ETBU's Season Ends in Regional Championshipby Adam Ledyard
SOFTBALL: TYLER, Texas (5/12/13) – Clashing for the eighth time this year and playing for the NCAA Division III Regional Championship, two of the nation’s best programs battled it out all the way through nine innings when #5 Texas-Tyler found the game winning hit in the top of the ninth inning, 7-6, over #9 East Texas Baptist University. The momentum went both ways with ETBU carrying it early in the game before Texas-Tyler snatched it away in the end.
Texas-Tyler brought in the go ahead run in the top of the ninth inning and then their defense came through in the bottom of the inning. With one runner on base, first baseman Rachel Howell grabbed Tawny Hank’s line drive shot for the final out to end the last battle between this year between two of the best teams in the nation.
"We knew it was going to be a battle and that we needed to finish off the game and play the whole game,” says head coach Janae Shirley. "Six runs proved to not be enough in one inning but it was great for our players to jump on Batten putting her out of the game for the first time in the tournament.”
Kelsey DeCarolis led ETBU with three hits while Alyssa Romero, Lacy Liles, Lya Swaner, and Kayla Garcia all had a RBI. Shelby Parker took the loss as she struck out four batters as she finishes at 15-4 on the year. Liles, DeCarolis, and Parker were all named to the All-Region team for their play in the tournament.
After two scoreless innings, ETBU erupted for six runs in the third inning putting Texas-Tyler’s Kelsie Batten out of the game for the first time in the entire regional tournament. Batten had pitched every inning of every game for the Patriots before ETBU shook her up taking the lead.
Alyssa Romero brought in the first run of the third with a single to the outfield and two batters later Kelsey DeCarolis made it 2-0 with a single through the right side as Maranda Westbrook came in. Lacy Liles sacrificed her at-bat putting down a squeeze bunt as Romero came sliding in at home making it 3-0. At that point, Texas-Tyler relieved Batten from her pitching duties putting in Heather Abshire.
Abshire had a hard time getting started with a walk and hit by a pitch to load the bases. Lya Swaner followed with a hard hit single to the pitcher as DeCarolis came in. Abshire then walked Garcia for an easy RBI and a five-run lead. Two pitches later, Abshire had a wild pitch allowing Stacie Pilkington to become the sixth run of the inning. She finally got out of the night mare inning with a ground out as ETBU took the momentum to their side.
Texas-Tyler’s Abshire quickly made up for her performance in the bottom of the third leading of the fourth with a solo shot to left field for the first run of the game. Their second run came in the fifth inning to pull within four of ETBU, 6-2. Abshire then settled down in the circle and retired the side in the fourth and fifth innings. ETBU had a runner on with two outs in the sixth inning but Texas-Tyler held her on as they trailed by four with three outs remaining in the game.
After the first runner was put on by being hit, Texas-Tyler had two straight outs before their rally started. Four straight hits followed including the last as a double that cleared the bases to tie the game at six. In the bottom of the seventh, ETBU had a chance to take the win with the bases loaded and two outs but couldn’t get the hit to end the game.
Both teams went scoreless in the eighth and then with two outs in the top of the ninth, Vanessa Carrizales put Texas-Tyler ahead with a double off the left field wall as Howell became the go ahead run. The game wasn’t over though as ETBU had a chance to tie the game with one runner on but the Texas-Tyler defense ended the game grabbing Tawny Hank’s line drive shot to first base.
This marked the final game for four-year starter Lya Swaner. She has been a cornerstone in the program the last four years winning all the championships you could win as a player. The double major honor’s student graduated last week with her degree and now will pursue medical school.
Shirley says, "Lya Swaner gets to walk away with two conference champions, a divisional championship, a regional championship and a national championship. She can definitely go away from this happy with her career and she helped the team get back to the point to where they know what it takes to get there.”
After four years of playing for ETBU, Swaner reflected on her career at the post-game press conference saying, "It’s been great playing here at ETBU and I wouldn’t pick any other team to play for. This is my team and will always be my team and we are great. I love coming out here and playing in a regional championship game and I love playing against Tyler. We got ours in conference and they got theirs here and that is just how it rolls. Tyler will always be my favorite team to play because they always bring it and it always makes us try harder.”
ETBU loses just Swaner for 2014 and has a very young squad that competed for the regional championship and won the 2013 ASC Tournament championship.
Shirley finishes with, "Our future is bright and you haven’t seen the last of ETBU softball.”
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