Four Eagles land All-OVC honors, Newman named OVC Pitcher of the Year


PEORIA, Ill. – The Ohio Valley Conference announced during its softball postseason awards banquet Tuesday that four University of Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles earned postseason honors for the 2024 season.

Senior first baseman Lexi Fair (Greenwood, Indiana) and junior pitcher Josie Newman (Indianapolis, Indiana) garnered All-OVC First-Team honors. Newman was also named Pitcher of the Year in the Ohio Valley Conference. Senior catcher Sammie Kihega (Greenfield, Indiana) and sophomore outfielder Caroline Stapleton (Shirley, Indiana) received All-OVC Second-Team laurels.

For Newman, the junior earns First-Team All-OVC honors for the second consecutive season and is the first-ever OVC Pitcher of the Year in USI Softball history. In the regular season, Newman led the pitching staff with a 19-8 record, 1.68 ERA, 210 strikeouts, 195.2 innings pitched, and 27 complete games in 28 starts. The right-hander tossed four shutouts and held the opposition to a .198 batting average. Newman finished top three in the OVC in ERA and wins while ranking first in starts, complete games, innings pitched, strikeouts, and opposing batting average. Newman’s strikeout and innings totals would also rank top 10 in the nation. In conference play, Newman went 14-4 with a 1.33 ERA and 141 strikeouts. Plus, the pitcher went the distance in all 18 OVC starts.

During the season, Newman had three one-hit complete-game outings and recorded 11 starts with 10 or more strikeouts.  Newman was named to the OVC’s Preseason Players to Watch List before the season and was voted OVC Pitcher of the Week twice during the Spring. The USI hurler was stellar on March 23 at Lindenwood University with 11 strikeouts in nine innings and on April 5-6 at the University of Tennessee at Martin with 31 combined strikeouts (17 and 14) in two starts. Additionally, Newman fanned 13 batters in 15.2 innings pitched on April 20 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

This season, Newman moved to third in USI history with 540 career strikeouts. The Indianapolis, Indiana native also moved up the USI Softball ranks in innings, complete games, shutouts, and wins.

Fair picked up her first career All-OVC selection on the first team. The senior paced the Screaming Eagles with a .344 batting average, .953 OPS, 42 hits, 12 doubles, and a .445 on-base percentage. Additionally, Fair was the team’s frontrunner with 12 multi-hit games. The first baseman was second on the team with a pair of home runs and 25 RBIs. Fair was one of four players to start all 42 games. Fair ranked top 10 in the OVC in doubles and on-base percentage while first in the league with 12 hit-by-pitches. In OVC-only action, Fair topped USI in batting average (.397), OPS (1.072), hits (31), and on-base percentage (.495). The Greenwood, Indiana native notched 20 of 25 RBIs in OVC contests.

On March 17 against Morehead State University, the senior went 2-2 with five RBIs and two runs. Then on May 5 in the regular season finale at Western Illinois University, Fair had two hits and four RBIs. One of Fair’s two hits against the Leathernecks was a home run.

Through the regular season, Fair is tied for fifth in USI history with 21 career home runs and is approaching the all-time mark for career doubles with 44 entering the OVC Tournament. Fair already claims the program record in hit-by-pitches and is in the top 10 with 117 career RBIs.

Kihega joined her senior teammate with her first OVC all-conference selection. The USI backstop was named to the All-OVC Second Team. Kihega was second on the team with a .316 batting average and a .951 OPS while leading the Screaming Eagles with five home runs and 29 RBIs. Kihega had a team-best .538 slugging percentage and walked a team-high 18 times. The catcher topped the Screaming Eagles with five multi-RBI performances while collecting seven multi-hit games throughout the regular season. The Greenfield, Indiana native also started all 42 games this season. Kihega ranked among the top of the OVC in overall doubles and home runs while finishing top 10 in seven categories in OVC-only action. During the conference slate, Kihega batted .333 with a 1.059 OPS and posted 21 RBIs with four home runs.

Kihega had a strong final month of the regular season in conference play. The senior had a grand slam with four RBIs on April 6 at UT Martin and then belted another grand slam and totaled a USI season-high six RBIs on April 28 against Tennessee State University. Kihega went 3-3 against the Tigers. On May 4 against Western Illinois, Kihega had two hits, including a home run for the second consecutive game, and two RBIs.

As one of USI’s on-base leaders, Kihega has 98 career walks, one away from tying the program record.

Stapleton received her first career all-conference honor on the All-OVC Second Team. The sophomore was third on the team with a .309 batting average and paced the squad with 24 runs. Stapleton’s 17 runs in conference play ranked in the top 10 in the OVC. Making 38 starts on the season, Stapleton tallied four extra-base hits, five RBIs, and five stolen bases. Stapleton walked 12 times and reached base at a .375 clip. Defensively, the outfielder had a pair of assists and posted a .983 fielding percentage.

Stapleton was second on USI with 10 multi-hit games and had four games with two or more runs scored. The left-handed bat notched three hits in games against Jacksonville State University on February 25, March 17 against Morehead State, April 6 against UT Martin, and April 28 against Tennessee State. Stapleton also had a season-high three runs against the Tigers.

USI Softball begins tournament play Wednesday at the 2024 OVC Softball Championship. The Screaming Eagles are the No. 4 seed after going 22-20 overall and 16-11 in the conference season. USI gets a first-round bye and will play Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., awaiting the winner of the 5/8 matchup between UT Martin and SIUE early Wednesday.

Championship tournament coverage from Peoria, Illinois can be seen with a subscription to ESPN+.  USI Softball radio coverage can be heard on The Spin 95.7 FM. Additional coverage links are on the USI Softball schedule page on