PAWTUCKET, Mass.—Little East Conference Tournament Champions UMass Boston softball placed a program record three players on the LEC First Team and had four total honorees, the league office announced Thursday afternoon.
Junior catcher Roxanne Vento (Arlington, Mass.), sophomore shortstop Gigi Braga (Medford, Mass.) and freshman second baseman Kelly Danahy (Kingston, Mass.) were all named to the LEC First Team. Sophomore Ari Bilotta (Leominster, Mass.) earned a spot on the LEC Second Team at third base.
The Beacons placed two players on the LEC First Team in each of the past two seasons, but had never had as many as three players earn spots amongst the top 12 in the LEC.
Vento earned her second-consecutive LEC First Team selection and third career All-Conference honors after serving as one of the top hitters in the Beacons' lineup for a third-straight year. She is just the second player in program history to earn multiple First Team All-Conference honors joining assistant coach Sue Kililea ('13). Vento and Kililea are also two of the three players to have earned three of more All-Conference honors, joined by Andrea Ciarletta ('07) who is the only player to be honored four times.
The junior backstop leads the Beacons in on-base percentage (.493), slugging percentage (.587), runs (27), RBI (26), doubles (nine), home runs (26) and walks (26) and started all 40 games. Vento sits first in the conference in on-base percentage and walks. The 2017 LEC Player of the Year also ranks in the top five in the conference in slugging (2nd), RBI (t-5th) and home runs (t-2nd). Vento recorded hits in 26 of 40 games and reached safely in 31 total contests.
Over the past two weeks, Vento set the program record for career runs batted in (93) and tied the program mark for walks in a single season (26).
Braga earns her first career Softball All-Conference honors, after being named a First Team midfielder in women's soccer as a freshman. The sophomore shortstop is the first shortstop in program history to be named to the LEC First Team.
She paired her excellent defense, with a red-hot bat that terrorized LEC pitching throughout the conference season. Braga currently is hitting .324 with 34 hits, 20 runs scored, six RBI and six stolen bases in 40 starts on the year. In LEC play, Braga finished second amongst all conference players with a .475 batting average. She went 19-40 in conference play with six runs and two RBI.
She also posted a sparkling .929 fielding shortstop with 82 assists and 63 putouts. Braga also helped turn six of the Beacons' LEC-leading 13 double plays.
Danahy, who converted from an outfielder to second base to start her collegiate career, is just the third player in program history to earn First Team honors as a freshman. She joins Kililea and junior center fielder Taylor Pawlina (Woonsocket, R.I.) as the only players to accomplish that feat.
The freshman second baseman stepped in at the top of the Beacons lineup and immediately proved to be one of the top hitters in the LEC. Danahy leads the Beacons in batting average (.395), hits (47), triples (three) and ranks second behind Vento with her 60 total bases. Amongst conference players, Danahy has the second-highest overall batting average and sits fourth in on-base percentage (.446), ninth in slugging percentage (.504) and tied for second in hits (47).
Danahy hit safely in 28 contests and had two separate hitting streaks of five games or more. In conference play, Danahy finished with the third highest batting average of all players (.432) and recorded 19 hits, eight runs scored and six RBI.
Bilotta is the fourth and final Beacon to be honored, after putting together a career-best season as a sophomore. After battling injuries as a freshman, Bilotta started in 38 of 40 games and finished with a .320 batting average, .397 on-base percentage and .408 slugging percentage. She also tacked on 40 hits, 25 runs scored, 15 RBI, nine doubles, one triple and four stolen bases.
The sophomore was especially effective during the LEC Tournament. Bilotta went 6-17 during the Beacons' 4-0 sweep and added two runs scored, two RBI, a double and a triple. In UMass Boston's second-round game, Bilotta delivered a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the University of Southern Maine 6-5.
UMass Boston softball will open up NCAA Regional Play on Friday at Noon, when they take on #15 Tufts University at MIT's Briggs Field.