NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Belmont University Softball alumna Hayley Baker (Rockwall, Texas) has been announced as one of the institutional nominees for the prestigious NCAA Woman of the Year award, as announced by the national office on Wednesday.
A complete list of school nominees can be found here. Baker is Belmont University's fifth nominee, following the footsteps of Sally McCabe (basketball) one year ago, Hannah Wittman (cross country and track & field) in 2017, Alison Alcott (soccer) in 2015 and Brittany Thune (cross country and track & field) in 2010. Thune, Alcott, and McCabe were conference nominees and Alcott advanced to the Top-30 for the prestigious award.
Most recently, after her graduation in May, Baker was named to the 2018-19 Google Cloud Academic All-America® Division I Softball Team by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), becoming the first Belmont Softball player in program history to garner the honor twice in her career.
Baker was also named the 2019 Belmont University Presidential Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
"Exceptional. A word that describes who Hayley is as an athlete, student, player, teammate, community member, and person," said interim head coach Ashley Thomas. "It is impressive and commendable the standard she was able to achieve not only on the softball field, but simultaneously as a student.
"To earn a 3.97 overall GPA in a competitive pre-med field while consistently being a leader and having success on the softball field is, as I said before, exceptional. Her commitment to her teammates, the program, and the university is something that never wavered."
The outfielder finished her final season as a Bruin ranked nationally in several statistical categories including 71st in doubles per game, 86th in run batted in per game, and 114th in sacrifice flies. Baker started and played in all every contest during her senior campaign, batting .345 with 16 doubles, six homeruns and 49 RBI.
The native of Rockwall, Texas also earned the 2019 Belmont University College of Science & Mathematics' Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Outstanding Student award as well as the Team Academic Award, presented at the annual athletic department's Bruins Choice Awards ceremony. Baker was also inducted into Alpha Chi, an honor society for the top ten percent of upperclassmen and graduate students who have displayed high academic performance and character.
Equally passionate about excelling in the community, Baker fed the homeless through the Bridge Ministry, the Nashville Rescue Mission and the Nashville Food Project, helped children transition in foster care at the Monroe Harding home in Nashville, volunteered with children at the Easley Community Center as well as served as the team's SAAC representative, spearheading numerous programs, plus served as a volunteer softball coach in Nashville and in her hometown. She was also a member of the softball team's mission trip to Juan Dolio, Dominican Republic, in December 2018 during which Belmont student-athletes mentored disadvantaged youth through softball clinics, prepared meal boxes for less fortunate families and served at a girls' orphanage.
A recipient of the 2018 Ohio Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete Award, Baker helped Belmont Softball to its first two postseason conference tournament appearances in program history (2017, 2019) as well as helped her 2017 and 2019 teams record 30+ victories, the most for the program since 1996.
One year ago, she was the recipient of the Ohio Valley Conference Medal of Honor. Baker began her career of academic distinction in her rookie season, earning the Easton / NFCA Division I Scholar-Athlete distinction in 2016 and earning 2016 OVC All-Newcomer Team distinction.
Baker, who earned OVC Commissioner's Honor Roll distinction each season as a Bruin, graduated from Belmont in May with a 3.97 grade point average and a dual degree in Biochemistry / Molecular Biology.
"We are very excited for Hayley and her achievements thus far, and I can say with confidence that this recognition is just the beginning of many more remarkable things Hayley will go on to do," Thomas said.
A record 585 female college athletes have been nominated by NCAA member schools for the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Next, conferences will select up to two nominees each from the pool of school nominees. Then, the Woman of the Year selection committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will choose the Top 30 honorees — 10 from each division.
The selection committee will determine the top three honorees in each division from the Top 30 and announce the nine finalists in September. From those nine finalists, the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics then will choose the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year.
The NCAA Woman of the Year program has recognized graduating female student-athletes for excellence in academics, athletics, community service and leadership since its inception in 1991.
The Top 30 honorees will be celebrated and the 2019 NCAA Woman of the Year will be named at the annual award ceremony Oct. 20 in Indianapolis.
You can learn more about the award and selection process online here.