Four Named Senior CLASS Award Candidates

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - Four Pac-12 players were named candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award in softball, the award committee announced Wednesday. CALIFORNIA pitcher/first baseman Valerie Arioto, ARIZONA STATE shortstop Katelyn Boyd, STANFORD shortstop Ashley Hansen and WASHINGTON utility player Niki Williams were among the 30 candidates on the list.

Arioto has returned after breaking her leg on the second day of spring practice last year and was named to the U.S. Senior National Team in January. As a junior in 2010, Arioto received first team All-America honors after pacing the Bears with 19 home runs, 61 runs and a .819 slugging percentage. In the circle, she finished the season with a 21-9 record and a 1.43 ERA in 205.2 innings of work. Arioto completed all of her degree requirements a semester early to participate in graduation exercises in December. An American Studies major with an emphasis in social and cultural history of technology and entertainment, Arioto is considering a career in the media, event planning or marketing. She has played an integral role in Cal's work with the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation and adopting a little girl named Bebe, who has pediatric cancer. Arioto and her teammates have invited Bebe to games and recently threw a holiday party for her.

Boyd earned first team All-America recognition and was named a finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year last year as the Sun Devils captured the national title. She entered 2012 ranked second in the ASU record book with a .380 career batting average and third with 43 home runs. Boyd was third in the country with 1.2 runs per game (79 total) in 2011. She carries a 3.72 grade point average in family studies and was named an Academic All-American in both 2010 and 2011. Her career interests include becoming a graduate athletic trainer for the Sun Devils or a graduate assistant for the USA Softball team. Boyd has participated in numerous charity events, such as the Race for the Cure, which the softball participates in annually, as well as Fantasy Flight. Boyd has also worked extensively with Special Olympics.

Hansen had a banner junior year for the Cardinal in 2011 and was named USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and Pac-10 Player of the Year. She also earned first team All-America honors after setting Stanford single-season records in batting average (.495), hits (95) and slugging percentage (.797). Maintaining a 3.12 GPA, Hansen is on track to graduate in June with a degree in Management, Science and Engineering. She is hoping to start a career in the Bay Area in marketing and eventually product management in either the energy/environmental industry or the tech industry. Hansen spent the summer studying California environmental policy in Stanford's undergraduate research program. Among her many community service activities, Han-sen works at Stanford softball clinics and attends the annual Toys for Tots tournament for the Redwood City Girls Softball League.

Williams was a second team All-American and a top 25 finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in 2011. She batted .364, collecting 56 hits in 154 at bats with 14 home runs, 42 runs, 12 doubles, one triple and 56 RBIs. Williams carries a 3.02 GPA in Individualized Studies and was on the Dean's List last quarter. During her four years at Washington, Williams has volunteered with Coins for Kids, collecting coins at football tailgates. She also participated in the first Boot Drive, working with local firemen around the Seattle area to help raise money to build a Children's Burn Center in the local hospital. In addition, Williams has worked on donation drives organized by WASAAC, spent time with patients at the Children's Hospital, volunteered as a Sign Language tutor and helped with ongoing ecological restoration projects.

To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

Lowe's, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the Senior CLASS Award winner during the 2012 NCAA Women's College World Series, which will be held May 31-June 6 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The 30 candidates will be narrowed to 10 finalists midway through the regular season, and those 10 names will be placed on the official ballot. Ballots will be distributed through a nationwide voting system to media, Division I head coaches and fans who will select one finalist who best exemplifies excellence in the four Cs of community, classroom, character and competition. For more information, please visit seniorCLASSaward.com.

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