By Chad Waller, NAIA Director of Communications & Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Shorter's (Ga.) Al Thomas has been honored as the 2012 NAIA Softball Coach of the Year, the national office announced Friday. Thomas guided the Lady Hawks to their first-ever national championship in school history on May 23 with a 1-0, 9-inning victory over Oklahoma City.
"It was an unbelievable accomplishment for Shorter - our players, coaches, athletic department and administration," said Thomas. "I am grateful to God for the opportunity to coach our young women. I am so thankful for the current and past players, the coaches and administration around me that have helped build the foundation so that we could enjoy this success. We believe everyone associated with Shorter, past and present, along with the Rome community were a part of this and should all enjoy this championship."
Thomas led Shorter to a school-record win total of 53-11 and a second-place finish in the competitive Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) East Division standings. He mentored four athletes honored on the SSAC First Team, including SSAC Player of the Year Jackie Castaneda and SSAC Co-Freshman of the Year Maddie Bray. The Lady Hawks enjoyed a top-15 ranking all season long, capped with their first-ever No. 1 slot in the 2012 NAIA Softball Coaches' Postseason Top 25 on May 29.
"It is humbling to have the opportunity to coach our young ladies here at Shorter and I am blessed and honored that this team has allowed me to be their coach. This award belongs to the entire coaching staff, all of our players, the support staff and administration. Without their support and dedication, this honor would not have been possible."
Thomas earned the title of 2012 SSAC Coach of the Year in his seventh season of coaching. Since his arrival in 2006 as associate head coach, the Lady Hawks have averaged over 44 wins per season. In the two years prior to that, Shorter won 15 combined games. Since Thomas took over the reins as head coach in 2011, Shorter is 99-26 (.792). The 1983 Shorter graduate has now led the Lady Hawks to six-straight national championships and an 18-11 tournament record.
Since the award was handed out in 1981, Thomas becomes the first Shorter softball coach to win it.
Note: picture courtesy of Shorter Athletics