Maggie Balint’s punched her ticket to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Now, she’ll focus on ensuring her team joins in on the fun.
On Wednesday, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association named Balint one of three finalists for its national freshman of the year award. The winner is announced on May 30 in Oklahoma City. Should the Ducks advance against No. 14-seeded Kentucky this weekend, they’ll be in town as well.
“I think it’s exciting for the program,” head coach Mike White said before Wednesday’s practice. “Obviously we’re doing some things as far as recruiting. … Maggie works hard. She came out in the fall and found out she had to do some things to get better. She worked her tail off and then came back in January ready to go.”
The West Grove, Pennsylvania, native ranks 10th nationally with a 1.16 ERA. She tops the Pac-12 with a .166 opponent batting average and leads the Ducks in wins (21), strikeouts (150) and saves (three).
Balint joined UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia and Minnesota slugger Kendyl Lindaman in the grouping of finalists.
“They’re both tremendous players,” White said of Garcia and Lindaman.
Either way, the billing of the nation’s top newcomer will be historic. Never before has a player from the Pac-12 or Big Ten won the award.
Oregon third baseman Jenna Lilley was also a finalist for the award during her 2015 freshman campaign.
Follow Jonathan Hawthorne on Twitter @Jon_Hawthorne