OC’s Heath, Thomas, Coats sweep NCCAA Central Region softball honors

OC coach Tom Heath has been named as the NCCAA Central Region softball coach of the year.
OC coach Tom Heath has been named as the NCCAA Central Region softball coach of the year.

OKLAHOMA CITY (May 12, 2014) – Oklahoma Christian had the best softball team in the National Christian College Athletic Association Central Region this season, a fact reflected by the regional honor team announced Monday.

OC, which captured the region title two days earlier, swept the regional individual awards, with Tom Heath being named as the coach of the year, senior Martha Thomas as the hitter of the year and freshman Shea Coats as the pitcher of the year.  Thomas and Coats were joined on the 16-woman All-Region squad by another freshman, Niki Davidson.

The trio helped lead the Lady Eagles to a 39-14 record heading into the NCCAA Championship this week in Troutville, Va., in which OC will be the No. 2 seed in the 10-team field.

“I was glad to hear that Martha and Shea won those individual awards,” Heath said. “Both have worked hard to earn those awards, and so did Niki. That is a nice reward for all the hard work they put in. I’m pleased they were recognized because they each had a great year.”

Entering the national tournament, Thomas, a catcher-designated player from North Richland Hills, Texas, was hitting .433 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs. Thomas has already tied the school single-season home run mark and is just five RBIs from tying the single-season OC mark in that category. She also is on pace to break OC single-season and career records in on-base percentage (.545) and slugging percentage (.851) and is 11-for-11 in stolen-base attempts.

Coats, a right-hander from Tuttle, is 22-2 with a school-record six saves, a 1.46 ERA and 184 strikeouts in 158 2/3 innings. She has won 20 straight decisions and likely will break OC’s single-season record for winning percentage by a pitcher. She has thrown 18 complete games with 10 shutouts, including four straight during a run of 30 straight scoreless innings. She was a three-time NCCAA national student-athlete of the week pick and a three-time Heartland Conference pitcher of the week selection.

Davidson, a catcher-designated player from Oklahoma City who starred at Community Christian School, has had a stellar freshman campaign for the Lady Eagles, hitting .397 with three home runs and 34 RBIs. Davidson also had 13 doubles and a healthy .571 slugging percentage, as well as a .490 on-base percentage. She twice was named as the Heartland Conference’s hitter of the week and received NCCAA national student-athlete of the week honors once.

Heath, OC’s only softball coach since the program began in 1995, passed the 600-win career mark this season and has the Lady Eagles one win away from what would be only the fourth 40-win campaign in school history. He guided OC to a third-place finish in the NCAA Division II Heartland Conference and has his team in a national tournament for the first time in 11 years.

It’s the third coach-of-the-year award for Heath, who, along with assistant coach Steve Gault, was named as part of the NAIA Southwest Region coaching staff of the year in 1998. Heath also was named as the Sooner Athletic Conference coach of the year in 1999.

Heath, a 1971 OC graduate, credited Gault and fellow assistants Jessica Ruckman and Rachel Seat for the Lady Eagles’ success this season.

“It’s a shared award for all my coaching staff,” Heath said. “I can’t do it by myself. The only way we’ve done what we’ve done this year is because of what Steve and Jessica and Rachel have done. All four of us have done this. We also had 18 girls who got the job done on the field. No awards can be given to coaches without the players doing what they have done on the field, and off the field, in the classroom, they’ve been awesome.”