The NAIA No. 2-ranked OLLU softball team defeated Hope International University (HIU) 2-0 in both games on May 17 to claim the NAIA Opening Round San Antonio Bracket title – and advance to the NAIA World Series for the first time in program history.
The Saints will compete in the week-long World Series, starting Thursday in Columbus, Ga.
“I am super proud,” said OLLU softball Coach Bruce Lenington. “They were rock solid in the whole tournament and they kept to our game plan.”
Saints pitcher Cassandra Valdez threw a 1-hit shutout to defeat HIU 2-0 in the first game on May 17. She came back in the second game and threw four strong innings in relief, allowing only two hits.
The Saints were seeded No. 1 for the NAIA Opening Round and finished with a 4-1 record. Hope was the No. 2 seed.
The softball team announced the signing of MacKenzie Purcell, a transfer student from Kingwood, Texas.
Head Coach Bruce Lenington commented, “We are very happy to have an opportunity to have Mackenzie on our squad. She is a proven winner who embodies the drive and determination we seek here at OLLU.
Purcell is a graduate student and plans to major in clinical mental health counseling. She plays in the infield and is a transfer from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and Temple College.
Purcell said, “I chose to play at OLLU because the softball program will give me the opportunity to continue growing as a player, student and person. The OLLU softball program has a competitive atmosphere and great culture. I am excited to finish my softball career and begin my master’s degree at OLLU.
The Saints are the reigning Red River Athletic Conference champions and made it to the NAIA National Tournament in the spring. The women will play a handful of games in the fall and begin their official season in the spring.
The softball team welcomes senior transfer Madison Garza to the 2022-2023 squad. Garza, a native of Danbury, Texas, is joining the team after playing at NCAA D1 Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
Head Coach Bruce Lenington commented, “We are very happy to welcome Madi and her family to OLLU to finish her academic and athletic career. She is a gifted athlete who will lead our program as we pursue another championship.”
Garza, an infielder, also attended Temple College. While there, she received National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-American Academic honors. She was named to the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference (NTJCAC) All-Conference Second Team.
“I chose to play at OLLU because of the championship atmosphere, the people and the opportunity to grow as an individual, a teammate and in my faith while competing as a Saint,” Garza said. She plans to major in kinesiology.
The reigning Red River Athletic Conference champion Saints will play a handful of games during the fall and will begin their official season in the spring
Kayla Dreese has been selected to the 2022 Academic All-America® softball team as a second-team selectee by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). CoSIDA members, such as OLLU’s 15-year member Patricia Constantin, submit nominees for consideration. The organization boasts more than 3,000 members, and all are eligible to vote for all sports teams each year.
Dreese helped OLLU to the best season in team history as the Saints reached the NAIA National Tournament before being eliminated in the Gulf Shores Brackett. It was the Saints’ second time getting to nationals, but the first time they had won games at the tournament. Two wins marked the first they have won games. After losing the opening match to No. 16-ranked College of Coastal Georgia 3-5, the No. 17-ranked Saints defeated Valley City State University 4-1 and Coastal Georgia 2-1. The Saints fell to No. 1-ranked University of Mobile in extra innings 3-5 to end their year with a 46-13 record. OLLU set program records in both overall and conference (23) wins. They lost just three games at home while winning 28.
Dreese earned All-Conference First-Team, All-Tournament, NAIA Scholar-Athlete and Red River Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete honors this year. She was named OLLU’s BIG BLUE TOP SAINT Female Athlete of the Year. Her career records include: fourth in sacrifice hits with 19; fourth in hits by pitcher with 11; and second in stolen bases with 43; Season records include: second in games played/started with 55/55; second in total runs with 47; fifth in hits with 64; fifth in hits by pitcher with 5; fifth in on-base % with .469; and second in steals/attempts with 31/26.
Earning a 3.66 GPA, Dreese received her bachelor’s degree in Marketing this past May. She plans to return to play for a fifth year with the Saints after regaining one year of eligibility from her season-ending injury in 2021.
The NAIA Academic All-America® program is financially supported by the NAIA national governance structure to assist CoSIDA with handling the awards fulfillment aspects for the 2021-2022 NAIA Academic All-America® program. For more information regarding the Academic All-America® program, visit https://academicallamerica.com/.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has announced the 2022 Softball All-America teams as selected by the NAIA Softball Coaches’ Association All-America Committee.
Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) pitcher Cassandra Valdez (JR/Brownsville, Texas) has been selected to the Honorable Mention Team. She is the third softball student-athlete to be named to the All-America team. First was Katrisha Arocha in 2014 and Taylor Doege in 2016.
Valdez helped OLLU to the best season in team history as the Saints reached the NAIA National Tournament before being eliminated in the Gulf Shores Brackett. It was the Saints’ second time getting to nationals, but the first time they had won games at the tournament. Two wins marked the first they have won games. After losing the opening match to No. 16-ranked College of Coastal Georgia 3-5, the No. 17-ranked Saints defeated Valley City State University 4-1, with Valdez in the circle pitching all seven innings. She allowed just four hits while striking out five. The Saints also defeated Coastal Georgia 2-1, and Valdez earned the save after pitching four innings. She allowed one hit while striking out five. She also homered in the game and went 1-for-3, adding two RBIs. The Saints fell to the No. 1-ranked University of Mobile in extra innings 3-5. Valdez suffered the loss but pitched a seven-inning gem striking out three. The Saints ended their year with a 46-13 record. OLLU set program records in both overall and conference (23) wins. They lost just three games at home while winning 28.
Valdez earned All-Conference First-Team and was selected Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year. She also received All-Tournament and Red River Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete honors this year. Her career records include: second in slugging percentage at .676, tied for first in ERA at 1.79, fifth in shutouts with five, fourth in wins with 24 and fourth in strikeouts with 238; season records include: third in home runs with nine, fifth in slugging percentage at .676, first in games played with 40, fourth in ERA with 1.79, third in shutouts with five, second in wins with 24, first in innings pitched with 203.2 and third in strikeouts with 238.
Valdez will return to the Saints squad for her senior year. The team will play a handful of fall games and begin their season in spring 2023.
After a historic season that featured two wins in the opening round of the NAIA National Championships, the softball team ascended two spots from the previous poll and is now No. 15 in the 2022 NAIA Softball Coaches Top 25 Postseason Poll the national office announced today.
The Saints were No. 17 in the poll on May 2 after debuting at No. 25 earlier in the season. The Saints had received votes since the first season of competition in 2010. Their most votes were 21 during that first year. In 2012, the Saints received 20 votes, and in 2013, the most votes they received was 44. In the following year, the Saints received 57 votes in 2014, and in 2015, the most votes the Saints received was 88. In 2016, the team received 10 votes. The last time the Saints received votes was in 2018, with 80 votes.
The Saints are the only Red River Athletic Conference team included in the final poll. Texas A&M University-Texarkana, which made nationals, but lost two of three games in the opening round, was last ranked No. 22.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and the Continental Athletic Conference (Independents).
The Top 25 is determined by a points system based on how each voter ranks the best teams. A team receives 30 points for each first-place vote, 29 for second-place and so on through the list.
The highest and lowest ranking for each team (a non-rating is considered a low rating) is removed, and the team’s ranking will be recalculated with an additional point added to each team for every ballot (including discounted ballots) that the teams appear on.
Teams that receive only one point on the ballot are not considered “receiving votes”
The frequency of the polls is bi-weekly. This policy was approved by the National Administrative Council (NAC) prior to the 2016-17 academic season. This change allows raters the opportunity to consider a larger body of work between rating periods.
The softball team announced the addition of Alana Benitez and Allie Gonzales to the 2022-2023 squad.
Benitez is a native of Kingsville, Texas, where she attended Santa Gertrudis Academy. The outfielder/middle infielder sophomore is majoring in criminal justice. She is a transfer from Coastal Bend College in Beeville, Texas.
Head Coach Bruce Lenington commented, “We are extremely happy to welcome Alana and her family to the Lake. She is a skilled player who fits our culture perfectly.”
Gonzales is a junior from Wallis, Texas, where she attended Brazos High School. The left-handed pitcher is a transfer from Jarvis Christian College, a member of the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC), as is OLLU. While there, she received All-Tournament First-Team and All-Conference Second-Team honors. She is majoring in interdisciplinary studies.
“Allie is a great addition to our pitching staff,” said Lenington. “As a freshman in the RRAC, she beat several top teams and proved to be a great competitor in the circle.”
The Saints will begin their official season in January 2023 but will play a handful of scrimmages during the fall.
The Gulf Shores Bracket’s No. 3-seed OLLU softball team took No. 1-seed University of Mobile (UM) the distance but lost 5-3 in eight innings in the NAIA Opening Round championship game. The NAIA’s No. 17 ranked Saints finish the season with an incredible 46-13 record. The NAIA’s No.1-ranked Rams win the Gulf Shores Bracket and move on to the NAIA World Series.
Head Coach Bruce Lenington said, “I don’t think the word proud really does justice to how I feel about these players. They absolutely battled the number one team in the country to the very last out. We lose two players next year and look forward to fighting together again.”
The Saints lost to Mobile in the only previous meeting in 2015.
Mobile struck first in the second inning with an RBI single to lead 1-0. The Saints left a few runners on base in the following frames but cashed in during the fourth inning. Kayla Dreese (SR/San Antonio, Texas) drew an opening walk and advanced to second on a single by Cassandra Valdez (JR/Brownsville, Texas). Ariel Montgomery (SR/Castroville, Texas) followed with an RBI double to score both runners. Julissa Moreno (JR/Austin, Texas) later singled to score Taylor Gage (FR/Katy, Texas) and OLLU led 5-3. The Rams evened the score in the sixth inning with an RBI triple and a run that scored on a fielder’s choice. Both teams failed to record a hit in the seventh inning and the championship contest headed to extra innings.
The Rams advanced runners to second and third base on a wild pitch in the top of the eighth inning. They followed with a two-run double to go ahead 5-3. The Saints battled in the bottom of the eighth inning by loading the bases with no outs. Dreese popped up to left field and Duran was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice. Montgomery came to the plate with two outs but struck out swinging.
Valdez started in the circle and suffered the loss after allowing five earned runs in 7.1 innings of work. Angela Ramirez (SR/Converse, Texas) took over in the eighth inning and forced an inning-ending double play to limit the damage. Montgomery finished with two RBIs and Moreno batted 2-for-3.
The Saints won two NAIA Opening Round matchups this week for the first time in program history.
The Saints will look to rewrite history during the 2023 season.
Kayla Dreese of the softball team has been named to the Academic All-District Softball Team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The program recognizes the nation’s top student-athletes for their combined performances athletically and in the classroom.
To be nominated, a student-athlete must be a starter or important reserve with at least a 3.30 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) at his/her current institution. Nominated athletes must have participated in at least 50 percent of the team’s games at their positions. No student-athletes are eligible until they have completed one full calendar year at their current institution and have reached sophomore athletic eligibility.
Dreese will advance to the national ballot after receiving First Team honors. Recipients of those awards will be announced at a later date.
Dreese is a senior from San Antonio and a graduate of Madison High School. Last week, she received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing with a 3.66 cumulative GPA.
OLLU competes in this awards program as part of District 4, College Division, which includes schools from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and Canada.