Bears lead Southland with honors

The University of Central Arkansas softball team led the Southland Conference with a total of four student-athletes who achieved all-academic team status. The Southland recently announced its 2020 Softball All-Academic team.

Junior outfielder Reagan Sperling and sophomore catcher Tylar Vernon earned first-team recognition, while senior outfielder Kayla Crutchmer and sophomore pitcher Jordan Johnson collected second-team honors.

Sperling, a Sherwood native, achieved her first all-academic nod. She posted an impressive .385 batting average on the season, which was second on the team. She started all 27 games for the Bears with 25 hits, four doubles, one triple and a home run. She added 13 RBIs and drew 13 walks. Sperling finished the season second on the team with eight stolen bases. Defensively, she was a reliable outfielder with a fielding percentage of .939. Sperling tallied 28 putouts and posted three outfield assists. She excelled in the classroom with a GPA of 3.85 while she majored in education.

UCA sophomore catcher Tylar Vernon earned first-team recognition in the Southland Conference.

Vernon, a Pangburn (White County) local, picked up her first career all-academic designation. She appeared in 24 games and started 21 of those appearances. She produced the team’s fourth-best batting average with a mark of .348 with 16 hits, five doubles, one triple and one home run. She drew 11 walks and drove in nine runs. She recorded a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with 76 putouts and added nine assists behind the plate. In the classroom, she is a Family and Consumer Science major and compiled an unblemished 4.0 GPA.

Crutchmer, who hails from Tulsa, produced one of the best seasons in UCA history. She earned her first academic all-conference accolade. She led the NCAA with 31 stolen bases and 1.15 stolen bases per game. She broke the UCA program record for career stolen bases as she reached a tally of 102. She tied the UCA single-game record with four stolen bases. She led the team with a .410 batting average and finished third in the SLC. Crutchmer finished the year with 34 hits, which was ranked No. 27 in the NCAA and second in the Southland. She led the team with 22 runs scored. She graduated with a degree in education and notched a 3.12 GPA.

Johnson, a native of Paola, Kansas, collected her first all-academic team recognition. She finished tied for 20th in the NCAA with three shutouts and tied for second in the SLC. She led the Bears with 47.1 innings pitched and finished second on the team with an ERA of 1.77. She made 12 appearances, including eight starts. She finished the season with a 3-1 record and tallied 23 strikeouts. Johnson made one appearance on the base path as a pinch runner. She went 1-for-1 on stolen base attempts and scored a run. Her major is undeclared, but she has a cumulative GPA of 3.86.

The all-academic teams are voted on by a head coach, sports information director and academic/compliance staff member from each Southland Conference institution. To be nominated for the academic all-conference teams, student-athletes must possess a 3.0 cumulative GPA and have completed one full academic year at the nominating institution. 

“I am really happy for these young women and our program,” said Head Coach David Kuhn.“They really excelled on the field and in the classroom this year. They are most deserving of this honor. This past season they were some of the best players at their positions in the conference. To see them recognized for their academic achievements and softball skills is a great honor for them, as well as UCA Softball.”