ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Chattanooga Lady Mocs senior pitcher and designated player Michelle Fuzzard (Huntington Beach, Calif.) was named the 2012 Southern Conference Female Athlete of the Year on Tuesday. Fuzzard along with Male Athlete of the Year, wrestler Austin Trotman from Appalachian State, will be honored at the league's annual Honors Dinner on Wednesday night in Asheville, N.C.
"This is a great honor in being the first softball player to be recognized as female athlete of the year," said Fuzzard. "It is an amazing accomplishment to be among the seven female student-athletes at Chattanooga that have received this award in the past. This is a huge honor for Chattanooga and the softball program to be acknowledged in front of the entire conference for excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community."
Fuzzard is the first softball player in SoCon history and seventh Chattanooga student-athlete, a SoCon record passing Furman with six, to earn the title of female athlete of the year. She joins women's basketball players Shanara Hollinquest (2010), Alex Anderson (2008) and Jennifer Wilson (2003) and cross country and track and field student-athletes Lani Marchant (2007), Shannon Wommack (2006) and Mary Jane Middlekoop (1997) in receiving the honor.
The Huntington Beach, Calif., native in 2012 became the first repeat SoCon Softball Player of the Year since 1997, when Furman's Julie Glasser was a three-time recipient. She paced the conference in RBI (63), runs scored (52), slugging (.846) and on-base percentage (.543), while finishing second in batting average (.416), total bases (126) and walks (39).
The four-time first team all-conference selection at first base or designated player has additionally taken on a role in the circle, making 27 starts in 36 games and posting a 15-7 record with 85 strikeouts in 2012. Fuzzard became the first player to appear on the All-SoCon First (1B) and Second (P) teams in 2009 as a pitcher and position player.
She has eclipsed league career records with 217 RBI and 453 total bases. Fuzzard set the SoCon single-season RBI mark with 75 in 2011 as she helped lead the Lady Mocs to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional, the highest finish in school history.
"I knew with Michelle coming in as a freshman that she was going to be an exceptional player," said Head Coach Frank Reed. "A couple of areas that separate Michelle is her work ethic and determination to be better, which really showed after she tore her ACL. She worked even harder to become a phenomenal player for Chattanooga and representative of the Southern Conference."
Fuzzard has also overcome adversity on her way to the league's top honor. She tore her ACL during the 2010 campaign, which forced her to redshirt. During her rehab, she became a coach on the field and sat alongside Coach Reed charting pitches in the dugout. That experience enabled her to develop into an even better athlete following the injury.
The 2011 graduate with a Bachelor's of Science degree in criminal justice is currently working towards her Master's degree in the same field.
Off the field, Fuzzard has spent over 270 hours as an intern at the Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute, providing assistance with the forensics and treatment team. She has been a three-year member on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) along with serving on the school's Gender Equity Committee.
The Lady Mocs ended the 2012 season with a 39-16 overall record and will finish first nationally in batting average at .347 and doubles per game at 1.91 upon the completion of the Women's College World Series next week. Chattanooga will begin preparations for the 2013 season upon returning to campus in August.