One day before she will lead the Montana softball team into new territory — an appearance in the NCAA Division I Softball Championship — Delene Colburn was part of another first for the program.
The junior shortstop on Thursday was named third-team All-Pacific Region by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, becoming the first player in coach Jamie Pinkerton‘s program to earn all-region honors.
“It’s a great honor for Delene and shows the steps the program has taken. It’s another accolade that comes from the season we’re having and tells me that people are watching,” said Pinkerton, who has his team 13 games above .500 at 35-22, with 25 wins in its last 32 games.
The coaches of the NFCA Pacific Region recognized what those in the Big Sky Conference, who voted Colburn to second-team all-league honors last week, did not. That the slugger from Auburn, Wash., is one of the best players out there.
In a region that encompasses some of the teams from the Big Sky, Big West, Mountain West, Pac-12, Western Athletic and West Coast conferences, Colburn was voted third team behind Oregon’s Nikki Udria and Washington’s Ali Aguilar.
Udria and Aguilar both were named second-team NFCA All-Americans last season. Both led their teams this season to top-six national seeds as the NCAA Division I Softball Championship gets underway on Thursday.
“The coaches in the region recognized that Delene had a really good year,” added Pinkerton. “She’s on there with two all-Americans who have been involved with the national team, so she’s in really good company.
“The real honor is that she could now be considered to be on one of the three all-America teams.”
Colburn, one of four Grizzlies voted to the Big Sky Conference all-tournament team after Montana won the title last week at Ogden, Utah, leads the league in RBIs, with 58, and slugging percentage, at .759. She is batting a career-best .402.
She ranks in the top five in the league in a majority of its offensive statistics, including batting average, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, doubles, home runs and walks.
Colburn was one of seven players from the Big Sky Conference named to NFCA all-region teams.
Weber State’s Sara Hingsberger, at first base, and Takesha Saltern, an outfielder, were voted first team in the Midwest Region. North Dakota pitcher Kaylin VanDomelen was voted second team in the Midwest, WSU pitcher Kirtlyn Bohling third team.
Saltern was voted last week the Big Sky Freshman of the Year, VanDomelen the Pitcher of the Year.
Three Big Sky players made the cut in the Pacific Region. Conference Player of the Year Kacie Burnett of Idaho State, an outfielder, was voted second team. Colburn and Sacramento State outfielder Suzy Brookshire, who led the Big Sky in home runs, were voted third team.
Montana will open play in the Seattle Regional of the NCAA Division I Softball Championship on Friday night with an opening-round game against No. 6 Washington at 9:30 p.m. (MT).
The four-team site, which also includes Michigan and Fresno State, is loaded with all-region selections.
Michigan, which is in the Great Lakes Region, had five first-team selections. Fresno State had one first-team selection in the Pacific Region, plus two players voted second team and two more to the third team.
Washington’s Casey Stangel was voted first team in the Pacific Region. The Huskies had four second-team selections, one on the third team.
Montana will play either Michigan or Fresno State on Saturday at a time to be determined in the double-elimination Seattle Regional.