The softball team made its first NCAA Championship appearance in seven years on Saturday. The team traveled to Tyler, Texas for the Regional tournament hosted by Texas-Tyler at Suddenlink Field.
During the game, the Leopards got off to a rocky start and were never able to recover. The opposing Texas-Tyler had a great offensive game and played efficiently, capitalizing off any error or pitching mishap.
Junior pitcher Elisa Ponce started off on the mound for the tournament opener. Ponce only allowed one run during the first inning when the Patriots hit an RBI single, and was able to keep the opposition under control through the third inning.
“I look forward to next year,” Ponce said. “I’m confident that we will continue to have a winning season.”
The Patriots capitalized off a batter being hit in the fourth inning to start a rally. After five consecutive hits, the score grew to 5-0.
In the sixth inning, the Patriots managed to bring in four additional runs to steal the win, 9-0.
The loss forced the Leopards into an elimination game later that evening. In the nightcap, the Leopards faced No. 5 Texas Lutheran in an attempt to continue in the tournament.
The Bulldogs got the game going early, having three runs on the board by the end of the third inning, while the Leopards were able to score only one.
Senior first baseman Alexis Schiff evened out the score in the top of the fourth inning, 3-3, with a 2-run homer that was sent flying over the left field fence.
“We went out with ambitious goals” Schiff said. “As a team we stuck together and I’m so proud of that.”
It did not take long for Texas Lutheran to respond.
The Bulldogs brought in four runs to take the lead that the Leopards were unable to reclaim.
Sophomore outfielder Rachel Ogata was in scoring position in the sixth, but the Leopards were not able to bring her home.
Junior third baseman Haley Gomez was consistent offensively throughout the tournament.
“I felt like I helped my team the best that I could,” Gomez said.
“I just felt like I left it all on the field, just like the rest of my team. We all worked hard together.”
The Leopards have finished the 2017 season 31-14 overall, and will be losing Schiff and senior pitcher Hayley Jaquess. Aside from the two seniors graduating, the Leopards will most likely keep the same team when they make their run for the title next year.
Mia López can be reached at email@example.com.