Lone Star Conference Softball Championship Comes to TWU, Denton
After inheriting a squad, which was 18-42 in 2008 and 2-16 in the LSC, Bruister has a chance to direct the Pioneers to their second NCAA Division II regional appearance in three seasons (the 2010 NCAA participant finished 39-22 overall – TWU’s top mark since the 2004 squad closed 40-15 for the full season).
And he has accomplished 2012 goals for the 36-14 team (18-8 for second place in LSC standings and the No. 2 seed in the championship) with the perfect combination of speed, defense, power hitting, and pitching.
While his 2011 unit (30-25 overall) was just a weekend No. 2 starter away from NCAA qualification, this year’s crew has utilized the base stealing talents of soph SS Bailey Vrazel (74-of-76 on the basepaths in 55 games during 2011 and exactly at those numbers through 50 contests this year, also leads the team with a .428 batting average, four triples, 68 hits, and a school-record 60 runs) of Danbury near Houston and long-ball slugging of junior 3B Jordan Readicker (school-record 14 home runs) of Grapevine and freshman 1B Kendra Sancet of Magnolia with 10 homers and a team-high 60 RBI.
The needed pitching has come from the solid arms of soph Katie Hines (18-4, 3.25 ERA, 76 strikeouts) of Beaumont and junior Larisa Garcia (12-7, 2.90 ERA, 125 whiffs in 140 innings) of New Braunfels via Northwood U. The two righthanders will be called upon for some of their best starts of ’12 as the Pioneers open activity Friday at approximately 2 p.m. (CDT) against seventh-seeded Incarnate Word (26-23, 11-16). TWU swept IWU in three games April 13-14 at Pioneer Field.
Seniors catcher Tiffany Weise (.366, 7 HR, 46 RBI) of Village Mills, Texas, and OF Addison Staley (.365, 0 HR, 28 RBI, 44-of-45 in the stolen base column) of Newton also have been playing some of their best softball in recent days and have coach Bruister beaming.
“Our two seniors had tremendous games at our recent Senior Day,” noted the TWU mentor, “and we’re looking for good things from them in postseason. Honestly, if fans in the Metroplex want to see some of the top college softball played on any level, they will enjoy seeing this championship.
“We have made some improvements to our field,” he continued, “and it is a very nice venue to bring family and friends – especially to see which team will represent the Lone Star Conference automatically in the NCAA South Central Regionals. We really like having the home field advantage, and we think our speed and defense will put a lot of pressure on the opposing teams. Of course, there is plenty at stake in a one-and-done format, and our players realize this.”
Bruister had even more reason to smile after Vrazel was named 2012 LSC Softball Student-Athlete of Year, six TWU diamondwomen were tabbed first, second or third team All-LSC and several others notched Academic All-LSC Softball Team laurels.
Other opening round games Friday in the tourney will feature regular-season champ Angelo State (42-8, 23-4) facing No. 8 seed Cameron (17-31, 8-19) at 7 p.m., No. 3 seed West Texas A&M (34-17, 16-11) vs. fifth-seeded Abilene Christian (29-15, 15-11) at 4:30 p.m., and No. 4 Tarleton State (31-19, 16-11) vs. No. 6 Midwestern State (25-24, 15-12) in the lidlifter at 11:30 a.m. The top eight of 10 competing teams in the LSC comprise the championship field.
Saturday’s semifinals are slated for noon and 2:30 p.m. with the championship contest at 6 p.m.
Some of the other top individuals to watch are pitching aces (conference ERA leader) Caitlyn Crain (13-6, 2,30 ERA over 19 starts) of Abilene Christian via Saginaw, ACU teammate Peyton Mosley (11-7, 2.35 ERA, 17 starts) of Coppell, LSC wins leader Claire Molina (23-4, 2.63 ERA) of Angelo State via San Bernardino, Calif., and strikeout maven Briana Sanchez (179 Ks, 15-10 overall mark) of UIW via San Antonio. League-hitting hitters in the eight-team format besides Vrazel are Elsamartina Apo of Angelo State with a LSC-best .453 average, 7 HR, 41 RBI) of Ewa Beach, Hawai’i, and Courtney Bingham of Midwestern State at .431 with four homers and 26 RBI of Arlington.
Daily ticket prices will be $8 for adults and $5 for students. Children five and under will be admitted free. Ticket sales begin 90 minutes before the start of each contest, and LSC rules apply for all containers, pets, tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, and unattended children prohibitions.
All seven games will be webcasted online free and live. These have both video and audio with high-speed DSL or cable modem connection to the internet recommended via URLs lonestarconference.org and twu.edu/athletics. Saturday night’s title game will be aired live Foxsportssouthwest.com. Tourney souvenirs, apparel and programs will be on sale for all contests.
The top eight teams from NCAA South Central Regional standings will receive invitations Monday for a NCAA site to be determined. The NCAA DII Championships will be played May 16-19 at Knights Field in Louisville, Ky. Entering the LSC Championship in South Central ratings Angelo State is No. 1, Abilene Christian No. 5, TWU No. 6, West Texas A&M No. 8, and Tarleton State No. 9.
“Our players and fans are pumped about hosting the LSC for the first time,” Bruister summarized, “and we hope to keep some of that momentum from a 26-7 start and some good series down the stretch as we enter the Championship.”