UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia was named the collegiate softball's freshman of the year Tuesday by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association/Schutt Sports, beating out finalists Kendyl Lindaman of Minnesota and Maggie Balint of Oregon.

The award was announced Tuesday at a banquet in Oklahoma City, site of the Women's College World Series.

Balint, a right-hander from West Grove, Pa., delivered a UO-leading 21 wins against three losses this season while helping UO qualify for its fourth Women's College World Series berth in the past six seasons.

As part of a three-pitcher rotation alongside classmate Miranda Elish and sophomore Megan Kleist, Balint has thrown 125 innings while striking out 151 with 36 walks. She ranks 14th in the country with a 1.23 ERA and 19th with 4.4 hits allowed per seven innings. She also strikes out 8.5 batters per seven innings, which ranks 22nd.

The third-seeded Ducks begin the WCWS Thursday at 4 p.m. PT against sixth-seeded Washington.

Garcia was the Pac-12 freshman of the year and finished 22-7 with a 1.92 ERA. She pitched five shutouts by herself -- including a May 19 no-hitter -- and has struck out 196 in 182 2/3 innings. Garcia won both of UCLA's games in last weekend's super regional victory against Mississippi, and she's an offensive threat, too, batting .327 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs.


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