The UT Tyler softball team had another memorable season as the Patriots were on the brink of a national championship.
Coach Mike Reed's squad earned its fourth NCAA Division III College World Series appearance. The Patriots, ranked No. 2 in the land most of the season, finished second to No. 1 Tufts (Massachusetts) after the national tournament in Salem, Virginia.
The Jumbos (51-0) defeated the Patriots (50-5) 2-0 in the best-of-three national championship series on Monday. Although Tufts swept, it was two tight games – 2-0 and 7-4.
The Patriots were greeted on their return to Tyler on Tuesday at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport and on the UT Tyler campus by fans, friends, teachers and the Patriot Senior Club.
"This team just never quit," Reed said. "That's been their story — right down to the last swing. … It's been a great season. They had great chemistry, and a way about them. It's one of those teams you search for as a coach every year, and it really clicked this year."
The Patriots have qualified for the World Series in odd number years (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015), a pattern they hope to break next season. The national tournament is May 26-31 in Salem. In 2017 (May 25-30) and 2018 (24-29) the event will be held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
The squad has several returning players but graduate four players — Shelby Shelton (Hughes Springs), Amanda Lopez (New Braunfels), Christa Hartnett (Cypress) and Whitney Burt (Carrollton).
Hartnett, junior first baseman Jackie Mendez and junior pitcher Kelsie Batten all were named to the 2015 all-tournament team.
The Patriots have finished fifth (2009 in Montclair, New Jersey), third (2011 in Salem), fourth (2013 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin) and now second (Salem).
They are hoping a third visit to Salem will result in championship next season.