The TWU Pioneers put themselves in the final game of the NCAA South Central Regional 1 tournament with a stout pitching performance by Brandie Lander and a towering grand slam by Katie Hines to defeat Midwestern State 7-1 on Saturday at Pioneer Field.
“We were fortunate enough to play as pretty as the weather today,” TWU head coach Richie Bruister said. “I was extremely proud of what our girls did. Midwestern has one of the best offenses in the country and to go out and do what [Brandie] did was absolutely amazing. Katie Hines had a big grand slam for us at a big time.”
TWU (48-12) will face St. Mary’s in the championship game at 2 p.m. today. If the Pioneers lose, they would play again at 4:30 p.m. St. Mary’s defeated Midwestern State 11-7 Saturday night in an elimination game.
Despite the free loss in their pocket, the Pioneers aren’t going to let that affect their drive to the super regionals, which they will again play host if they are successful today. In the postgame news conference, Lander cut off Bruister’s response to speak for the team’s mindset.
“Honestly, we haven’t even thought about that,” Lander said. “We have only thought about going in and winning. We don’t want to play that second game. We’re going to do everything we can to win the first one and just be done with it.”
After picking up her fourth save of the year in the Pioneers’ 2-1 victory over Incarnate Word on Friday, Lander pitched a complete game against one of Division II’s most potent offenses, allowing only three hits with no earned runs on seven strikeouts and seven walks.
“For me, especially facing good teams, I tend to pitch better for some reason,” Lander said. “It’s the adrenaline or knowing that I need to give them everything I have the same way they’re going to give me what they have.”
The Mustangs (43-16) came into region sporting Division II’s best slugging percentage, second-best batting average and second-best home runs per game, but Lander allowed just a leadoff single in the second inning until Midwestern State scored its only run of the game on a passed ball in the seventh.
“From this game today, I just know that we’re here to play,” Lander said. “It’s great to come in from a junior college where we weren’t a team at all and then to be able to come here and know we are one team, which has been our motto all year. It’s really nice to be able to relax a little bit.”
The Pioneers, who rank sixth in Division II in home runs per game, were the benefactors of Mustangs’ starter Katherine Batey’s control issues as they worked the bases loaded on two hit batters and a walk to start the third inning. Amanda Ruiz knocked home the first run of the game when she reached on a fielder’s choice.
Lizzy Kelly then walked to load the bases to bring the team’s leading home-run hitter, Hines, to the plate. Hines sent her 25th home run of the season to right center field, where it struck the scoreboard and bounced back on to the field, giving the Pioneers an emphatic 5-1 lead.
“I was pretty confident when I walked up there, because [in] my first at-bat, I fouled off a lot of pitches,” Hines said. “I knew what she was throwing me, so I went in there looking for a specific pitch that I wanted to hit. I worked the count to 3-2 and she threw the pitch I wanted to hit and I hit it.”
Hines helped add another run in the fourth inning to make it 6-1 when her hit was misplayed by Bates in the circle, scoring Bailey Vrazel. Vrazel went 2 for 2 with two walks and a stolen base.
Kendra Sancet finished the scoring with her 11th home run of the season, a solo shot to lead off the fifth.
“We were getting runners on base however you can get there,” Bruister said. “If it’s hit by pitch or a walk, we were very patient at the plate today. It was a very tight strike zone from the umpire and we took advantage of that. We had a little pressure on them, and we were able to get that timely hit.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.
TWU 7, Midwestern State 1
WP — Brandie Lander (21-6). LP — Katherine Batey (16-8). HR — T: Katie Hines, Kendra Sancet.