The UT Tyler Patriots are like a locomotive heading into the College Softball World Series.
The Patriots, winners of 36 consecutive games, are steaming toward the NCAA Division II CWS for the second straight year.
Instead of boarding at Pennsylvania Station in New York for the journey to Chattanooga, UT Tyler flew from the Rose City to Scenic City in Tennessee.
The Patriots hope they are on track for a national title.
The Coach Mike Reed-led team is eyeing a national championship to go with their 2016 NCAA D-III crown. The Patriots are making their ninth NCAA World Series appearance as a program after reaching the final eight of the national tournament on seven different occasions during the Division III era and each of the first two seasons of Division II eligibility.
UT Tyler, the No. 1 seed, opens play in the double-elimination tournament on Thursday on the banks of the Tennessee River.
The Patriots (59-4) will tangle with No. 8 seed California State San Marcos (32-19) at 10 a.m. (CT) inside Frost Stadium at Warner Park.
UT Tyler advanced to the CWS after sweeping West Texas A&M in a super regional last weekend at Irwin Ballpark. The Patriots won 6-5 and 6-2.
The Cougars are making their first CWS appearance. Cal State San Marcos won its super regional over Concordia-Irvine (9-0, 4-3).
The Patriots are led by two All-America players in junior Tatum Goff and sophomore JT Smith. They were named to the 2023 D2CCA All-American second team list, it was announced Wednesday.
Pitcher Goff and leadoff hitter Smith are cornerstone pieces of the Patriots winning a third straight Lone Star Conference regular season championship, an LSC Tournament Championship and a second-straight South Central Regional Championship.
Goff, a Rusk native, is 39-0 in the circle, a season record for wins in a season in the program, and leads the Lone Star Conference with a 1.39 ERA in her 43 appearances.
Smith leads the Patriots in both homers (12) and stolen bases (43). The Decatur native ranks second in all of Division II softball with a .588 on-base percentage in 2023 and has established the most runs (82) and stolen bases (43) in a single season in the history of UT Tyler softball. She is hitting .388 with 11 doubles, 12 homers and 34 RBIs, while also earning a nod to the 2023 LSC Golden Glove team for her efforts in centerfield for the Patriots. Her 82 runs and 51 walks both lead the Lone Star Conference.
The winner of the Patriots vs. Cougars advances to the 11 a.m. game on Friday to meet the winner of No. 4 Wilmington (Delaware) and No. 5 Grand Valley State (Michigan). The losers of the games will play at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The Delaware and Michigan teams play at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Other first round games have No. 2 Central Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Nova Southeastern (Florida) at 3 p.m. and No. 3 North Georgia vs. No. 6 East Stroudsburg (Pennsylvania) at 5:30 p.m.
The winner of the two brackets will face off in a best-of-three series for the national championship, beginning on May 30.