During UT Tyler’s last meeting with the Wildcats of Louisiana College, the Patriots clinched the American Southwest Conference East Division title, but dropped the final two games of the regular season.
On championship Sunday, the Patriots redeemed the series loss and picked up their first ASC Baseball Tournament title since 2010.
It is the third baseball championship in the program’s history. With the victory the Patriots also receive the ASC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament. It will be UT Tyler’s fourth NCAA baseball bid.
The Patriots defeated the Wildcats 10-4 in the ASC championship game Sunday afternoon at Irwin Field.
“We worked so hard all year long, to get to celebrate that is a really, really rewarding feeling,” said head coach Chris Bertrand, whose club improves to 35-10. “It’s hard to find the words for such a special feeling.”
To start the game, the Patriots strung together four hits and two runs, forcing the Wildcats to switch pitchers before recording their first out.
Senior Issac Tijerina drove in the first run with a single to left and T.J. Martin followed with another single to score Jeff Kosta.
In the second, Tijerina picked up another RBI single. After a fielder’s choice, the Patriots increased their lead to 5-0.
“When we smelled blood in the water, we wanted to attack,” Bertrand said.
Louisiana College responded in the bottom of the fourth with a three-run blast.
Will Allen added the final insurance runs with a double in left-center for a 10-3 advantage.
The Wildcats managed one more run in the seventh.
Louisiana College (26-19) had earned a spot in the championship by winning Saturday night’s late contest with Texas Lutheran, 9-5.
Tijerina earned the ASC tournament’s Most Valuable Player award, batting .429 for the weekend with six hits and five RBIs.
“I felt really confident today and wanted to make sure I put my team in a good situation,” Tijerina said.
Martin, designated hitter Kevan House and pitchers Jack Barkley and Tye Weber joined Tijerina on the All-Tournament team.
Barkley earned the win for the Patriots, pitching five innings. Jake Beam came in for the save, fanning two batters in four innings of work.
“At the start of the year, the pitching was carrying the team,” Barkley said. “It has reversed in the middle of the season and our hitting has picked up our pitching. Now we are both peaking at just the right time.”
Bertrand said the key to the Patriots success in the tournament was aggressive base running.
“We were able to use our aggressiveness to get runners in scoring position, to take an extra base, to grab some energy and momentum,” Bertrand said. “I really think that was the difference in the offense.”
This is Bertrand’s first season as head coach for UT Tyler. He said the coaching staff inherited a winning baseball program, but it was their goal to take the program to the pinnacle of baseball, the World Series.
The Patriots will find out today what region the selection committee will place them in and who their next opponent will be.
Bertrand said no matter the opponent, the focus will be on continuing to play Patriot-style baseball.
“You want to play every pitch on the balls of your feet,” Bertrand said. “Play everything with no regrets and don’t leave any doubt.”
1B: Isaac Tijerina, Texas-Tyler (Most Valuable Player)
C: Kyle Feazell, Louisiana College
2B: Cary Myers, Louisiana College
3B: T.J. Martin, Texas-Tyler
SS: Casey Skalaban, Concordia-Texas
OF: Brent Shaekel, Concordia-Texas
OF: Mark Riendau, Louisiana College
OF: Cole Bagbey, Louisiana College
DH: Kevan House, Texas-Tyler
P: Jeff Spillane, Texas Luttheran
P: Tye Weber, Texas-Tyler
P: Jack Barkley, Texas Tyler