INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Speed and savvy.
Both traits combined for the Virginia Wesleyan College softball team during the 2014 intercollegiate season to produce a pair of individual national champions for the Marlins. And making it even more impressive for VWC is the fact that both standouts are only sophomores.
Kayla Malkos (Roanoke/Cave Spring) and Mary Shipp (Virginia Beach/First Colonial) shared the limelight as National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III statistical champions in stolen bases and saves, respectively. Malkos has additionally been named the recipient of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association's prestigious Golden Shoe award.
The Golden Shoe award is presented annually to the most outstanding base stealer in all three NCAA divisions, as well as the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, the National Junior College Athletic Association, California Junior Colleges, the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges, and high school. A total of 10 awards are presented.
Malkos became the first player in Virginia Wesleyan's highly successful softball program to receive the award. She led Division III with a VWC and Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) record 52 steals in 57 attempts and ranked second nationally in steals-per-game at 1.13. Malkos broke the College and league's former steals record of 46 set last season by teammate Tori Higginbotham (Glen Allen/J.R. Tucker).
While Malkos impressed with her speed and skill on the bases, Shipp did the same from the pitching rubber. She led the nation with a VWC record five saves, topping the former record of four set by Brittaney Brown in 2010. The five saves...recorded in victories over NCAA tournament qualifier Rowan University, Meredith College, Eastern Connecticut State University, Guilford College, and Randolph College...tied the ODAC record set by Emory & Henry College's Julia Molenaar in 2002.
Virginia Wesleyan posted a 39-7 record in 2014, highlighted by a second consecutive ODAC championship and a third trip to the NCAA championship tournament in the past four years. The 39 victories tie the second highest win total in program history.
As a team, the Marlins finished No. 2 nationally in stolen bases per game with an average of 3.28. But, VWC led the nation in total steals with 151. In addition to Malkos' stellar efforts on the bases, Higginbotham ranked No. 5 nationally with 0.93 steals per game and No. 4 in total steals with 41 in 43 attempts. Sophomore Courtney Bogan (Round Hill/Woodgrove) added to the output with 0.57 steals per game to rank 42nd nationally. She recorded 26 steals in 27 attempts.
Shipp was part of a pitching crew that ranked No. 7 nationally with a 1.46 earned run average, the second best in program history. Junior Kristina Karagiorgis (Ashburn/Briar Woods) led the way with a 1.21 ERA that led the ODAC and ranked No. 16 nationally. She also ranked No. 19 nationally with 21 victories in 26 games.
The 2014 season also marked the close of a standout career for Higginbotham. She exits the VWC program as the all-time leader in at-bats (546), hits (245), batting average (.449), home runs (31), runs scored (209), and steals (130/139). She is the first VWC softball player to be named an All-American three times.
In addition to her All-America honors, Higginbotham is a also a 2014 Capital One Academic All-American, a four-time All-Region honoree, and the first player to win three consecutive Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Player of the Year awards. She is a four-time All-ODAC honoree and two-time All-Virginia honoree, the latter including the 2013 Virginia Player of the Year award.