09 Dec 2021 | 11:41 | Softball
AUSTIN, Texas—An All-American on the field and in the classroom. Those are the top honors that senior softball pitcher/utility player Paige Rauch (Windsor, N.Y.) has earned this year after she was named a third team selection to the 2021 Academic All-America® Division I Softball Team selected by CoSIDA and announced on Thursday afternoon. Academic All-America® recognition is one of the top accolades a collegiate student-athlete can earn and the 33 honorees on the Division I Softball Teams represent the most elite members of their sport nationwide for the combination of their academic and athletic performance.
Rauch is the first Villanova softball player since 2005 and the program’s 10th student-athlete overall to earn Academic All-America® honors. She was previously named to the District 2 Academic All-District Team by CoSIDA earlier this month and from there moved on to earn consideration on the national ballot for Academic All-America® recognition. Student-athletes are eligible for Academic All-District honors by having a minimum 3.30 cumulative grade point average and being a significant contributor to their teams.
Nominations are submitted by each institution and are voted on by sports information directors from around the country.
Rauch is enrolled in a five-year BA/MA program majoring in Political Science at Villanova and has consistently earned recognition for her academic achievement. She has been named an NFCA Scholar-Athlete, is a three-time BIG EAST All-Academic Team member and has appeared on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for having a semester GPA of 3.2 or higher all six grading periods since she arrived on campus. Earlier this week Rauch was selected as the Wildcats female recipient of the BIG EAST Institutional Scholar-Athlete of the Year honor. The award comes with a $2,000 scholarship that can be applied to graduate or professional studies.
It has been a record-setting year for Rauch, who broke eight school records during the 2021 season and became the first athlete ever to sweep the BIG EAST Player of the Year and the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year awards in the same season. She was the Most Outstanding Player at the BIG EAST Championship where the Wildcats won their first-ever conference title and secured the first NCAA Championship appearance in program history.
The consistency of Rauch’s performance in 2021 was as impressive as her overall dominance. She earned BIG EAST weekly recognition in each of the last 10 weeks (out of 11) of the regular season, including being named the BIG EAST Pitcher of the Week on five occasions and to the league’s weekly Honor Roll another five times. Following the end of the regular season Rauch earned her second straight BIG EAST Player of the Year honor. She is the only person in program history to win this award, and Rauch also became the Wildcats fourth BIG EAST Pitcher of the Year. She was named a first team All-BIG EAST selection for the second time in her career and was a first tea All-Mideast Region selection from the NFCA.
Rauch started all 52 games Villanova played this year, including 29 on the mound and 23 others at either first base, right field, left field or designated player. As a batter she slashed .417/.546/.709 in 205 plate appearances and reached base safely at least once in 48 of 52 games played. Rauch led the BIG EAST in on-base percentage, hits (63), total bases (107) and walks (45). Her walk total is a new single-season Wildcats record and include a nearly inconceivable 21 walks compared to just three strikeouts in 17 regular season conference games. Rauch also broke the all-time Villanova career home run record and now has 39 home runs in 132 games in a Wildcats uniform, as well as a collegiate total of 55 homers including her freshman season at Fordham. The left-handed hitting slugger is also the Villanova career leader in batting average (.427), on-base percentage (.540), slugging percentage (.851), OPS (1.391) and walks (96).
On the mound, Rauch had one of the greatest pitching seasons by a Villanova pitcher in recent memory. She set a single-season Wildcats record with nine shutouts and recorded the ninth 20-win season in school history while making 32 appearances on the mound, including 29 starts and 19 complete games. Rauch went 20-3 with one save and a 1.97 ERA over 174 2/3 innings pitched. She held opposing batters to a .222 average against her and had 189 strikeouts while allowing just 146 hits and issuing 38 walks. She led the BIG EAST in shutouts, strikeouts and ERA while finishing the season undefeated against conference teams. In her 10 regular season starts in conference play Rauch was 8-0 with a 1.27 ERA and a 0.833 WHIP; in five more appearances during the BIG EAST Championship she pitched 28 of a possible 35 innings and was 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA during the conference tournament.
Since the Academic All-America® program began in 1972-73, Villanova has had 56 student-athletes be recognized a total of 73 times with Academic All-America® honors. The most recent softball player to achieve this distinction was Kristen Haynes in 2005. Former Wildcats softball standout Sara Carlson, the only NFCA All-American in program history prior to Rauch, was the overall Academic All-American of the Year in 2001.