2016 NCAA Division III National Champions
PREVIEW: @Patriots_sb to host HPU with No. 2 ranking
Howard Payne (5-17-1)
#2 UT Tyler (21-2)
3/17/2017 | Tyler, Tx | Attendance: 180
Howard Payne00000011
UT Tyler5804X17210
Win: Whitney Romero (8-1) 5.010007
Loss: Tonya Thompson (1-8) 0.165501
Sabrina Ochoa (HPUW) 101000
Cheyenne Thompson (UTTSB) 333300
Mel Hinojosa (UTTSB) 323110

Thursday, March 16, 2017
by Wes Bloomquist || wbloomquist@uttyler.edu

TYLER – The UT Tyler softball team will host Howard Payne in a three-game American Southwest Conference series this weekend as the No. 2-ranked team in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top 25 after dropping from the top spot despite taking two of three last week at No. 3 East Texas Baptist. UT Tyler and HPU (5-15-1, 3-12 ASC) open their series with a 5 p.m. doubleheader on Friday and will then play the finale at noon on Saturday at Suddenlink Field where the Patriots own a 9-1 record this season. 


The Patriots (19-2, 10-2 ASC) had been ranked No. 1 for the past five polls but saw Berry College move up with a 19-1 record, while the Tigers fell to No. 5 after losing their first two games of the season last week. The Patriots have outscored their opponents by a 180-47 margin and lead the ASC with a .405 batting average, a .979 fielding percentage, .474 on-base percentage and 8.57 runs per game. UT Tyler head coach Mike Reed enters this weekend's series with 593 wins in his career. 

Kaylee Prather enters this weekend leading the nation with 42 hits and tops the ASC with a .560 batting average through 21 games. A senior from Elysian Fields, Prather has six doubles, three triples, a home run and is the only Patriots to reach base in all 21 games this season. She also leads UT Tyler with 14 stolen bases in 14 attempts and with 29 runs scored from the leadoff spot in the lineup. In her two seasons after transferring from LSU-Alexandria, Prather has already had 113 hits and scored 87 runs in 75 games. KK Stevens is also leading the Patriots at the plate with six home runs and is second with 25 RBI. A senior from Plano, Stevens was named the ASC Hitter of the Week on Monday after having an impressive week against ETBU and then in the doubleheader sweep of DePauw on Sunday morning. She is currently fourth in the nation in home runs and has a .417 batting average which is the highest in her career. Stevens has started all 21 games at catcher for the Patriots this season and has started 175 games in her UT Tyler career.

Cheyenne Thompson is also putting up big numbers and is third in the country with 29 RBI, seventh in the nation with five home runs, fourth with 32 hits and 16th with seven doubles. A sophomore from Mexia, Thompson has produced eight multi-RBI performances this season including one five-RBI game and two four-RBI games. She is currently on a team-best seven game hitting streak coming into the HPU series. Courtney Fisher has emerged as a newcomer to watch after starting her UT Tyler career with a .478 batting average that includes 22 hits and has produced 14 RBI. A transfer from Galveston College, Fisher has five doubles and a home run in 15 starts.

Bianca Van Vlerah is hitting .400, Mel Hinojosa .390 and Lexi Ackroyd .375 in their senior seasons, while junior transfer Andrea Gonzales is at .417 as the team’s first baseman. Gonzales is eighth in the nation and leads the ASC with eight doubles this season and has also contributed 15 RBI. Van Vlerah, who is in her second season after transferring from Kilgore, is the team’s second baseman and has provided 26 hits – seven being doubles. Hinojosa has seven doubles and 15 RBI with 21 starts at third, while Ackroyd is covering left field for the Patriots on defense and has also provided 18 hits and 14 RBI. Van Vlerah is second on the team with eight multi-hit games while Fisher, Hinojosa, Gonzales and Stevens have five multi-RBI performances so far.

Alaina Kissinger (10-0) is second in the nation with her win total and is third in the ASC with 40 strikeouts. A senior from Telephone, Kissinger is an astounding 54-2 in her career and has record 328 strikeouts in 364 1/3 innings of work at UT Tyler. She has made 90 appearances for the Patriots with 14 coming this season and has limited opponents to a .172 average. Whitney Romero (7-1) has started her freshman season off the way Kissinger did back in 2014 by winning games. A right-hander from Louisiana, Romero has 38 strikeouts through 48 2/3 innings this season with only 10 walks. She leads the team with a 0.86 ERA while Kissinger is at 1.77. Miranda Leal (2-1) earned the win over ETBU last Wednesday in the series finale after five innings of relief and has recorded six strikeouts in six appearances and one start. She earned her first win in a 12-10 win over Mary Hardin-Baylor two weeks ago.  

The UT Tyler pitcher staff has a 2.16 ERA with 88 strikeouts and only 27 walks this season, while opponents have an 8.75 ERA against Patriot hitters. Howard Payne is coming off dropping two of three against Sul Ross after getting swept by ETBU. The Patriots will return to action after this weekend by hosting UT Dallas in a three-game series at Suddenlink Field.

Louisiana College 14-1 0.933 17-2 0.895 W13
UT Tyler 10-2 0.833 19-2 0.905 W3
East Texas Baptist 10-2 0.833 17-2 0.895 W2
UT Dallas 10-2 0.833 18-4 0.818 L1
Concordia Texas 6-6 0.500 13-8 0.619 L3
Mary Hardin-Baylor 6-9 0.400 11-9 0.550 W1
Sul Ross State 5-10 0.333 8-14 0.364 W2
LeTourneau 4-11 0.267 9-13 0.409 L1
Hardin-Simmons 4-11 0.267 7-12 0.368 L3
Univ. of Ozarks 3-9 0.250 5-12 0.294 W2
Howard Payne 3-12 0.200 5-15-1 0.262 L1
Belhaven # 0-0 0.000 7-11 0.389 W3

# Ineligible for 2017 ASC Championship/NCAA Tournament (Div. III Provisional)