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PALESTINE, May 30, 2017 – The UT Tyler Patriots had their season end one win shy of a third straight trip to the NCAA Division III Softball Championship Finals after falling 5-3 to No. 1 Virginia Wesleyan on Sunday at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium Complex.
The Patriots (46-6) dropped a 5-2 decision to the Marlins (52-3) earlier in the day to force the if-necessary game before VWC advanced to Monday’s finals where it will face St. John Fisher in a best-of-3 series for the NCAA DIII Championship.
“These seniors on our team poured their hearts out today,” UT Tyler head coach Mike Reed said. “They’ve done that all year to will us to this point with their grit and determination. We told them after the game that you practice and play hard every day so that you don’t walk away with any regrets and this team has poured their hearts and souls into it. Our seniors led the way and put their blood, sweat and tears into it every day. The saddest thing isn’t losing this game, it’s losing our time with these six seniors is coming to an end and not getting another day with them on the field. We can walk away though knowing they gave everything they had.”
Virginia Wesleyan, which dropped a 4-1 decision to the Patriots on Thursday, battled back with four straight elimination-game wins to advance to play Fisher which is 3-0 entering Monday. The Marlins scored all five of their runs in the elimination game against the Patriots in the second inning with two outs on three hits and one UT Tyler error. A Glaubke two-run single capped scoring after a bases-loaded walk to score the first run.
UT Tyler, which was limited to two hits in the first game of the day, had four in the second but also stranded five. The Patriots broke through with all three of their runs in the fifth inning starting with a leadoff single by Hannah Moore and a Bianca Van Vlerah walk. A Lexi Ackroyd ground out moved the runners to second and third before Kaylee Prather singled up the middle for two RBI. She would advance to second on the throw and to third on a passed ball. Cheyenne Thompson grounded out to the pitcher and picked up an RBI with Prather touching home for the third and final run of the game.
UT Tyler wouldn’t go down without a fight though, putting two runners on in the sixth with KK Stevens leading off with a single and then Whitney Romero doubling into the left-center field gap. With no outs, VWC turned to Hanna Hull who would get two fly outs and a strikeout to strand two Patriots in scoring position. Wright (17-0) would earn both wins for VWC on the day, while Hull secured a six-out save with two strikeouts and no hits allowed after she had received the loss in the game on Thursday against the Patriots.
Stevens led the Patriots by going 2-for-3 with a double and a single in her final game, while Prather was 1-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored. Romero and Moore accounted for the other two hits for the Patriots. Prather finished her senior season by establishing new program single-season records with a .500 batting average, 89 hits, 67 runs scored, a .559 on-base percentage, six triples and 38 stolen bases. Stevens, a four-year senior, finished her career with 206 hits, 160 RBI and 32 home runs. The game was the final in the career for Stevens, Prather, Van Vlerah, Ackroyd, Kissinger and Mel Hinojosa. Kissinger threw 4 1/3 innings of relief in the game where she struck out four and allowed only one hit. She finished her career with a 70-5 record, while Miranda Leal received the loss and fell to 6-2 in her freshman season after allowing five runs on three hits in her second start of the season.
Prather finished the NCAA DIII Softball Championship 6-for-13 with five RBI, while Thompson was 5-for-13 with six RBI. The Patriots went 2-2 in Oklahoma City and are now 15-11 all-time in six championship appearances in program history.
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