USA Softball Announces 2009 USA Softball Athletes of the Year
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA) and USA Softball is pleased to announce that Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) and Matt Palazzo (Des Moines, Iowa) were named the USA Softball Female and Male Athlete of the year, respectively, for their accomplishments during the 2009 season.
Finch saw time as both a pitcher and at first base on defense as well as making an impact at the plate on offense. Finch’s hits in the Championship Game of both the Japan Cup and Canada Cup secured the USA victory. She was voted the Japan Cup MVP after she not only earned the win by throwing a one-hitter to defending Olympic Gold Medalist Japan but was also responsible for the two runs scored as she hit a double to help lead the team to a 2-0 victory. In the Championship game of the Canada Cup with two outs left in the seventh, Finch hit a walk-off single that would push a run across the plate and give the United States a 3-2 victory.
Offensively, Finch was in the Top five in all three events in batting average with a summer average of .447. Her best event was at the World Cup of Softball where Finch hit .500 with a home run and three runs scored. During the summer of 2009, she made an appearance in all 18 games with 17 starts with three homeruns and 17 hits. As a pitcher, she was 5-0 with a 0.54 ERA and 43 strikeouts. Finch allowed only two earned runs in 26.0 innings pitched.
“I am completely honored all the way around to not only play for our great country but also to be recognized out of a group of extremely talented athletes. I am surrounded by amazing women and feel blessed to be a part of USA Softball,” said Finch. “I feel privileged to still have the opportunity to play the game I love at this stage in my life. Just to wear USA across my chest is a great honor and I am grateful for the opportunities I continue to have.”
Palazzo helped lead the USA Softball Men’s National team to a fourth-place finish at the ISF Men’s World Championships in Saskatoon, Canada, with a 7-3 record. He led the team with a .444 average (12-for-27) and was the only player to record more than one home run with four homers. At the plate, he contributed 11 RBI, scoring nine runs. He was near perfect on defense, making only one error.
“This summer was amazing to be able to compete among great International opponents at the World Championships. Seeing the different cultures, styles of play and at such a high level is an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. To wear red, white and blue and represent your country is such an amazing thing and I can’t wait to get out there and compete again,” said Palazzo who admitted he was smiling away after he heard the news. “I am very shocked and pleased to earn this honor. I worked extremely hard last year and thought I had a great year but didn’t expect this. Just to be in the same category as an athlete like Jennie Finch is an honor in itself.”