Tyler Regional Website
TYLER, Texas – Turn out the lights, the season’s over.
Unable to generate any sustainable offense for the second straight day, the Linfield Wildcats bowed out of the NCAA Division III Tyler Regional Saturday with a 4-1 loss to host Texas-Tyler at UT-Tyler Ballpark.
It marked an abrupt end to what was another in a long string of outstanding seasons for Linfield (36-8), which reached the NCAA championship game each of the past three years, winning it all in 2011.
Instead, the Wildcats were left to wonder what happened to an offense that averaged nearly eight runs a game through the regular season. Only a home run by senior All-American Karleigh Prestianni in her final at-bat prevented Linfield from absorbing back-to-back shutout losses. The 'Cats were upset 3-0 by Redlands on Friday.
Prestianni went 2 for 3 in the final game of her storied career. Haylie Watson had Linfield's only other hit.
UT-Tyler pitcher Kelsie Batten improved to 22-1 in the circle, holding the Wildcats to three hits. Lauren Robenalt went 3 for 4, stole a base and scored a run, and Raven Rodriguez had a pair of hits for the Patriots (43-4).
“We’re disappointed because we really didn’t play up to our potential,” said Wildcats coach Jackson Vaughan. “We’ve been in (the regional playoffs) 10 years in a row now. I know, and especially our seniors know, it’s all about playing at a high level at this time of year. We’ve been able to do that several times in the playoffs, but this year, we just didn’t seem to get it going offensively.
“That’s the most frustrating thing,” said the two-time NFCA Coach of the Year. “The teams we lost to, we have tons of respect for them, but we feel like we just didn’t play to our full potential.”
Texas-Tyler pushed a run across in the first inning when Rachel Howell delivered a RBI single up the middle off the pitch of Karina Paavola. The score remained 1-0 until the sixth. Pinch hitter Brittany Burt singled with the bases loaded, pushing home a run, and Brittany Batten drew a bases-loaded walk to make 3-0.
The Patriots added an insurance run in the top of the seventh. Vanessa Carrizales sent a line-drive sacrifice to center field that plated Rodriguez.
Paavola (22-4) struck out seven Patriots but surrendered 10 hits and three walks. In all, 91 of her 122 pitches were for strikes.
Prestianni gave Linfield its only run, sending a 0-1 pitch from Kelsie Batten over the left-field wall. It was Prestianni’s 52nd career homer, the most by any active player in Division III this season.
Afterward, Prestianni, along with fellow seniors Megan Wallo and Rachelle Ridout, reflected on the totality of her softball careers.
“This has been the best four years of my life,” said Prestianni. “Playing for this program has meant everything. We’re a family with a great tradition and it’s been carried forward over for the last 10 years.”
Ridout, a reserve, said the Catball family analogy applies to all players, not just the stars.
“What’s nice is, the family is not just the starting nine, it’s all the way through the team,” she said. “We’ll walk away from this program with a lot of life lessons, plus all the camaraderie and friends that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.”
“You won’t find a team that works harder than we do,” said Wallo. “Since January, it’s been all softball all the time while still working to get good grades in classes. It’s been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
“This team worked as hard as any team I’ve coached,” said Vaughan. “I told them afterward I was extremely proud of them. We had a lot of sophomores step up and certainly want to acknowledge how big they were to our season. And thanks to our three seniors for their leadership and all they’ve done for the program.”
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield’s consecutive losses at the Tyler Regional marked only the second time in program history that the Wildcats have sustained back-to-back losses in the postseason, those coming at the hands of Trinity (Texas) and Redlands in the 2005 NCAA Regionals . . . Linfield is 1-5 all-time against Texas-Tyler. . . Prestianni competed in her 199th game, two short of equaling the school record shared by Staci Doucette (2009-12) and Emilee Lepp (2009-12).