The UT Tyler softball team survived to play another weekend.
Facing elimination at the Tyler Regional, the No. 2 Patriots defeated No. 3 East Texas Baptist twice on Sunday, 2-1 and 7-3, at Suddenlink Field to win the four-team tournament and advance to next weekend’s Super Regional against Emory (Georgia).
The Super Regional is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at UT Tyler. The winner of the best-of-three series advances to the College World Series in Salem, Virginia.
“I am just so proud of the team,” UT Tyler head coach Mike Reed said. “To have to fight back and with two long rain delays (on Friday and Saturday), to have two late nights …. The fight they brought today, no excuses about being tired, to beat a great team like ETBU, I am just so proud of their fight and determination.”
It was the second weekend in a row that the Tigers (35-6) sent the Patriots (45-3) to the loser’s bracket of a tournament, only to allow UT Tyler to win three straight games — including two against the Tigers — and claim a tournament championship.
All three times the teams met — in the regular season, the American Southwest Tournament and the Tyler Regional, the Tigers won the first game of a three-game set and the Patriots won the next two.
UT Tyler’s three losses this season all came against ETBU while the Tigers’ six losses all came against the Patriots.
“Those two teams are two of the best teams in the country,” ETBU head coach Janae Shirley said. “It is kind of disappointing that we are matched up so early in the whole playoff process but we definitely have to give credit to that team. Anytime you face a team over and over and over again, anything can happen and today was their day.”
In the decisive game, the Patriots jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Vanessa Carrizales doubled home Shelby Shelton before KK Stevens singled home Carrizales and Jackie Mendez.
The Tigers got a run back in the bottom of the first on a solo home run by Jayme Perez and they added two more in the top of the third to tie the game at 3-3.
The Patriots broke the tie in the top of the fifth when Stevens scored on a single by Mel Hinojosa. UT Tyler added to its lead in the top of the sixth when Ackroyd doubled home Stevens and Rose Sullivan to make it 6-3. Ackroyd scored on a single by Raven Rodriguez to make it 7-3.
Kelsie Batten picked up the win in the circle for the Patriots. The junior relieved starter Alaina Kissinger in the third inning and allowed two runs on six hits and struck out three in five innings to improve to 25-3.
In the first matchup of the day between the two teams, the Patriot took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Lexi Ackroyd singled home Emilee Burkhardt. The Tigers tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth on a solo home run by Lacey Lindsey.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the sixth. Jackie Mendez led off with a double and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Raven Rodriguez to give the Patriots a 2-1 lead that they would hold on to and force the “if necessary” game.
Batten picked up the win in the circle for the Patriots. She allowed just one run on seven hits and struck out two in 6 1/3 innings. Kissinger got the final two outs for her second save of the season.
“It was a team win,” Carrizales said. “Everything about this team is extraordinary and we are just happy we got the opportunity to come back and fight again and live to see another day.”
Both Batten and Kissinger were named to the all-tournament team, along with Mendez, Ackroyd and Carrizales, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.