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Eye on POY: Minnesota softball

The window on the Gatorade State Softball Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program’s selection process.

Hannah Evavold

Junior right-handed pitcher/first baseman, Jefferson (Bloomington, Minn.)

2012 Team record: 21-2 (Class AAA)

2012 Team standing: Class AAA state tournament begins June 7

2012 Batting average: .229

2012 RBI: 11

2012 Runs: 7

2012 W-L record: 11-0

2012 ERA: 0.85

2012 Strikeouts: 102

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: University of Minnesota (verbal)

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Struck out 1.2 batters per inning, owned a 5.1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and produced a 0.81 WHIP through her first 19 games. Produced a .417 slugging percentage and .339 on-base percentage. Two-time All-Section selection. Three-time All-Conference selection.

Nicola Tade

Senior right-handed pitcher, Park Center (Minneapolis, Minn.)

2012 Team record: 16-4 (Class AAA)

2012 Team standing: Lost Class AAA sectional quarterfinal to Champlin Park (Champlin, Minn.), 3-1

2012 Batting average: .386

2012 RBI: 23

2012 Runs: 3

2012 W-L record: 15-3

2012 ERA: 0.51

2012 Strikeouts: 169

Academics: A average

Collegiate destination: University of Iowa

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Allowed just nine earned runs in 123.2 innings pitched. Produced an .849 OPS. 2011 Class AA All-State selection as named by the Minnesota Fastpitch Coaches Association. 2010 and 2011 Class AA state champion. 2010 and 2011 Class AA All-Tournament Team selection.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Softball Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011-12 campaign.

Nikki Anderson: Senior pitcher, Brainerd (Minn.)

Taylor LeMay: Senior catcher, East Ridge (Woodbury, Minn.)

Carley Pickett: Senior P/CF/1B, North (St. Paul, Minn.)

Cayli Sadler: Senior pitcher/shortstop, Maple Grove (Minn.)

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com.