walks, 17 stolen bases, eight home runs, 31 doubles and three triples.
Bott earned Second Team honors as a catcher after missing all of her rookie campaign due to an injury. The sophomore batted .358 (39-109) in 35 games while ranking 18th with a .433 on-base percentage and 20th with a .514 slugging mark. She belted a team-high 12 doubles to rank fourth in the league and mark the fifth-most in a season at Simmons in the last 15 years. Bott also placed eighth among GNAC leaders in runs scored (31), 12th in RBI (26), 13th in walks (13), 17th in total bases (56) and 15th in stolen bases with six in as many attempts. The St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School graduate was among the toughest in the league to strike out, fanning just seven times in 128 plate appearances for a rate of once every 18.2 plate appearances. The backstop was stellar behind the plate as well, handling 83 chances without a miscue for the fifth-highest total in the conference without committing an error for any defender. A Physical Therapy major, she drove in multiple runs on seven occasions for the fourth-most on the team and enjoyed a season-long hitting streak of eight games from March 30 to April 11. Bott hit safely in 27 of 35 games and went without a hit in consecutive games just twice and closed out the year by hitting safely in each of her final five games, recording a .588 (10-17) batting mark over that span. The New York native came through in clutch situations, batting .408 (20-49) and was almost automatic with a runner on third with less than two outs, driving in nine in 11 opportunities for an 82% success rate.
Morang lands a spot on the Second Team at third base after turning in a season of exemplary defense and excellent offense. The first year player batted .348 (40-115) for the season but was locked in during conference play, hitting .474 (18-38) for the highest average on the team and the fifth-best mark in the league. Morang also owned a .556 on-base percentage in GNAC games for the third-best figure and slugged .684 in league contests for the 10th-best mark. The rookie finished the season with a .423 OBP in all games to go with a .478 slugging mark. The Windham High School product placed her hits well, rapping out three triples to rank sixth in the league while cracking nine doubles to stand 11th among league leaders. Morang ended the year with 40 hits in 43 games to place 17th in the conference and led the circuit, reaching base seven times after being hit by a pitch. The Nursing major registered 11 games with two or more hits to place fourth on the team. Morang was a black hole at third base, recording 95 assists to lead all GNAC players and rank as the most assists in school history over the last 15 seasons while posting a .929 fielding percentage. Morang led the team over the season's final 14 games, hitting .432 (19-44) with nine RBI and committed just two errors in 41 chances (.951).
Carson enjoyed a breakout season, starting all 42 games she appeared in and was rewarded with a Third Team selection in the outfield. The sophomore batted .315 (29-92) from the nine-hole in the order and posted a .400 on-base percentage to place fifth on the team while owning a .446 slugging percentage. The right fielder came up big in conference play, knocking in 14 of her 17 runs in league games to rank 13th in the GNAC while slugging .619 in league-only games to stand 16th. Her two triples both came in league contests to rank her sixth while reaching base 12 times via a base on balls during the season put her 13th in the league. The Nursing major enjoyed a six-game stretch, where she hit safely in every game to bat .600 (12-20) and hit for the cycle over two games of a double-header vs. Lasell College, going 6-6 with two doubles, a triple and an inside-the-park home run, while driving in eight runs for the day on April 24. Carson proved dependable in the team's small-ball game as well, successfully putting down eight sacrifice bunts, including six during GNAC play for the third-most in the conference. A graduate of Ashland High School, Carson made base runners think twice about advancing with four outfield assists.
Yabroudy was honored with a Third Team selection as a pitcher for the Sharks in her first campaign performing primarily from the circle. The sophomore played every game at first base a year ago but served within the team's one-two punch on the pitching staff this year. Yabroudy recorded a 3.62 earned run average for the season, but shined against conference competition, posting a 1.95 ERA for the fourth-lowest mark among GNAC pitchers, while her .244 opponents' batting average in league play ranked as the fourth-lowest as well. The second-year player led the league with 25 appearances and her 114 innings pitched placed her fifth. Yabroudy hurled 11 complete games, including a league-high seven in GNAC action and won six of her seven games against conference opponents for the third-highest total in the GNAC. The Souhegan High School product showed tremendous control over a six-game span from March 24 to April 11, issuing no walks during a stretch of 21 1/3 innings pitched. The right-hander was dependable for most of the season, allowing two or fewer runs in 15 appearances, including a pair of shutouts coming in conference play to lead the league in GNAC games. She proved her mettle as a big-time pitcher as well, with an outstanding run during the GNAC Tournament, starting two of four games she appeared in while owning a 1.29 earned run average over 16 1/3 innings and issuing just three walks to go with seven strikeouts to earn All-Tournament honors.
Simmons completed the season with a 22-23 mark, including 13-3 in GNAC play to earn the top seed in the South Division, before bowing out in the championship game vs. Saint Joseph, 3-0.