With four regular-season games remaining, the TWU softball team naturally will be focused on winning those contests. But it’s also that time of the year when attention turns to the upcoming Lone Star Conference tournament and South Central Region competition.
The Pioneers (30-14, 14-8 LSC) are assured of a prime seed in the eight-team LSC tournament, as they have a solid grasp on third place after sweeping Tarleton State on Saturday.
A berth in the regional tournament, however, is not locked up. The regional rankings are scheduled for release today, and TWU is anticipating being ranked among the top eight teams that will earn qualifying berths in the tournament.
“The conference tournament, it’s very important,” first-year Pioneers coach Genny Stidham said. “But in the overall picture you want to make sure you get in that regional tournament.
“We’ll wait to see where we stand in the regional rankings and go from there,” she said. “Right now, we can’t lose a lot of games. We’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of business here at the end of the season.”
TWU, which has won 10 of its last 12 games, is scheduled to play at Tarleton on Thursday and wrap up the regular season April 25 and 26 with a three-game series at Cameron.
The regular-season champion will host the LSC tournament May 2 and 3. The conference’s top eight teams qualify for the single-elimination tournament.
The two teams ahead of the Pioneers in the LSC standings, West Texas A&M and Angelo State, have handled TWU this season. The Pioneers have dropped three games to the Lady Buffs and four to Angelo, so Stidham expects those teams to be ahead of TWU when the regional rankings come out.
Also, TWU has fallen three times to St. Mary’s in nonconference play, which could affect the Pioneers’ regional placement.
“We had our opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on those opportunities,” Stidham said. “Those teams will be in front of us because they beat us.”
Last weekend the Pioneers boasted a No. 24 national ranking in Division II, but Stidham said that poll doesn’t have much effect on the regional rankings.
“From my experience, the national rankings and the regional rankings don’t go hand in hand,” she said.
Playing just one doubleheader this week will allow the Pioneers to get in some quality practice time to polish up their attack heading into the LSC tourney.
“We’ve got a small opportunity to rest and come back and work on situations and talk about things we need to work on,” Stidham said. “I think we’re playing really well at the right time. There is still some room for improvement, but our pitchers are pitching well and the defense has played a lot better than it has in the past. So I’m hoping it’s all coming together.”
Fifth straight 30-win season
With Saturday’s two wins over Tarleton State, the Pioneers reached the 30-win mark for the fifth straight year.
TWU set a school record last year by winning 51 games and advancing to Division II national tournament.
Career home run leader
Once she tied the record, it didn’t take long for Katie Hines to stand alone as TWU’s all-time home run leader — one week, to be exact.
On April 5 against Midwestern State, the senior Pioneer blasted the 50th home of her career, moving into a tie with former teammate Jordan Readicker. On Saturday, Hines claimed the No. 1 spot for herself by launching a three-run homer in the second inning to spark TWU to an 8-0 win in the second game of the doubleheader.
Hines has several opportunities to add to her career total in the coming weeks, with four regular-season games and the LSC and regional tournaments.