AZUSA, Calif.. – After putting together one of the best seasons ever in Azusa Pacific history, sophomore shortstop Rachel Alkire has been named NAIA All-American first team and is 1 of 20 players to be so honored on this year’s team.
Alkire, who had a fine yet somewhat non-descript 2002 freshman campaign, emerged from the pack this year with a breakout season that resulted in her being named the GSAC co-Player of the Year. The 5-foot-7 native of Union City, Calif., batted a team-best .404 this year and led the GSAC in home runs (12), RBIs (school-record 59) and total bases (school-record 142). She is only the second Cougar ever to hit double-digit home runs in a season, falling 2 shy of Lorna Lyttle’s record 14 round-trippers smacked in 2002.
“She ‘wowed’ me,” said Azusa Pacific head coach Sharon Lehman. “Rachel told me after her freshman season that she could hit a lot better, and I have to say she certainly followed through. She had a terrific season, and the thing that excites me about her is that she is coming back for 2 more years.”
Over the final 23 games of the season, Alkire put her game into high gear, batting a whopping .479 with 8 doubles, 32 RBIs and 7 home runs, including a pair of clutch grand slams (game-winner walk-off vs. Notre Dame de Namur and a game-tying slam vs. The Master’s in the NAIA regional playoffs). She hit safely in 48 of 60 games played which included 23 multiple-hit games. Early in the season in the Cougars’ 8-1 victory over Bethany, she hit for the cycle, going 4-for-4 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs. Additionally, at one point she slugged a home run in 4 consecutive games.
Though she was recognized for her play in the field and at the plate, Alkire, nonetheless, was one of the Cougars most effective pitchers during the 2003 season. She finished with a 6-6 record and 1.69 ERA in 78.2 innings of work.
Alkire is 1 of 9 Cougars ever to be honored as an NAIA All-American but only the fourth to receive first-team recognition, joining Dawn Castanada (1997), Kerry Martin (1997) and Mandy Dorow (2000).
Azusa Pacific fashioned a 41-20 record overall and finished second in the GSAC at 17-11.
Click here to view the entire 2003 NAIA All-America Softball Team.