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Santillo, Sleith, Coaches Win Major NEC Honors

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pittsburgh -- Freshman Samantha Santillo (Ellwood City, Pa. / Lincoln), freshman Nicole Sleith (Smithton, Pa. / Yough) and the coaching staff of the Robert Morris University softball team combined to earn four of the six major awards from the Northeast Conference (NEC) as announced in the league’s all-conference release Thursday morning.
Sleith doubled up in a big way as she was selected as both the NEC Pitcher of the Year and the NEC Rookie of the Year in addition to being named All-NEC First Team.
Santillo earned the league’s Golden Glove Award, bestowed upon the NEC’s best defensive player, and also brought home All-NEC Second Team honors.
RMU’s coaching staff, headlined by 22nd-year head coach Craig Coleman, M.D., was named NEC Coaching Staff of the Year for the second straight season.
Senior Jaci Timko (Houston, Pa. / Chartiers Houston) rounded out RMU’s award-winners as she was named All-NEC Second Team.
RMU becomes just the second team in NEC history to win four major honors in a single season. This set of honors for the Colonials also marks the first time in NEC history in which two distinct freshmen from the same team both earned major league awards.
Sleith has had a record-setting rookie campaign in the circle for the Colonials. She tied the single-season school record for wins (24) on the final day of the regular season with a four-hit shutout of Youngstown State, lowering her ERA to 1.60, a mark which would currently rank fifth in single-season school history and would be the best by any Colonial since 1998. As it stands right now, Sleith’s 2012 season would be one of just five in school history with a winning percentage above .700. She became the first RMU freshman ever to surpass 200 strikeouts in a season and her current total of 227 makes her just one of four Colonials ever to hit that mark. She leads the NEC in wins, strikeouts and saves (5) and ranks among the top 30 nationally in each of those categories. Within league play, Sleith tallied 12 wins along with a 1.50 ERA and a .210 opponents’ batting average. She racked up 113 strikeouts in NEC play against just 17 walks in 107 innings to post a strikeout-to-walk ratio of over 6.6:1. Sleith, who also ranks among the single-season top 10 in both complete games and shutouts at RMU, notched wins over both Georgetown and Pittsburgh this season and struck out five batters in 2.2 innings of hitless, shutout relief against nationally-ranked Hawaii.
Sleith’s selection marks just the second time in NEC history, and first at RMU, in which a student-athlete earned both pitcher and rookie of the year honors.
Sleith becomes both the fourth Colonial, and the first since 2005, to win pitcher of the year and the fourth Colonial to win rookie of the year, which moves RMU into a tie for the most accolades in that category in NEC history. She is also the seventh all-conference pitcher in RMU history and the fifth one named to the first team.
Santillo earned praise for her work in the field after starting 39 games behind the plate for Robert Morris during her rookie campaign. She posted a .993 fielding percentage as she committed just two errors in 263 chances and made only error all season during league play. As a result, she currently has the best fielding percentage in Colonial history among those with at least 250 career chances. She caught 14 of 40 runners (.350) trying to steal, including posting an impressive 6-of-9 mark (.667) in NEC action. She also came up big in key situations as she received a throw from center field and tagged out a runner at the plate on a bang-bang play to maintain the lead in the late innings of a 1-0 victory at Quinnipiac. Additionally, Santillo’s bat was a weapon as well for the Colonials. She ranks second on the team in RBI (27), third in total bases (59) and tied for third in hits (40). She hit .318 in league play with a .530 slugging percentage as she drilled four long balls in NEC play. She was named NEC Player of the Week March 26 after going 8-for-16 at the plate in a pair of road NEC doubleheaders, including drilling two homers against Wagner, the second of which was a two-run, game-tying shot with two outs in the seventh inning.
Santillo’s honor marks the first Golden Glove Award winner in Robert Morris history. She is also the fourth Colonial catcher to earn All-NEC honors and the first freshman backstop at RMU to claim this distinction.
Coleman, assistant coaches Lauren Dickinson and Annie Dubovec and volunteer assistant Cory Shay received recognition after guiding the Colonials to a program-record tying 34 wins and the second straight outright regular-season NEC title. Robert Morris tallied 15 wins within NEC play and defeated every other conference school at least once. The Colonials have now qualified for each of the past five NEC Tournaments, extending the league’s longest active streak, and have participated in seven of the past eight overall, finishing among the top two in the conference standings on six of those occasions. Within league play, Robert Morris ranked second in runs scored (102) and led the NEC with a 1.84 ERA. RMU also collected 19 non-conference victories, its most since 1997, including wins over BIG EAST members Georgetown and Pittsburgh.
Coleman took home NEC honors for the second straight year and for the fourth time in his career. He has also now won three coaching awards since 2005 while no other team in the league has garnered this award more than once in that time span.
Timko hit .344 in 46 games for Robert Morris while leading the team in both on-base percentage (.415) and slugging percentage (.550) (min. 20 AB) as well as runs scored (33) and steals (seven). She also nailed seven homers, tied for the team lead, and sits second on the squad with 45 hits. Timko scored 20 runs in 20 NEC games this season to lead the league in that category and also blasted six of her long balls in conference action to tie for the lead in that department as well. Earlier this season, she broke an 18-year-old career record as she reset RMU’s all-time runs scored mark and currently tops the chart with 128. She has come up clutch in the biggest moments as she is hitting .395 with a .684 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position in 2012.

Robert Morris University, founded in 1921, is a private, four-year institution with an enrollment of approximately 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers 60 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. An estimated 22,000 alumni live and work in western Pennsylvania.