Eight of the top teams in the country in NCAA Division III softball are in Tyler for the 2019 NCAA Division III Softball Championship.
The double-elimination tournament will begin on Thursday at UT Tyler’s SuddenLink Field.
On Wednesday night, the teams were honored at the 2019 NCAA Division III Softball Championship Banquet at the Herrington Patriot Center.
Local television personality Michael Coleman served as the Master of Ceremonies.
City of Tyler District 5 Councilman Bob Westbrook gave the visiting players one word of advice: “sunscreen.”
Dr. Howard Patterson, the UT Tyler athletic director, asked those in attendance if they knew who Earl Campbell was. A few hands went up. But when he asked if they knew who Patrick Mahomes was, many of the college athletes recognized the name of the NFL MVP from Whitehouse.
Patterson then said he was in charge of the weather for the tournament.
“I hope you like it hot,” he said. “I hope you have fun playing the game you love at The University of Texas at Tyler.”
Kim Tatro, the NCAA Division III Softball Committee Chair, listed accomplishments of the teams involved, including a record of 289-70 with 527 total stolen bases.
There was also some line dancing instruction by the Rockies ’N Ropers Dance Club.
Texas Lutheran’s Kassie Maddox provided the invocation, and members from all eight teams were allowed to provide some remarks.
The eight that will be vying for the championship include: No. 2 Williams College Ephs (Williamstown, Massachusetts); No. 4 University of St. Thomas Tommies (St. Paul, Minnesota); No. 6 Illinois Wesleyan University Titans (Bloomington, Illinois); No. 7 Trine University Thunder (Angola, Indiana); No. 11 Texas Lutheran University Bulldogs (Seguin, Texas); Eastern Connecticut State Warriors (Willimantic, Connecticut); Emory University Eagles (Atlanta, Georgia); and Randolph-Macon College Yellow Jackets (Ashland, Virginia).
Eastern Connecticut has won four national titles (1982, ’85, ’86, ’90). The Warriors were also runners-up in 1989 and 1991.
St. Thomas won consecutive titles in 2004 and 2005. The Tommies tried for three-straight, but were second in 2006.
Illinois Wesleyan was the runner-up in 2018, losing to Virginia Wesleyan when the tournament was in Oklahoma City.
Jan Gentry, the NCAA's associate director of NCAA championships and alliances, presented The Elite 90 Award. She said it is an award by the NCAA recognizing the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average who has reached the competition at the finals site for each of the NCAA's 90 men's and women's championships across its three divisions (Division I, Division II, Division III).
DeAnna Hernandez of Texas Lutheran was presented with the honor with a 4.0 GPA in biochemistry.
Dave Hines of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced the All-American teams — first, second and third.
First-team members included UT Tyler sophomore catcher Ashley Perez and UT Tyler senior outfielder Nicole Garcia.
Perez was also chosen as the Diamond Sports/NFCA Catcher of the Year for the second straight year after batting .437 with 52 hits, 27 runs scored, 13 doubles, six homers and 51 RBIs.
Texas Lutheran’s Kelly Jurden earned the New Balance/NFCA Golden Shoe Award, and Christopher Newport’s Kaitlyn Hasty was the Schutt Sports/NFCA Freshman of the Year.
Other first-team All-Americans were pitcher Hanna Hull of Virginia Wesleyan, pitcher Ally Wiegand of Illinois Wesleyan, first baseman Mackenzie Chitwood of Lynchburg, second baseman Ally Fox of Marian, third baseman Hasty of Christopher Newport, shortstop Vada Blue Sherrill of Pfeiffer, utility player Alix DeDreu of Thomas More, designated player Jordan Day of Lesley, outfielder Patty Maye Ohanian of Christopher Newport, outfielder Melissa Livermore of UT Dallas and at-large selections Kierstin Anderson-Glass of St. Thomas, Stefanie Guercio of Carthage and Caraline Wood of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
UT Tyler senior pitcher Colleen Bentke was a second-team selection, along with East Texas Baptist freshman pitcher Beatriz Lara.
2019 NCAA Division III Softball Championship
Suddenlink Field, UT Tyler
Game 1: St. Thomas (Minn.) vs. Eastern Connecticut State, 11 a.m.
Game 2: Texas Lutheran vs. Williams (Mass.), 1:30 p.m.
Game 3: Illinois Wesleyan vs. Trine (Indiana), 4 p.m.
Game 4: Emory (Ga.) vs. Randolph-Macon (Va.), 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, 1:30 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 4:30 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.
Game 9: Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 7, 1 p.m.
Game 10: Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 8, 3:30 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: If necessary, 5:30 p.m.
Game 14: If necessary, 8 p.m.
Game 1: 1 p.m. Monday
Game 2: 3:30 p.m. Monday
Game 3: 11 a.m. Tuesday, if necessary
SINGLE SESSION TICKETS: Good for one day at the UT Tyler Irwin Ballpark.
Adult Ages 12+: $10
Youth (12 and Under): $6
Student (With ID): $8
Senior Citizen (55+): $5
Groups of 10+: $5/per ticket
ALL-SESSION TOURNAMENT PASS: Good for every game, all tournament long.
Adult Ages 12+: $35
Youth (12 and Under): $20
Student (With ID): $20
Senior Citizen (55+): $20
Groups of 10+: $20/pass
Get to the ballpark by taking University Boulevard off Loop 323 or Old Omen Road. Turn onto Patriot Drive before pulling onto Old Glory Drive. The Ballpark will be on your right with parking available in a number of parking lots.
Parking is available but limited right outside the UT Tyler Irwin Ballpark Gates. A short walk down Old Glory Drive will lead you to plentiful parking. Additional parking is available in the parking garage off Lake Drive, just a short walk from the ballpark.
Outlaw's BBQ of Lindale will be serving each day with others to be announced, according to UT Tyler officials.