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As part of our look at the 2011 season, Graham Hays honors the nation's best players. For ESPN's first-team All-America selections, click here.
C: Stacie Chambers, Arizona
Just how special a power-hitting career is coming to a close this season can't be overstated. Chambers has 67 career home runs, fourth all time at Arizona and within 18 home runs of first place, and yet she's walked (126) almost as often as she's struck out (128) while swinging for the fences.
1B: Meredith Hackett, Illinois
Hackett gained experience starting 45 games as a freshman in 2009. She put it to good use as a sophomore, leading the Big Ten with a .418 batting average and cracking the .800/.500 club in slugging percentage and on-base percentage (only 15 players managed that feat last season).
2B: Aja Paculba, Florida
She's the best second baseman in the SEC, and being the best anything in either the SEC or Pac-10 means you're almost automatically in the running for All-America honors. Paculba is the total package, combining good power for a middle infielder (.574 slugging percentage last season) with outstanding patience as either a leadoff hitter or No. 2 hitter (41 walks and a .447 on-base percentage) and a glove impressive enough to have been rewarded with all-SEC, all-defensive honors in each of the past two seasons.
SS: Jenn Salling, Washington
Salling was a much more valuable player than the numbers suggested after getting a late start on the 2009 season following a transfer, and she was every bit as good as her gaudy numbers suggested last season. She gets on base, hits for gap power, runs well -- and intelligently -- and plays shortstop with the poise of an Olympic veteran, which, of course, she is.
3B: Jessica Mouse, LSU
Mouse is an effective bottom-of-the-order hitter who gets the most out of her abilities at the plate -- she posted a .405 on-base percentage and led the Tigers in sacrifices. But she makes it here because it's difficult to find a better defensive player in the country. Add the runs she saves to the runs she helps produce and she's right there with any of the sluggers at the hot corner.
OF: Kayla Braud, Alabama
She had a handful games without a hit last season, something that didn't happen during her memorable 103-game hitting streak as a high schooler in Oregon, but that's about the worst you can say of Braud's phenomenal freshman campaign at the plate. She was one of just four Division I players to hit .500 for the season, and with Jen Yee, Megan Langenfeld and Chelsea Bramlett no longer around, she's the only one of the quartet who returns this season. She controls the bat the way you pray your dentist controls the drill when she lays down a bunt, but her 16 extra-base hits suggest there's also Caitlin Lowe-like power waiting to complement the short game.
OF: Megan Wiggins, Georgia
There may not be any more comfortable lineup spot than between Taylor Schlopy and Alisa Goler, but make no mistake, Wiggins also made life easier for those two stars. An outstanding glove in left, she tacked on a .739 slugging percentage, .465 on-base percentage and 19 steals.
OF: Rhea Taylor, Missouri
Despite Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine's best efforts to turn his teams statistics into state secrets, it doesn't take Wikileaks to reveal what he's apparently too scared to share: Taylor is really good. Always a factor because of her speed, the senior is now a more complete hitter with power to boot.
UT: Brittany Schutte, Florida
Even in a disappointing World Series for the Gators as a group, Schutte showed she's the next star in Gainesville. On the season, she led a loaded lineup in on-base percentage and slugging percentage while splitting time between first base, catcher, outfield and designated player.
SP: Sara Plourde, Massachusetts
Yes, the best pitching matchup of the season might come not in Tucson or Tuscaloosa or Norman but in Amherst, Mass., when Fordham visits Massachusetts at the end of April. Plourde battled a hip injury at the end of last season and over the summer, but 556 strikeouts in 311.1 innings says all you need to know about her potential when healthy.
SP: Keilani Ricketts, Oklahoma
Danielle Lawrie made it clear she wasn't ready to pass the torch during last season's super regional against Oklahoma, lifting the Huskies almost on strength of will alone. But the way Ricketts went toe-to-toe with the two-time player of the year put the punctuation mark on a standout freshman season for the Sooners' first true power ace in a long time.
SP: Blaire Luna, Texas
Luna's freshman season didn't end the way she or the Longhorns hoped, exiting the NCAA tournament at home in regional play to cap off a 2-5 finish for the team. But it's difficult to believe teams suddenly solved someone who still finished with 404 strikeouts and 1.39 ERA. With another year under her belt and more pitching help along for the ride, her star is on the rise.
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