The criteria are as follows:
Each academic year, The Bootleg's Honor Roll will recognize the top ten Stanford student-athletes who have performed at an exceptional level, with athletic accomplishments that are both extraordinary and inspirational. While achieving athletic success, these athletes should also have displayed uncommon leadership, sportsmanship and respect towards their fellow teammates and opponents. Finally, these honorees' performances and actions should also demonstrate their love for their particular sport as well as their school pride, the famed "Spirit of Stanford."
During the months of June and July, we are releasing the 10 winners of this prestigious award, one by one. We have previously recognized baseball's Jason Castro, gymnastics' David Sender, swimming's Julia Smit and Paul Kornfeld, soccer's Rachel Buehler, track's Erica McLain, runner Arianna Lambie and volleyball's Foluke Akinradewo as amongst this year's winners. Our ninth announced member of The Bootleg's 2007-08 Honor Roll is pitcher Missy Penna.
Honor Roll Winner: Missy Penna
I cannot think of a single player who has more impact on their team than a softball pitcher. Like a baseball pitcher, every play starts with the ball in her hand. Unlike her male counterpart though, an ace softball pitcher can pitch the vast majority of her team's games (Penna, for example, pitched 335 of Stanford's 444 innings – and virtually every key inning throughout the season and playoffs), and softball pitchers are often strong hitters in their own right. Perhaps most importantly though, the difference between a dominant and average softball pitcher is far greater than that of any other sport I've seen. Or, put another way, given how hard runs are to come by in softball, a star softball pitcher can simply dominate games in ways baseball pitchers -- or quarterbacks or soccer midfielders or hockey goalies -- could only dream of. Missy Penna just completed that type of season for Stanford softball.
Penna finished with a sublime 1.17 ERA and 37-13 record. Her command was excellent, as she posted 416 strikeouts to just 81 walks. And when opponents did manage to put the ball in play, they didn't do much with it, as the .161 opponents' batting average and 23 homers allowed in a school-record and Pac-10 best 335 innings reflect. For her season, Penna was named First Team All-Pac-10, a Third Team All-American and a finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year Award. (A civil and environmental engineering major, Penna also made the Pac-10's All-Academic First Team.)
Penna started the year with five straight shutouts, including a no-hitter against San Diego, earning the first of her three Pac-10 Player of the Week honors this season in the process. That set the tone for a ruthlessly efficient season: Penna went the distance in 40 of 49 starts and 18 of 21 Pac-10 starts, threw 15 shutouts, 20 double-digit strikeout games and earned a school-record 37 wins, sixth nationally. Her 416 strikeouts shattered a school record and were second in the Pac-10, far and away softball's premier conference.
Like everyone on this list, Penna also elevated her play to yet another level when the occasion demanded it. Stanford would barely finish over .500 in the Pac-10 and was in a pivotal game at conference-leading Arizona State, then No. 2 in the country, in early May. Penna struck out 17, a school record, as Stanford upset the Sun Devils 2-1 in 10 innings and Penna earned her third and final Pac-10 Player of the Week Award.
Just a week later, Penna saved her second no-hitter of the year for the NCAA Regional title game against Massachusetts. In fact, she allowed no runs all weekend as Stanford won its Regional, finishing with 39 strikeouts, three shutouts, and, most importantly, three wins, in 28 innings of work.
Penna struggled in the Super Regionals, though, as Stanford got swept at Texas A&M, 6-1 and 9-4, to draw their season to a disappointing close. However, like many on TheBootleg's Honor Roll (Kornfeld, Smit, Foluke), Missy is a rising senior, and so her best year in the circle may well be her next. (Penna did commit seven errors on the season and batted only 12 times – two obvious potential areas for improvement.) If so, don't expect the Super Regionals to trip up Stanford in 2009.
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