2016 NCAA Division III National Champions
PREVIEW: @Patriot_sb opens season on Friday at home
Pacific (1-3)
#1 UT Tyler (1-0)
2/3/2017 | Tyler, Tx | Attendance: 255
UT Tyler0702X9100
Win: Alaina Kissinger (1-0) 5.060001
Loss: Martin (0-1) 1.156422
Chan (PAC-SB) 202000
Andrea Gonzales (UTTSB) 303100

Thursday, February 2, 2017
by Wes Bloomquist || wbloomquist@uttyler.edu

TYLER – The No. 1-ranked UT Tyler softball team will open its 2017 season on Friday with a pair of non-conference games against Pacific University and Centenary at Suddenlink Field.

The Patriots are the defending NCAA Division III National Champions who went 49-5 overall, 29-0 in American Southwest Conference play and were 22-2 on their home field. UT Tyler plays its first game at 3 p.m. against the Boxers of Pacific University before taking on the Ladies of Centenary at 5 p.m. in its first games since dogpiling after a 2-0 win over Linfield on May 21, 2016 to celebrate winning the Tyler Super Regional.

The Patriots return 11 players from last year’s team, including senior pitcher Alaina Kissinger who has a 44-2 career pitching record and senior outfielder Kaylee Prather who led the team with a .430 batting average and set a program record with 37 stolen bases. An NFCA All-America and two-time NFCA All-Region selection, catcher KK Stevens is back for her senior season with a .365 batting average and 108 RBI on her career resume. A Plano native, Stevens has started 154 games in her career for the Patriots and has committed only one error as a freshman back in 2014. She enters this season with 152 hits, including 34 doubles and 18 home runs in her career. UT Tyler sophomore Cheyenne Thompson is back after hitting .403 with 23 RBI as a freshman, while senior second baseman Bianca Van Vlerah hit .367 with 36 hits last season. Lexi Ackroyd is a .347 hitter for the Patriots with 96 career hits, including a two-run home run in last year’s NCAA DIII National Championship tournament against St. John Fisher. Prather’s first season in Tyler saw her score 58 runs which was the second most in a season by any Patriot, while Kissinger recorded a 13-1 record with 85 strikeouts as a junior. A right-hander from Telephone, Kissinger has a 0.91 ERA through 301 innings of work for the Patriots entering Friday’s doubleheader.

The Patriots also return Kailey Henderson, Abby Hall, Hannah Moore, Kursten Jaime and Mel Hinojosa who helped lead the Patriots to last year’s national title. The program added transfer players in Coco Springer, Hallee Carter, Ryata Daniel, Andrea Gonzales, Courtney Fisher and Courtney Meier, while a freshman class of 11 players includes Abby Frame, Natalie Romeo, Omni Garcia, Alyssa Henry, Whitney Romero, Haley Melton, Ashley Cook, Alyssa Maldonado, Miranda Leal, Kami Carpenter and Jewel Moody.

Pacific University is coming off a 2016 season where the Boxers went 25-16-1 overall and were 17-11 in the Northwest Conference, while Centenary was 23-22 overall and 9-15 in Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play. The Patriots will return to action after Friday’s doubleheader by opening ASC play next weekend with a three-game set against Hardin-Simmons in Abilene.