TWU Softball Headed for NCAA South Central Regionals
DENTON, Texas – There was the case for the old sociological terms instant and deferred gratifications for Lone Star Conference and Texas Woman’s softball last weekend at the LSC Championship.
Host TWU received kudos all-around for three days of action-packed softball and a surprise No. 7 seed champion Incarnate Word, which captured its first LSC postseason tourney with a three-game sweep through the double-elimination sortie. The Cardinals even outscored heavily-favored and top seed Angelo State (44-9 overall and hosting the NCAA Division II South Central Regional Friday-Sunday) 6-4 while holding off a seventh-inning uprising by the Rambelles.
And while UIW (29-23 overall) was getting instant gratification with the title and automatic NCAA bid, TWU, ASU and Abilene Christian received much-desired DII at-large selections on the deferred end of things.
Pioneers (36-15 overall) head coach Richie Bruister had a couple of sleepless nights in anticipation of last Monday’s NCAA tourney selection show.
“What made it worse was there were technical difficulties what interrupted the selection show,” he said with a sigh of relief. “We were 30 minutes into the scheduled program and still didn‘t know if we received an at-large bid.”
Shortly afterward, good news arrived in the form of a No. 3 seed in one of the toughest regions. TWU will open South Central Region play Friday at 4:30 p.m. (CDT) against Missouri Western (42-11) in the San Angelo first rounds.
“It was a relief,” Bruister noted, “because we knew we had some good numbers for one of the top eight places in the Region. We beat the eventual LSC champion Incarnate Word three of the four times we played them this year, and most of the top-seeded teams won the Great American Conference, Heartland and MIAA tournaments. The one sticking point was that the MIAA did not have a team in the South Central Regional top eight prior to the conference tournaments, and everyone was trying to avoid being the No. 8 team in the final rankings.
While TWU fell to the eventual tourney champion and No. 7 seed UIW 5-1 in a bout last Friday, history occurred again for national steals’ leader Bailey Vrazel of Danbury. Vrazel broke her own 2011 school and LSC marks with her 75th stolen base in 77 attempts (she is now 149-of-153 in just two seasons and on track to break every DII steals’ mark). More importantly, she was tabbed 2012 Lone Star Conference Softball Student-Athlete of the Year with a .420-plus batting average throughout this spring, four triples, 68 hits, and a school-record 60 runs). Junior 3B Jordan Readicker also hopes to add to her school-record 14 home runs as the standout from Grapevine joins freshman 1B Kendra Sancet of Magnolia with 10 homers and a team-high 60 RBI on one of Bruister’s top hitting teams.
Righthanders Katie Hines (18-5, 76 strikeouts) of Beaumont and junior Larisa Garcia (12-7, 2.77 ERA, 130 strikeeouts) of New Braunfels via Northwood U. have been pillars in the circle and give the Pioneers a solid 1-2 pitching punch against host Angelo State, MWU and No. 4 seed St. Edward’s in the regionals.
TWU opened the week not only by celebrating its fourth all-time NCAA softball berth – and second in three seasons under Bruister along with 2002, ’04 and ’10 – but also with a boatload of other conference and school kudos. The Pioneers’ head coach also takes a composite coaching record of 294-174 over nine seasons (163-93 from 2004-08 and 131-81 in four seasons at TWU) to San Angelo and has garnered Gulf South Conference Coach of the Year honors as well as several regional kudos.
Among some of the other key prizes were the following:
TWU Athletics honored the two softball seniors – OF Addison Staley (winner of the inaugural LSC Golden Glove Award for outfield defense as well) and catcher Tiffany Weise (who also was co-recipient of the coveted Kitty Magee Award for dedication to TWU athletics). Junior 3B Readicker was recognized for her leadership as 2011-12 president of the TWU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee while nominations for the TWU President’s Award will be made during the summer after all seasons are completed. The Outstanding Student Athletic Trainer Award was given to sophomore Lorretta Craft.
The 2012 Diane Baker Intensity Award went to Vrazel as the softball squad joined director of athletics Chalese Connors in saluting Pioneer Athletics Champion Award to DATCU and D&D Sports Med for their longstanding relationship and support of TWU Athletics. The diamondwomen also garnered over a dozen first, second and third team All-LSC on-field awards as well as numerous All-LSC Academic laurels.
“We chose the entire team as the Most Valuable Players for 2012,” Bruister, who holds two degrees from Mississippi State and was an assistant with Bulldogs’ softball, explained. “We are going to have another composite 3.0 team grade point average (4.0 scale) or better this spring, and this was oen of the hardest-working groups of players we have had at TWU. They really made a difference on and off the field.”
The successful head coach is looking for that same work ethic to spell success in the South Central Regional this weekend as the team has something more to prove to in the 2012 postseason.