If the postseason has proven anything to the TWU softball team, it’s that the squad possesses a knack for handling pressure and adversity. It’s faced its share while rolling through the Lone Star Conference tournament and regional and super regional rounds to reach this week’s NCAA Division II championship tournament.
“I’m so proud of them to come out in a pressure situation and stay calm and collected,” TWU coach Richie Bruister said after the Pioneers swept two games from St. Edward’s last weekend to qualify for the national tournament for the first time.
He could have been talking about the entire postseason. The Pioneers (51-12) have reeled off eight straight postseason wins and extended their winning streak to 10 games heading into Thursday’s first-round matchup against Humboldt State (51-12).
“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.”
That character was on display at last weekend’s super regional tournament. On Saturday — one win from a berth at nationals — TWU was up 2-0 in the sixth inning when a throwing error and a passed ball put a St. Edward’s runner on third base. But pitcher Brandie Lander got Kendall Lucas to pop out to end the threat.
One day earlier, the Hilltoppers had two runners on base in the first inning before TWU pitcher Larisa Garcia got Faith Roberts to ground out to end the inning.
“Once somebody gets on base, they’re on base,” Lander said. “There’s really nothing we can do about it. So at that point, in my head I say to myself that she’s not scoring. I don’t think about anything else.”
In three games at the South Central Region tournament two weeks ago, the Pioneers’ opponents had runners in scoring position several times before pitching or defense got them out of the jams.
Three times Incarnate Word left two runners stranded in a 2-1 TWU win. In a 7-1 win over Midwestern State, TWU faced bases-loaded situations in the first and seventh innings, only to yield one run on a passed ball. And in a 2-0 victory over St. Mary’s in the final, the Rattlers loaded the bases in the first before Garcia ended the threat with back-to-back strikeouts.
In the Lone Star Conference tournament May 3-5, the Pioneers trailed early in all three games before bouncing back to win. In a first-round game against Cameron, TWU trailed 1-0 after the first but held the Aggies scoreless over the next six innings while TWU tallied a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to win.
The next day against Midwestern State, the Pioneers trailed 4-2 after three innings. TWU came right back with six runs in the top of the fourth and stopped a MSU threat in the bottom of the seventh that saw the Mustangs plate three runs before Garcia came on in relief and forced a groundout to secure the win.
In the championship game against West Texas A&M, the Pioneers exploded for four runs in the top of the fourth to erase a 2-0 deficit. The Lady Buffs loaded the bases in their half of the inning, but TWU’s defense didn’t allow a run.
“We have confidence in each other,” TWU’s Katie Hines said. “It’s great to know that all the way up and down the lineup somebody is going to get the hit that puts us ahead or somebody’s going to make an awesome play to keep us on top. That’s how we stay calm.”
Four Pioneers — Hines, Lander, Bailey Vrazel and Jordan Readicker — have been named to the Daktronics All-South Central Region team.
Juniors Hines, Vrazel and Lander were picked for the first team, while Readicker, a senior, was chosen for the second team.
Vrazel earned first-team honors for the third consecutive year, and Hines was picked for the second straight season.
Members of the first team from each of the eight regions in the country are eligible for Daktronics All-America honors. Daktronics makes scoring, timing and programmable display systems for all levels of almost every sport.
Cochefski receives All-America consideration
TWU’s Courtney Cochefski is under consideration for Academic All-America honors after being named to the Capital One Academic All-District first team.
Cochefski, a communications junior with a 3.88 grade-point average, competed on bars this season and recorded a score of 9.800 or higher in eight meets. She captured the event title at the Midwest Independent Conference meet and qualified for the NCAA regional meet for the second consecutive year.
The Capital One Academic All-America teams, as voted on by the College Sports Information Directors of America, will be announced in June.