GNAC Player of the Year Emily Benson surrounded by All-GNAC selections Paityn Cyr, Makinlee Sellevold, Cylie Richards and Shearyna Labasan. PHOTO: WWU Athletics
WWU's Emily Benson Named GNAC Player of the Year
May 1, 2019
BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Western Washington University senior first baseman Emily Benson was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year, highlighting the Vikings five selections to the 2019 Softball All-Conference Team.
Benson (West Richland, WA/Kamiakin) became the third player in program history to earn the GNAC Player of the Year honor, joining Liza Teichler (2007) and Alexie Levin (2014). Benson was also a First Team All-GNAC selection for the third time in her career (2016-17), becoming the fourth Viking to earn at least three first-team All-GNAC awards in a career.
Senior pitcher/third baseman Makinlee Sellevold (Everett, WA/Cascade) was also a first-team selection to the all-conference team, with senior shortstop Cylie Richards (Kennewick, WA/Kamiakin) and senior pitcher/third baseman Shearyna Labasan (Mililani, HI/Maryknoll) earning second-team honors. Junior designated playerPaityn Cyr (Mount Vernon, WA) was an honorable mention All-GNAC selection.
“Our seniors are four of the best players and four of the best people to ever come through this program and to see all four of them receive honors makes me so happy for them,” said WWU head coach Sheryl Gilmore. “I couldn’t be prouder of this class and everything they have accomplished together.”
WWU’s Selections to the 2019 GNAC Softball All-Conference Team:
Emily Benson, 1B – Player of the Year and First Team All-GNAC (unanimous)
Makinlee Sellevold, P/3B – First Team All-GNAC (unanimous)
Shearyna Labasan, Utility – Second Team All-GNAC
Cylie Richards, SS – Second Team All-GNAC
Paityn Cyr, DP – Honorable Mention
The Vikings finished the 2019 season with a 27-18 record, tying for the 10th-most wins in the 27-year history of the program. First-year head coach Sheryl Gilmore led the Vikings to a 16-12 record in GNAC play, tying for 4thplace in the conference standings.
BENSON EARNED GNAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD
First baseman Emily Benson was named the GNAC Player of the Year, putting together a record-breaking senior season. Benson set WWU single-season records for batting average (.448/56-for-125), on-base percentage (.567), slugging percentage (.896), OPS (1.463) and home runs (14).
Benson recorded at least one hit in 30 of 45 games, including a team-best 18 multi-hit and 12 multi-RBI games. She was a three-time GNAC Player of the Week, the 2019 Tournament of Champions MVP, a NFCA National Player of the Week and one of 25 finalists for the NFCA Division II Player of the Year.
“Nobody deserves it more than Emily. She has worked so hard to get to this point and to see her end her career with the best season she’s ever had makes my heart so full,” said Gilmore. “I have never seen anyone work as hard as she has at mastering her craft day in and day out. She is a true student of the game and she does everything the right way. Beyond her stats, Emily always wanted the best for her teammates and celebrated everyone else’s success above her own.”
In four seasons at WWU (2015-17, 2019), Benson leaves the program as the all-time leader in several offensive categories, including batting average (.377), slugging (.692), on-base (.477), OPS (1.169), hits (208), extra-base hits (82), total bases (382), walks (104) and RBI (156), while playing in the second-most games (188). Her 45 career home runs tie the all-time GNAC record and ranks in the top-10 in conference history in career slugging percentage, on-base percentage, RBI, walks and total bases.
SELLEVOLD CAPS AMAZING WWU CAREER
Pitcher/third baseman Makinlee Sellevold was a unanimous selection as First Team All-GNAC, adding to her first-team award as a freshman in 2015 and second-team honor as a junior in 2017. Sellevold went 16-12 with a 2.70 ERA (68 ER, 176.1 IP) in the circle in 2019, making 31 pitching appearances and 28 starts. The 31 appearances tied for 4th-most in a season in WWU history, with 28 starts the 3rd-most and 176.1 innings pitched the 4th-most.
Sellevold tied for the GNAC lead with 16 wins, led all conference pitchers with 148 strikeouts and ranked 5th in ERA.
“Makinlee really put the team on her back early in the season and just didn’t stop,” said Gilmore. “To come back after a year away and just absolutely dominate in the circle the way she did was unbelievable. She was even better in big moments and instilled a sense of belief in her teammates during times of adversity. She is one of the best all-around athletes I have ever seen and an even better leader.”
At the plate, Sellevold batted .311 (42-for-135) with 26 runs scored, 7 doubles, one triple, 3 home runs and 24 RBI.
In her four-season WWU career (2015-17, 2019), Sellevold set program records in wins (57), appearances (112), pitching starts (94) and innings pitched (609.1), ranked 4th with 378 strikeouts, tied for 2nd with 58 complete games and tied for 10th with 7 shutouts. At the plate she was a career .331 hitter (180-for-543) with 63 extra-base hits.
LABASAN AMONG BEST TWO-WAY PLAYERS IN PROGRAM HISTORY
Pitcher/third baseman Shearyna Labasan capped her four-year career as a second-team All-GNAC selection, the third time to be selected to the all-conference team. Labasan was a first-team pick in 2018 and a second-team honoree as a sophomore in 2017.
In 29 games in 2019, Labasan battled back from early-season knee injury to record a 9-6, 2.65 ERA pitching record and batted .267 (27-for-101) with 5 doubles and 10 RBI. She recorded a complete game in 11 of 14 starts and tossed three shutouts to tie for 3rd in the GNAC.
“Shearyna pitched a complete game shutout three and a half weeks after knee surgery. If that doesn’t tell you about the kind of player and person Shearyna is, then I don’t know what will,” said Gilmore. “She is so tough and went to battle for her team every single day. Shearyna is the most consistent and reliable person and player I have ever met and it was an honor to watch her lead this team as one of our captains.”
In four seasons at WWU, Labasan appeared in 154 games (146 starts). She was 37-39 in the circle with a 3.48 ERA and hit .348 (150-for-431) with 26 doubles, 5 home runs, 60 walks and 26 stolen bases. She ends her collegiate career ranked 4th in program history with a .429 on-base percentage and 5th with a .348 batting average.
RICHARDS ENDS CAREER WITH STRONG SENIOR SEASON
Shortstop Cylie Richards was selected second-team All-GNAC during her redshirt senior season in 2019. A year after enduring a season-ending knee injury, Richards came back stronger than ever in 2019 batting .299 (35-for-117) with 7 doubles, 5 home runs and 30 RBI in 42 games (all starts).
Among GNAC statistical leaders, Richards tied for 14th in RBI (2nd amongst middle infielders) and 17th with a .487 slugging percentage. She was one of WWU’s top clutch hitters, listed 13th in the conference batting .381 (16-for-42) with runners in scoring position and tied for 7th with 14 2-out RBI.
“Cylie not only held us down at shortstop, but her clutch at-bats helped us win games,” said Gilmore. “There was no moment too big for her and as a coach, that is so fun to watch. I’ve never seen a player compete the way she does while working to make everyone around her better. She’s a gamer and we are going to miss her.”
In her four seasons at Western (2015-17, 2019), Richards appeared in 124 games (96 starts) with a career batting average of .276 (54-for-196). She hit 9 career home runs, all over her final two seasons, tied for 13th-most in program history.
CYR SLUGS WAY TO CONFERENCE HONOR
Designated player Paityn Cyr earned honorable mention All-GNAC honors, putting up solid offensive numbers in her junior season. Cyr batted .370 (50-for-135) with 17 extra-base hits, including 11 doubles and 6 home runs.
The junior left-handed hitter ranked amongst the top-10 in the conference in batting average (10th), slugging percentage (8th, .585) and on-base percentage (9th, .435). Cyr was also 10th with 50 hits, 11th with 32 RBI, tied for 8th with 11 doubles and tied for 12th with 6 home runs.
Cyr recorded at least one hit in 36 of 44 games, including 13 multi-hit games and a team-best 15-game hitting streak early in the season. She hit a pair of grand slams to tie WWU’s single-season and tied for 3rd in the GNAC with a team-best 19 2-out RBI.
“It was great to see Paityn not only own her new role as the DP this season, but thrive in it,” said Gilmore. “P did a great job changing her approach a little bit this season and mastered the art of making small in-game adjustments to be successful. She works hard on her swing both inside and outside of practice, and it has been so fun to see it pay off for her.”
In three seasons at WWU, the Mount Vernon product has appeared in 136 games (133 starts) and will enter her senior season ranked 6th in program history with 17 home runs and 10th with 81 RBI.
2019 GNAC SOFTBALL ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
Here is a complete look at the 2019 GNAC Softball All-Conference Team, as voted on by the eight conference head coaches:
-- WWU Softball --