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Softball begins quest for successful 2023 campaign

The softball program begins the 2023 campaign on Friday after recording the best season in school history in 2022.

2022 recap
The Saints boasted a 46-13 record in 2022 and qualified for the NAIA Softball Opening Round, where they won two games and eventually fell to the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. OLLU won 24 straight games from March 18-April 22. The squad was ranked fourth in the NAIA with 181 extra-base hits and batted .329 as a team. The Saints’ pitching rotation limited opponents to a .225 batting average and struck out 349 hitters.

Preseason ranking
The NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 Preseason Poll placed the Saints at 15 out of 25 programs. Head Coach Bruce Lenington commented, “We think our team deserves to be nationally ranked, and we are going to pursue the top 10.” The Saints are ranked first in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) Preseason Coaches’ Poll, with defending champions Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TAMUT) following in second place.

Coaching staff
Lenington returns for his fourth season at the helm. During his time at OLLU, Lenington has amassed an 83-45 overall record and a .775 winning percentage in RRAC play. Jody Armijo and Katrisha Arocha are back as assistant coaches.  

Nonconference schedule (numbers after school indicate series record).
The Saints start the season by hosting two tournaments. They welcome Central Baptist College (CBC) (1-2) and the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) (17-30) for the OLLU Classic from Feb. 3-4. OLLU will play CBC three times during the tournament. OLLU showcases another tournament the following weekend. The teams participating include Bethany College (2-0), Texas A&M University-San Antonio (TAMUSA) (7-1) and Midland University (3-2). The Saints face Midland three times and Bethany once.   

OLLU will play multiple nonconference games throughout the RRAC schedule. In a doubleheader, they face NCAA D2 Texas A&M University-Kingsville at home on Feb. 19. The Saints travel to Oklahoma City to face the defending NAIA champions Oklahoma City University (2-2) for two games on Feb. 24. They play a pair of games at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (0-2) on Feb. 25 and St. Mary’s University (0-5) on Feb. 28. OLLU hosts Schreiner University (SU) (15-2) in a doubleheader on March 4 and then closes nonconference competition at SU on April 5.

Conference schedule
The conference schedule consists of doubleheaders spread throughout the spring. OLLU opens conference competition at home against UHV on Feb. 18. They head to Austin, Texas, to play Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) (30-11) on March 7 and return home to host TAMUSA on March 11. The Saints then head to Louisiana for matchups against Louisiana Christian University (LCU) (1-1) on March 17 and Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) (2-0) on March 18.

The Saints host the University of the Southwest (USW) (39-13) on March 24 before heading for another road trip. The trip includes games against UHV on March 28, Jarvis Christian University (JCU) (15-5) on March 31, Texas College (TC) (32-3) on April 1 and TAMUSA on April 8. OLLU hosts HTU on April 11 and heads west to face USW on April 15. The Saints close the regular season with matchups at home against TAMUT (6-9) on April 21 and LSU-Alexandria (LSUA) (7-23) on April 22.

The Saints boast 12 seniors. Returners include Rebecca Duran, Jennifer Estrada, Joanna Gonzalez, Ariel Montgomery, Julissa Moreno, Madison Nunn, Angela Ramirez, Kristee Salas, Caitlin Terrazas, Cassandra Valdez and Deandra Vera. The seniors combined for a .286 batting average last season, and Montgomery drove in 52 RBIs. Valdez, who will play one more season after this one, earned RRAC Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year by boasting a 1.79 ERA and four complete-game shutouts.

Marissa Bradley, Eneli Garza and Kaili Luna return as juniors. Taylor Gage is the lone returner for the sophomore class. Garza committed only one error in centerfield throughout her 38 games last year. Bradley batted .283, while Luna had a perfect fielding percentage in right field.

OLLU welcomes five freshmen to the program. Texas natives Arianna Alejandro, Allison Garcia, Alyssa Garcia, Ariana Garcia and Emilia Salinas begin their Saints career on Feb. 3. MacKenzie Purcell joins the team as a graduate student, and senior Madison Garza arrives after playing at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Juniors Alyssa Flores and Allie Gonzales were recruited over the summer. Flores comes from NCAA D2 St. Mary’s University, while Gonzales transfers from RRAC opponent JCU. Lenington commented, “Allie Gonzales garnered votes for pitcher of the year as a freshman last season with Jarvis. She beat us twice, and we are happy to have her here.”

Fan expectations
The staff has made multiple improvements over the last few seasons to the OLLU Softball Field. The Saints are proud to offer shaded seating for fans this year. Field improvements include a new padded wall that surrounds the backstop. Live streaming will be available at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ollusaints/.

Saints baseball back in action as the 2023 season begins on Jan. 27

The baseball team embarks on its ninth season starting on Friday. Matt Piker takes over the reins after joining the program in 2021 as assistant coach.

2022 recap
The Saints finished with a 30-24 overall record last season. They posted a 21-11 mark in Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) competition and lost to the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV) in the conference tournament to conclude the season. Piker filled the head coaching vacancy in early fall after Bryan Aughney left for a position in the Rio Grande Valley.

Former player Ryan Chapa joins Piker for the upcoming campaign. Chapa was named assistant coach in September after garnering multiple awards during his four years of playing. Josh Colunga was added to the coaching staff as a student assistant, and Adrian Gonzalez joined as a volunteer assistant. Both Colunga and Gonzalez previously played for the Saints as well. Cristopher Robinson returns for his ninth year as chaplain. Piker said, “My next move was to be in a head coaching position. Coach Aughney did a tremendous job of teaching me the program’s day-to-day operations.”

Nonconference schedule (Numbers after school indicate all-time records.) OLLU begins the season by hosting No. 19-ranked University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (7-11) on Jan. 27-28. The schedule remains difficult the following weekend as No. 14-ranked Central Methodist University (6-12) arrives in San Antonio from Feb. 3-4. The Saints complete the first homestand by facing Ottawa University on Feb. 8 and Bethany College from Feb. 10-11. Piker commented, “We schedule these tough games because our goal is to be relevant at the national level.”

The Saints face two other nonconference opponents amid the RRAC schedule. The squad faces NCAA D2 St. Mary’s University (3-8) on the road on Feb. 21 and March 28. OLLU hosts NCAA D3 Schreiner University (1-1) on April 11 at 6 p.m.

Conference schedule
The first two series of conference play are on the road for the Saints. They face UHV (23-14) in Victoria, Texas, from Feb. 17-18 and Texas College (23-2) in Tyler, Texas, from Feb. 24-25. The Saints return home to battle LSU-Shreveport (8-20) from March 3-4 and Texas A&M University-Texarkana (11-12) from March 10-11.

The Saints set out for four consecutive away series starting against Louisiana Christian University (2-1) from March 17-18. OLLU heads to Hawkins, Texas, next to play Jarvis Christian University (13-13) from March 24-25. LSU-Alexandria (12-14) hosts OLLU from April 7-8. The Generals won the RRAC Tournament last season to advance to the NAIA World Series. The Saints head back south for a three-game series against Huston-Tillotson University (17-2) in Austin, Texas, from April 14-15.

The last two series of the regular season are at home against Xavier University of Louisiana (3-1) from April 21-22 and the University of Southwest (18-9) from April 28-29.

The freshmen class consists of Vincent Banda, Will Eudy, Donovan Gamez, Jackson Kalisky, Chase Roberts, Roman Rodriguez, Matthew Sanchez, Diego Zuniga and Victor Zuniga. The transfer athletes are Dominique Boggs, Samuel Brown, Criztian Delgado, Chase Dunn, and Caimyn Holiday.

The Saints welcome back six sophomores. Devin Benavides, Brandon Betancourt, Christopher Perez, Hector Rogerio III, Anthony Valle and Jimmy Valle round out the class. The junior squad includes Jonathan LaCourse, Christian Martinez and D’Artagnan Perez-Padron.

OLLU welcomes back multiple veterans to the team. The senior leaders are Eric Cervantes, Javier De Alejandro, Sebastian Ledezma, Ram Maldonado, Alec Martinez, Francisco Martinez, Joshua Mendez, Pablo Montante, Jacob Montejano, John B. Ortega II, Noah Rodriguez, Tyler Vivier and Alejandro Ybarra.

Vivier and Montejano both hit above .300 last season. Noah Rodriguez led the team with 17 steals, and Francisco Martinez added 36 RBIs. Betancourt was named conference Freshman of the Year, while Montejano received Gold Glove recognition and was the team’s Champions of Character winner.

Piker is proud of his team’s accomplishments in the classroom. The team has consistently won NAIA Scholar Team recognition, earning a GPA of 3.0 and above. Those earning GPAs of 3.0 and above include Brandon Betancourt, Javier De Alejandro, Christian Martinez, Joshua Mendez, Pablo Montante, Jacob Montejano, John B. Ortega II, Christopher Perez, Noah Rodriguez, Hector Rogerio III and Alejandro Ybarra.

Fan expectations
Saints fans will be greeted with new additions to the coaching staff and numerous fresh faces on the team. Piker said, “I hope we can put a good product out on the field for the fans. We have fans beyond family ties, and they are passionate and care about Saints baseball.” The Saints home games will be live-streamed on https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ollusaints/.

OLLU Cross-Country Begins Season on Sept. 2

The Saints cross-country teams will start their 14th season and Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) title defense on Sept. 2 at the UIW Twilight. The women are scheduled to run the 4k at 8:45 p.m., and the men will follow in the 6k at 9:10 p.m.

Conference rankings
The men’s team, which has won seven conference championships in a row, has been selected to finish first in the conference preseason poll, followed by new conference opponent Texas A&M University – Texarkana, the University of the Southwest, Xavier University of Louisiana, Huston-Tillotson University and Jarvis Christian University (former Jarvis Christian College).

The women, who have won seven of the last nine conference championships, are picked second in the preseason poll. Newcomer Texarkana is selected first, and following the Saints are Xavier, Jarvis, Southwest and Huston-Tillotson.

Head Coach Patrick Torres begins his third season with OLLU. The men’s and women’s programs have thrived under Torres’ leadership, boasting the RRAC trophy and qualifying for the NAIA National Championships in his first two years. He earned coach of the year honors for both teams in 2020 and 2021.

Assistant Coach Brett Charlton also enters his third season. Charlton competed as a track and field athlete at Illinois State University and graduated from Eureka College in Eureka, Ill., before joining the Saints staff.

Torres and Charlton recruited 11 incoming freshmen for the 2022 campaign. Additions to the women’s team include Mia Curiel, Khristian Harden, Liliana Hernandez, Karla Herrera, Deandra Ibarra, Leilani Leza and Kennedy Vallalpando. The men’s program welcomes Jesse Morales, Sebastian Moreno, Jose Saucedo, Matthew Trevino and Jayden Turrubiates.

Men’s team returners
Returning is senior Nathaniel Rodriguez, while Jose Zarate returns for his fifth season after being granted another year of eligibility due to COVID. Transfer athlete Kruz Malesich is the lone junior, while JoseCarlos Hernandez, Diego Moran, Hendrick Ramirez and Robert Rios are back as sophomores. Also returning is Hector Puente. “We are bringing back a great returning group,” Torres commented.

Women’s team returners
The Saints welcome back solid performing seniors, including Lindsey Broussard, Robbie Sue Espericueta and Nadia Sifuentes. Senior Brianna Pantoja and junior Virdiana Zuniga ran track over the last few years and joined the cross-country team this season. Jasmine Hernandez and Sierra Ramirez round out the sophomore class.

Schedule overview
The teams open the season at the UIW Twilight on Sept. 2 at the University of the Incarnate Word. They will head to Pflugerville, Texas, on Sept. 23 to compete in the Concordia Classic at Concordia University Texas and back to UIW on Oct. 1 for the UIW Invitational.

The programs will host the Saints Invitational on Oct. 8. The highlight of the regular season will be at the Arturo Barrios Invitational at Texas A&M University in College Station on Oct. 15. The Saints will have a chance to compete among various NCAA D1 schools.

OLLU will close the season by hosting the RRAC Championships on Nov. 5.

Conference participants
Both programs finished first in the RRAC Championships last season. Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) finished second on the women’s side, followed by the University of the Southwest (USW) in third and Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) in fourth. Sifuentes and Hernandez took first and second place in the 5k. Four other Saints finished in the top 10.

The men’s team was followed by USW in second place, XULA in third, Wiley College in fourth, HTU in fifth and Jarvis Christian College (JCC) in sixth. The Saints swept the top 10 spots in the 5k, with Zarate taking first and Rodriguez, Ramirez and Moran, Hernandez finishing in the top 10.

This season’s conference competitors will be USW, Jarvis Christian University, XULA and newcomer Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TAMUT).

The women’s cross-country team earned NAIA Scholar Team honors in 2021-2022 with an overall 3.30 GPA.

Fan attendance
The Saints aim to provide a top-tier fan experience at all events. Torres commented, “Our program is building on past performance. Cross-country is an exciting sport, and we love hearing the crowd noise and fans cheering on our athletes.”

Volleyball wins one, drops one in weekend tournament

The Saints volleyball team downed Evangel University in a five-set thriller in the Alamo City Volleyesta held in Mabee Gymnasium on Friday night. Read more about the team’s 2022 opening season win on the Saints athletics website.

On Saturday, the Saints closed out the tournament with an intense match against Texas Wesleyan University. The Saints fell to the Rams in four sets. Read more about the match on the Saints athletics website.