The following is a question and answer with The University of Texas at Tyler’s junior softball player Heather Abshire.
She is the No. 1 pitcher for the 28-6 Patriots, who are ranked No. 8 in the NCAA Division III Poll. UT Tyler travels to Clarksville, Ark., for four games against Ozarks (DH today at 1 and 3 p.m.; DH Sunday at noon and 2 p.m.). The Patriots conclude the regular season with a home doubleheader on Monday against East Texas Baptist. Games are scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. at UT Tyler Ballpark. Last year, the Patriots gained their second World Series berth in three years and finished No. 3 in the nation. Abshire transferred to UT Tyler after leading LSU-Eunice to the NJCAA Division II national championship. She was All-Region XXIII and Louisville Slugger second-team All-America. Prior to college, she was first-team all state in Louisiana at Lafayette High School. Abshire has a 16-2 record in the circle for the Patriots with a 1.36 ERA, 15 complete games and a save. She has pitched 108 innings. She also hits, sporting a .404 batting average (second on the team) with seven doubles and 26 RBIs.
School: UT Tyler
Position: Pitcher, First Base
Height: 5 foot, 6 inches
Major: Athletic Training
Hometown: Lafayette, La.
Parents: Tanya and Milton Abshire
Siblings: Brother T.J., 24; Sister Katie, 16.
Distance from Lafayette to Tyler: 301 miles
Favorite Music: Country
Favorite Artists: Jason Aldean
Last Movie Seen: The Hunger Games
Last Book Read: Twilight Series
Favorite Athlete: Jennie Finch
Favorite Team: St. Louis Cardinals
Question: How long have you been playing softball?
I started playing T-ball when I was 4 or 5. I was in many activities — ballet, karate, volleyball, basketball. My parents encouraged us to stay active. I played volleyball and basketball in high school, but I loved softball and stuck with softball.
Q: What attracted you to UT Tyler?
The facilities — the gorgeous facilities. The field is great.
Q: Did winning the NJCAA Division I national championship prepare you for the next level?
It definitely helped. It helped me prepare (for NCAA Division III) in competing and wanting to go further and further.
Q: You were not on this Patriots team last year that made it to the World Series, but do you think this team can get back?
Definitely. It is always a goal to go to the World Series and this team has the ability to get there. This team has the ability, the experience, the leadership and the want to get to the World Series.
Q: What makes this such a good team?
Diversity. This team is diverse on the softball field and off. We have very good athletes. We have hitters, pitchers, runners and it all combines to form a good team.
Q: You pitch the first game of each doubleheader. It is always important to win that first game? Do you like that pressure?
That’s the reason I like to pitch … I like the pressure.
Q: You throw a variety of pitches. What are your favorites?
I throw a curveball and a drop ball.
Q: After pitching the first game, you play first base in Game 2. You must like staying on the field?
In high school, I just pitched. When I got to college, I started playing first base. It was an adjustment at first, but I feel comfortable now. I love to try to help my team out any way I can. I love hitting, just behind pitching.
Q: Is there a difference between the juco and NCAA level?
As far as competition, it is the same at every level.
Q: The Patriots are leading the East Division; is it important to win the division and get the No. 1 seed for the American Southwest Conference Tournament (April 26-28 in Farmers Branch)?
Winning the East Division is one of our goals.
Q: This weekend the Patriots have four games against Ozarks, not one of the top teams in the ASC. It is a long trip to Clarksville, Ark.; how do you approach the games?
I believe any team can win any day. You have to be focused for anyone you are playing. It is always important to stay focused on the game ahead.
Q: There are six games left in the regular season. Is this team peaking at the right time?
We’ve gotten better and better each game. The games have prepared us for the (conference tournament and postseason).