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Softball: Lone Star title on line for TWU in final series

Profile image for By Randy Cummings / For the Denton Record-Chronicle
By Randy Cummings / For the Denton Record-Chronicle

As the regular season winds down to a final — and crucial — series at home this weekend for TWU, the outcome against West Texas A&M won’t diminish the record-setting season the Pioneers have enjoyed.

Several team and individual records have been rewritten by this year’s team, to go along with a handful of milestones reached by the program and fifth-year head coach Richie Bruister.

Those achievements are due to the Pioneers’ powerful offense, which has resulted in a No. 15 national ranking, a 40-win season and their position as a Lone Star Conference co-leader.

The two teams tied atop the LSC will battle it out this weekend. The Pioneers (40-11, 18-5 Lone Star) will face Tarleton State at 6 tonight before entertaining co-leader West Texas A&M (39-8, 18-5) at 6 p.m. Friday and at 1 p.m. Saturday for a doubleheader.

The series with the Lady Buffs will determine the league’s regular-season champion and the No. 1 seed going into the LSC tournament May 3-4. The winner of the two-day tournament will receive the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA playoffs.

If the Pioneers’ offense remains as hot as it’s been all season, it’s likely more records will be erased this weekend.

As for milestones, TWU has attained six impressive marks:

• In early February, Bruister captured the 300th victory of his coaching career with an 8-1 decision over Newman.

• Also in February, the Pioneers entered the Division II Top 25 for the first time since 2004. The No. 14 ranking also was the first time for Bruister to have a team ranked as a head coach.

• Earlier this month, the Pioneers climbed to No. 7, matching the highest the program has been voted in the poll.

• On April 13, TWU played Angelo State before a school-record crowd of 435 at Pioneer Field.

• Last weekend, the Pioneers beat Incarnate Word to secure the first 40-win season in school history.

• The 40 wins also mark a first in Bruister’s career as a collegiate head coach.

On the second weekend of the season, various team and individual single-season and career records began to fall. Rewritten records to date include:

• Junior infielder Bailey Vrazel, in a February win over Newman, set a new school steals record by safely stealing the 155th base of her career.

• A week later, Vrazel legged out TWU’s first inside-the-park home run in a win over Regis at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic.

• On March 4 against Northeastern State, junior Haley Colwell drilled two grand slams in the same inning — a first in school history and making her the third player to accomplish the feat in Division II.

• Also in early March, the Pioneers dropped the opener of a doubleheader against Texas A&M International, stopping an 11-game win streak that had matched the program’s best.

• On March 12, senior infielder Jordan Readicker set a new school record for career RBIs with a grand slam that pushed her total to 137.

• At Cameron on March 22, Readicker blasted three home runs to set the school record for homers in a game.

In that same game, Katie Hines hit two homers and Kendra Sancet added one as the Pioneers set a new single-game record for homers.

The next day in a doubleheader to close out the series at Cameron, Hines drilled two more homers to set a new TWU season record at 16.

Also in the twinbill, Vrazel swiped three bases to break the Lone Star Conference career record, pushing her three-year total to 183.

Earlier this month at Midwestern State, Hines set a new school record for RBIs in a season when she knocked in her 61st run.

In that same doubleheader, the Pioneers set a new single-season team record for homers at 54.

Sophomore infielder Sara Wittenburg has been hit by 22 pitches this season and 29 in her career, both of which are school records.

Last weekend in a three-game series at Incarnate Word, the Pioneers set new season marks for runs (343), RBIs (319) and doubles (91).

Also against Incarnate Word, Vrazel set new school records for career runs (159) and career walks (65).

Hines leads all NCAA divisions in home runs with 23. She and senior Lizzy Kelly are also in position to claim another TWU record for doubles in a season. The record is 22, and Hines and Kelly each have 17.

Briefly ...

Vrazel will be honored in a ceremony prior to Friday’s 6 p.m. game against West Texas A&M for her numerous awards during her TWU career. ... Friday’s contest will feature a drawing for two $500 university housing scholarships. ... Saturday’s doubleheader will be senior day for the Pioneers, honoring the careers of Larisa Garcia, Karissa Hartwig, Readicker and Kelly. ... Free “Beat the Buffs” cups will be given to the first 200 fans Saturday.