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Pioneers set example for all

The Texas Woman’s University softball team took their fans on a magical ride this season, all the way to the NCAA Division II national tournament.

The Pioneers may have fallen short of bringing home a national championship, but they never let us down. The character and resolve that kept the team rolling through the regular season, the Lone Star Conference tournament and regional and super regional rounds were with them to the very end.

These players had a knack for handling pressure and adversity, and they provided their fans with plenty of thrills. But in addition to winning games, each of them seemed to enjoy being part of a fun-loving, hard-working team.

You could never count this team out. They proved again and again that they were winners by refusing to give up and overcoming tough odds to find a way to win.

Each of the players seemed securely confident that a teammate would come through when needed, getting a clutch hit to erase an opponent’s lead or making an outstanding play to help escape a jam.

Although individual accolades piled up as the Pioneers continued to find success, it always seemed to be the team that mattered most and that’s the way it should be.

There were 14 players on this season’s roster, and every one of them played an integral role to get the team to the NCAA Division II national tournament.

With each passing game, the players’ bond strengthened, and coach Richie Bruister said it will be this team that sets the precedent for the future.

“They know what this special team means for them,” Bruister told us. “They are setting so many records and firsts, and they will always be known as the team that paved the way to the College World Series.”

The players always managed to stay calm and collected in pressure situations, and Bruister said there was a good reason.

“These girls have been in big situations before,” Bruister said. “They’ve been winners their whole lives. They’ve been able to slow things down and to go out there and just play. The character of these girls is absolutely amazing.”

Coach Bruister’s pride in the team is obvious, and we — along with all the team’s many other fans — share that pride and congratulate the Pioneers on an outstanding season.

It was certainly a season to remember — the best for TWU since the 1978-79 season, according to our records. The TWU softball team won the AIAW National Championship that season and then, a year later, the program was eliminated because of budget issues. In 1997, the program was re-established.

It was an emotional season, for many reasons. In April, the Pioneers lost former teammate Abby Burns, who died after a long battle with acute myeloid leukemia at age 23. The team rallied around Burns after the diagnosis and supported her throughout her illness and treatment, and we know that Abby is proud of their accomplishments.

TWU athletic director Chalese Connors told us the team was on the bus coming back from a game in San Antonio when they got word that Burns was headed back to the hospital with another infection. After the team got to Denton, they turned around and went to the hospital to be by her side.

That’s another tribute to the character of this team, and we commend them for that, their love of the game and their outstanding teamwork.

Those are qualities of winners, and in our view, the TWU softball squad certainly deserves the title.

Thanks, Pioneers, for giving us such a terrific season and for setting such a good example.