Four Huskers were honored by the Big Ten Conference on Wednesday, when the league announced its 2017 award winners. Senior third baseman MJ Knighten, junior pitcher Kaylan Jablonski and sophomore outfielder Alyvia Simmons were each named to the All-Big Ten second team, while sophomore catcher Bri Cassidy was Nebraska’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner.
Knighten highlighted the Husker honorees, as she was named All-Big Ten for the fourth time in her career. The first four-time All-Big Ten selection in program history, Knighten is the first Husker to be a four-time all-conference performer since Tatum Edwards, who was a two-time All-Big 12 selection in 2011 and 2012 and a two-time All-Big Ten honoree in 2013 and 2014. While Knighten was honored as an All-Big Ten performer for the fourth time, Jablonski and Simmons were recognized for the first time in their careers.
A native of Buena Park, Calif., Knighten hit .329 during the Big Ten season with four doubles, one triple, three homers and 18 RBIs. The 2016 first-team All-American reached base safely in 22 of Nebraska’s 23 conference games while leading the Huskers in home runs and walks (12) in Big Ten play.
Jablonski earned her first All-Big Ten award at the utility position, being honored for her performance in the circle and at the plate. In the circle, Jablonski posted a 7-6 record with two saves and a 3.62 ERA in conference play, directly contributing to nine of the Huskers 13 Big Ten wins. She ranked second in the league in saves during conference play and fifth in wins. Offensively, Jablonski hit .344 in league play with nine doubles, two home runs and 21 RBIs. She led the Huskers in RBIs and slugging percentage (.578) during the conference season and totaled seven games with multiple hits and seven games with multiple RBIs. In conference play, Jablonski led the Big Ten in sacrifice flies and ranked third in doubles and seventh in RBIs.
Simmons was one of the Big Ten’s top hitters in conference play en route to earning the first All-Big Ten recognition of her career. She hit .354 during the conference season with 10 doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs, leading Nebraska in hits (29), extra-base hits (12), average, runs (22) and doubles. Simmons ranked in the conference with her 10 doubles in conference play, while also ranking fifth in hits and eighth in runs scored.
Cassidy was recognized as Nebraska’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner after starting 19 of the Huskers’ 23 conference games at catcher. Cassidy recorded the first two extra-base hits of a career – a triple and a home run – during the conference season. She also totaled four RBIs during league play after entering the conference season with only one career RBI. Cassidy also stood out defensively, allowing only four stolen bases in 19 games while throwing out two runners and adding two pickoffs.
Led by its all-conference performers, Nebraska posted its sixth consecutive top-five conference finish this spring. The Huskers earned the No. 5 seed for the Big Ten Tournament and will face No. 12 seed Penn State on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (Central).
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