Once again, the UT Tyler softball team has put up some impressive numbers, but the only digits the Patriots are concerned with is two - as in their second national championship.
UT Tyler, ranked No. 4 in the nation, gets a chance for back-to-back titles when the NCAA Division III World Series gets underway on Thursday in Oklahoma City.
The Patriots, who coach Mike Reed describes as a blue-collar team, take on No. 1 Virginia Wesleyan at 1:30 p.m. on OGE Energy Field at ASA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
UT Tyler is appearing in its third straight national championship tournament and sixth overall. The Patriots won the national title last year in Salem, Virginia.
This is the first meeting between the Patriots (44-4) and Marlins (48-2). The winner will advanced to the 6:30 p.m. Friday game and will take on either the Trine (Indiana) Thunder (37-8) or Amherst (Massachusetts) Mammoths (33-10).
The losing teams will meet in an 11 a.m. elimination game.
On the other side of the bracket Thursday, Illinois Wesleyan Titans (36-13) will take on St. Catherine (Minnesota) Wildcats (38-12) and St. John Fisher (New York) Cardinals (41-6) plays Williams (Massachusetts) Ephs (36-11).
It is the first World Series berth for Virginia Wesleyan, located in Norfolk, Virginia.
UT Tyler leadoff hitter Kaylee Prather leads the nation with 83 hits and is batting .503. A senior center fielder from Elysian Fields, Prather has 11 doubles, five triples, two home runs, 65 singles and 63 runs scored this season. She is 38-for-39 on stolen bases this season and is the program’s all-time leader with 75 stolen bases after transferring in as a junior.
She was named the American Southwest Conference Player of the Year and to the NFCA All-Region team. She is also a CoSIDA All-America third-team selection.
KK Stevens, a senior from Plano, leads the Patriots with 14 home runs and comes into the week with a .388 batting average and 52 RBIs.
Andrea Gonzales is in her first season with the Patriots after transferring in as a junior and is hitting .426 with 16 doubles, one home run and 41 RBIs as the team’s first baseman. Mel Hinojosa enters Oklahoma with a .385 batting average and 37 RBIs, while Lexi Ackroyd is hitting .364 with 47 hits, 28 RBI and 35 runs scored.
At second base, Bianca Van Vlerah is hitting .352 with 50 total hits that have produced 31 RBId.
A shortstop, Hannah Moore has made only three errors with 52 putouts and 46 assists and is also hitting .316 with 11 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 35 RBI. Whitney Romero, who had only two at-bats entering the regional tournament, is now hitting .444 with eight hits - two being home runs - and has six RBIs in 18 at-bats.
Alaina Kissinger (24-2) leads UT Tyler in the pitcher’s circle with 96 strikeouts. A senior from Telephone, Kissinger is 68-4 with 384 strikeouts and a 1.13 ERA in 110 appearances and 458 innings in her career. S
ASA Hall of Fame Stadium
All Times Central
Game 1: Trine (Ind.) vs. Amhert (Mass.), 11 a.m.
Game 2: UT Tyler vs. Virginia Wesleyan, 1:30 p.m.
Game 3: Illinois Wesleyan vs. St. Catherine (Minn.), 4 p.m.
Game 4: St. John Fisher (N.Y.) vs. Williams (Mass.), 6:30 p.m.
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 11 a.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 12:30 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 4 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 6:30 p.m.
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 7, 4 p.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 8, 6:30 p.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 8 vs. Winner Game 9, noon
Game 12: Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 10, 2:30 p.m.
Game 13: Winner Game 11 vs. Game 11, if necessary, 5 p.m.
Game 14: Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12, if necessary, 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m.
Game 1: 1 p.m. Monday
Game 2: 3:30 p.m. Monday
Game 3: 11 a.m. Tuesday, if necessary