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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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/.