A busy weekend is ahead for the TWU softball team, including the opening of Lone Star Conference play, but the Pioneers are in a position to simply say, “Bring it on.”
A doubleheader sweep of Northeastern State on Monday extended TWU’s current win streak to eight games and did nothing to hurt the No. 15 ranking of the Pioneers, who stand at 18-5 for the season.
All signs indicate the Pioneers are more than ready for conference play, which begins with a Friday-Saturday three-game series at Texas A&M-Kingsville. TWU is also scheduled to play a nonconference doubleheader at Texas A&M-International on Sunday.
In sweeping the Riverhawks, an explosion of offensive fireworks nearly overshadowed outstanding pitching for the Pioneers. Six homers by four players — highlighted by junior outfielder Haley Colwell’s two grand slams in the one inning in the second game — were matched by the performances of pitchers Katy Hines and Brandie Lander.
“Our middle of the lineup did their job [Monday], and once again our pitchers were outstanding,” head coach Richie Bruister said.
Hines tossed a complete game, giving up three hits and striking out three, in a 6-1 win in the opener Monday. Hines also slugged her sixth home run of the year, while Kendra Sancet hit her third.
In the second game, Lander threw four innings of the shortened 18-2 run-rule win, striking out seven to pick up her seventh victory of the season. Meanwhile, another homer from Hines and Jordan Readicker’s seventh homer of the year joined Colwell’s two bases-clearing blasts. Readicker also went 3 for 5 with five RBIs in the nightcap.
Briefly … The Pioneers will play host to the 2013 Best Western Premier Spring Fling tournament next Tuesday and Wednesday. The four-team lineup includes TWU, Texas A&M-International, St. Edward’s and Abilene Christian, with the Pioneers scheduled to play A&M-International (1 p.m.) and St. Edward’s (3 p.m.) on Tuesday, followed by a rematch with International (2 p.m.) on Wednesday. All games will be at Pioneer Field.
Colwell nabs LSC honor
Junior outfielder Haley Colwell’s two grand slams in the same inning Monday has earned her Lone Star Conference Player of the Week honors.
In earning the first league POW of her career, Colwell became the sixth player in NCAA history and the third in Division II to connect for two grand slams in the same inning. Colwell’s outburst came in the third inning of the second game of a Monday doubleheader against Northeastern State. They were the first two home runs of the season for Colwell.
In helping lead the Pioneers to a 5-0 record during the week, Colwell batted .500, had 10 RBIs and scored six runs.
For the season, the senior from Sadler is hitting .388 with 18 RBIs and 12 runs.
A season-high team score and eight career-best performances by seven gymnasts last week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Pioneers.
First, TWU’s team score of 195.300 came against the toughest competition the Pioneers will face all season: the No. 1-ranked Oklahoma Sooners. As head coach Lisa Bowerman said, “We definitely rose to the occasion.”
More importantly, seven individuals turned in career-high scores in eight events as the Pioneers head into the final weekend of regular-season competition before preparing for the Midwest Independent Conference Championships (March 23), the NCAA Regionals (April 6) and the USAG Collegiate National Championships (April 12-14).
The Pioneers will go on the road to compete this weekend in a pair of dual meets, facing Southeast Missouri State on Friday and Lindenwood on Sunday.
“By no means was [last Friday’s meet] a perfect meet, but it was a good meet,” Bowerman said. “At the end, when our score popped up, I think the girls were shocked. I don’t think they realized what they were doing in the process of the meet. They were going one event and one routine at a time and just doing their job.
“And that’s what we’ve been trying to tell them, that they’re capable of consistent [scores of] 194s and 195s. I think it was really important for them to see that and to build their confidence to know that’s what they’re capable of doing.”
Landing new career-best performances were four competitors in bars: Amy Winczura (9.800), Spencer Jones (9.775), Kristin Edwards (9.725) and Stephanie Repp (9.725). In beam, Bethany Larimer (9.825) and Paisley Read (9.800) recorded career-best scores, while Ciara Maradiaga also posted a career-best (9.700) in floor. Jones also ended with a career-high score of 39.000 in the all-around competition.
“Just seeing the way they performed on all four events was probably the most notable thing that we need to move forward,” Bowerman said. “We need that confidence and that ability to go out there and seamlessly do our job.
Bowerman likes finishing the regular season with two meets in two days, saying it will help the team for the upcoming USAG nationals when they must compete two days in a row.
End to frustrating season
An impressive ending to an otherwise disappointing season leaves the Pioneers with a heavy dose of frustration about the 2012-13 season and yet plenty of high expectations for the future.
The record book will show that the Pioneers finished with a 7-19 overall record and 5-15 mark in Lone Star Conference play. Still, an 18-point thumping of Cameron at home last Saturday to wrap up the season and end TWU’s run of three consecutive trips to the LSC tournament sends the Pioneers into the offseason with good thoughts about next year.
“You want to have a great last game, but you want that going into the tournament,” head coach Beth Jillson said. “I thought that was the best team basketball we’ve played all season. I thought the best thing about Saturday is that we turned down OK shots for great shots.
“We played pretty consistently on both ends of the floor for 40 minutes.”
Unfortunately, the Pioneers didn’t do enough of that throughout the season. After edging past Cameron by two points in the teams’ first meeting in January, TWU struggled through a nine-game losing stretch before last weekend’s win.
Playing with a roster of only nine available players most of the season — seven of whom were newcomers to the program — didn’t help. However, every player who suited up is an underclassman who can return next season.
A solid core of returnees is headed by junior guard Rebekah Cluley, who played in all 26 games and led the Pioneers with a 9.8 scoring average and a 75 percent free-throw percentage. Sophomore guard Toree Mason was No. 2 in scoring at 9.3 and led the team in 3-pointers with 30, while sophomore forward Ria Pateraki was TWU’s top rebounder (5.6) and shot blocker (10). Also, junior guard Tab Thurmond finished with an 8.1 scoring average with a team-best shooting percentage of 50 percent.
“We were very inconsistent,” Jillson said. “We lost a lot of close games that we felt like we should have won. We had a lot of close games where had we executed better we could have won.”
Jillson will focus her recruiting efforts on landing a shooting guard and post player to the program and hopes to be able to build a roster of 13-14 players next season, which should intensify the competition in practices and in games for playing time.
“Now that they all know the system and know exactly what we want from them, I hope they continue to improve and improve,” Jillson said. “We have high expectations for them to grow as players over the off season.”