LOUISVILLE, Ky. -Propelled by a career year at the plate, University of Lynchburg senior first baseman Mackenzie Chitwood has claimed the top individual honor in NCAA Division III softball.

Chitwood, a former three-time All-State prep performer at Franklin County, has been selected National Player of the Year by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).

Chitwood is the first Lynchburg player to win the award, which was first presented in 2016, and it marks the third year in a row that a player from the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) is the recipient; in 2017 and 2018, standout Virginia Wesleyan University lefthander Hannah Hull won the award.

Chitwood is the first position player to win the award.

This year, for the first time, a Divison III Player of the Year and a Division III Pitcher of the Year were selected by the NFCA.

Chitwood, who earned first-team All-America laurels from the NFCA, had the most productive offensive season in ODAC softball history. She belted a school and ODAC-record 21 home runs and drove in a program and conference standard 72 RBIs.

Both her home run and RBI totals ranked first nationally as did her 140 total bases.

Chitwood, who batted .382 this season, broke the ODAC’s career home runs record, and was a three-time conference Player of the Week, the Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Virginia Beach Regional and a member of the ODAC All-Tournament team.

Chitwood, a two-time All-Atlantic Region performer (2016, 2019), led Lynchburg in hits this season with 63. Besides her 21 home runs, she collected 12 doubles and a triple. She produced an .848 slugging percentage and a .448 on-base percentage.

For her career. Chitwood hit 44 home runs and batted .342 with 37 doubles, two triples, 87 walks and 158 RBIs.

Lynchburg finished the season with a 37-15 record — the second-best in program history.

The Hornets fell to national runner-up Emory (Georgia) University, 2-1, in a best of three games Super Regional series on their home diamond to end their season and Chitwood’s college career.

Lynchburg won the first game of the set before dropping games two and three.

In 12 postseason games, Chitwood’s slugging percentage was 1.000 and her on-base percentage was .511. Four of those games were in the ODAC tournament, five were in the Virginia Beach Regional and three were in the Super Regionals.

Chitwood smacked seven postseason home runs and drove in 19 runs.

Four of Chitwood’s home runs came in the Virginia Beach Regional. She belted her first in the 12th inning of Lynchburg’s 6-5 win over Manhattanville and she clubbed three in a pair of wins over 2017 and 2018 Division III national champion Virginia Wesleyan on the final day of the tournament.

Lynchburg and Virginia Wesleyan were two of four ODAC teams that qualified for regional tournament play. The others were Randolph-Macon College and Emory & Henry College.

Randolph-Macon won a regional championship and bested Christopher Newport University, 2-1, in a best-of-three-games Super Regional to earn a berth in the Division III Softball World Series in Tyler, Texas.

Randolph-Macon was eliminated from the eight-team, double-elimination tournament in two games; the Yellow Jackets lost to Illinois Wesleyan and Emory.

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