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Patriots play and win with heavy hearts

UT Tyler Athletics UT Tyler Athletics

SALEM, Virginia – UT Tyler Athletics Release 

 The No. 3-ranked UT Tyler Patriots are 2-0 at the NCAA Division III Softball Championship after producing two six-run innings and running away with a 12-1 run-shortened win over No. 9 Emory on Friday at the Moyer Complex.

The Patriots (46-4), who received three-RBI performances from Cheyenne Thompson and Kristin Lopez against the Eagles (46-7), remain in the winner’s bracket where they will now play at 3 p.m. (CDT) on Saturday against the winner of a MIT and St. John Fisher matchup that is set for 10 a.m. on Saturday. The tournament games were moved up due to forecast calling for rain in Virginia this weekend. Messiah is the other unbeaten team in Salem after it earned a 3-1 win over MIT on Friday.

NCAA DIII CHAMPIONSHIP BRACKET

A freshman designated player, Thompson went 2-for-3 with a two-run home run in third inning while Raven Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with a run-scoring double and single for the Patriots who are now one win away from the championship finals for the second straight season. UT Tyler finished the game with 10 hits, while Emory was limited to five hits and also committed four errors in the field. Kelsie Batten (34-3) earned the win after striking out four and scattering four hits over four innings of work to secure the 116th victory of her career, while Alaina Kissinger recorded three strikeouts to finish off the Eagles in the five-inning game.

“We just had one of those innings where we were able to barrel up some balls for some extra base hits,” UT Tyler coach Mike Reed said. “It was a tension-packed game early, but we were able to have some big at-bats and some runs across. It was a really good offensive night for us. With this team nothing surprises me anymore. They do it in all different ways. This was an example of hitting being contagious where we got in a good rhythm.”

After going quietly in the first two innings, the Patriots erupted for six runs on five hits where 12 batters came to the plate. The game-changing inning started with Lexi Ackroyd hitting a single on a 2-2 pitch to right field and then advanced to second on a passed ball. With her standing at second in a scoreless game and one out, Raven Rodriguez drilled a two-strike pitch over the center fielder’s head for a run-scoring double to give UT Tyler the 1-0 lead. Up one and with one out, Thompson stepped up and laced an opposite-field home run over the right-field fence to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead on her second home run of her freshman season. Rodriguez, who is now 3-for-6 in Salem, is hitting .413 this season and has 169 RBI in her career which is the second most in program history. 

The inning continued to swing momentum in UT Tyler’s favor with Vanessa Carrizales being hit by a pitch and KK Stevens and Bianca Van Vlerah drawing walks. With the bases load, and still one out, Jackie Mendez singled to right field to score pinch runner Emilee Burkhardt four the fourth run. The inning’s production would be capped with Lopez hitting a two-run double to center field to score Stevens and Van Vlerah as the Patriots commanded the game with the six-run advantage.

Already with a 6-1 lead, the Patriots would put the game away with another six-spot in the fifth inning after they had five hits and took advantage of four errors by the Eagles. Rodriguez would drive home her second run of the game with an opposite field single to score Lopez and was followed by Thompson ripping a single to left field to score Kaylee Prather in what proved to be the final run of the game. Thompson leads the Patriots with a .422 average with 27 total hits and 23 RBI after her third three-RBI performance of the season. Prather, who went 1-for-3 against Emory after going 1-for-3 against St. John Fisher on Thursday, is now on a team-leading eight-game hitting streak. Batten is 2-0 in Salem with with 13 strikeouts, one run allowed and only six hits through 11 innings of work at the tournament. Opponents are being limited to a .154 average against the four-time NFCA All-American. 

Emory will now play an elimination game against Rowan at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday with the winner to face Messiah at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday night.

“Each game is a new adventure,” Reed said. “You can look at the two games we just played and see how different they were. You are going to play a quality opponent every time here. We know tomorrow will have its new challenges.”  

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