Hear from Head Coach Bruce Lenington as he discusses the 2022 season.
The Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) softball program is preparing for a successful season starting on Feb. 11 after its OLLU Star Shuttle Classic scheduled for Feb. 4-6 was canceled due to weather conditions. The team features numerous new faces and transfer athletes, as well as senior leaders and solid returners.
Head Coach Bruce Lenington returns for his third season as the leader of the Saints. He holds a 37-32 overall record at OLLU and an impressive .714 winning percentage in the Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC). Assistant Coaches Jody Armijo and Nicholas Espinoza will begin their third season aiding Lenington. Katrisha Arocha joins the assistant coaching staff after pitching for the Saints from 2014-2015. Arocha garnered multiple awards during her career and still holds the career ERA record at OLLU with a 1.79 mark in just two seasons. Ashley Lenington will begin her first season as an assistant coach as well.
Former players Ysa Gonzales and Alexis Valdez will be student assistants. They are joined by first-year members Gilbert Alvarado and Julianna Alvarado.
Lenington said, “We have a really good coaching staff because the group is well-rounded. The returning staff knows the routine of the program, and we are excited to welcome in new faces that have previous experience with the team.”
The Saints welcome two freshmen and five transfer athletes. Outfielder Taylor Gage (FR/Katy, Texas) and utility player Hannah Garza (FR/Lyford, Texas) will provide fresh talent to an already talented roster. The transfer class includes juniors Cierra Gutierrez (JR/San Antonio, Texas), Dominique Rodriguez (JR/Frisco, Texas), Kristee Salas (JR/Edinburg, Texas), Cassandra Valdez (JR/Brownsville, Texas) and senior Rebecca Duran (SR/Austin, Texas) from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Valdez previously played at NCAA D1 Texas State University. Graduate student Caitlin Terrazas (SR/Atascosa, Texas) joins the Saints from Lamar University.
Returners and seniors
OLLU returns three sophomores, four juniors and a massive senior squad of seven athletes. Sophomores include infielder Marissa Bradley (SO/Seguin, Texas), utility player Eneli Garza (SO/La Feria, Texas) and outfielder Kaili Luna (SO/Converse, Texas). Katelyn Esparza (JR/San Antonio, Texas), Julissa Moreno (JR/Austin, Texas), Kelly Anne Salinas (JR/Laredo, Texas) and Deandra Vera (JR/Uvalde, Texas) round out the junior group. Senior leaders are Kayla Dreese (SR/San Antonio, Texas), Jennifer Estrada (SR/El Paso, Texas), Joanna Gonzalez (SR/San Benito, Texas), Ciera Martinez (SR/San Antonio, Texas), Ariel Montgomery (SR/Castroville, Texas), Madison Nunn (SR/Cibolo, Texas) and Angela Ramirez (SR/Converse, Texas).
Martinez reached 499 career strikeouts during the 2021 season, which currently tops the Saints’ record book. After being granted an extra year of eligibility, she returns for her fifth year due to the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season.
Lenington commented, “We will suit up 22 players this season, and 17 are considered upper-level students. We are a really mature group and these young women have been playing softball for a long time.”
(numbers following schools indicate series record).
OLLU’s first tournament – the OLLU Star Shuttle Classic – was canceled due to weather conditions. The team will begin its season with the Saints Four Seasons Classic Tournament on Feb. 11-13. Participants are Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OWU), Texas A&M University-San Antonio (TAMUSA) and Midland University (MU). OLLU will play OWU and MU on Feb. 11 and again on Feb. 12.
The Saints play two-game sets at home against the University of Texas-Tyler (0-4) on Feb. 16, William Woods University on Feb. 18 and Southwestern University (7-14-1) on Feb. 19. The season’s first road trip includes conference games against UHV (15-27) on Feb. 25 and a doubleheader at NCAA D3 University of St. Thomas (1-1) on Feb. 26. The Saints stay on the road to participate in the Gulf Shores Tourney in Gulf Shores, Ala., from March 4-6. They start the tournament against the University of Mobile (0-1) and Blue Mountain College (1-0) on March 4. They face No. 10-ranked Campbellsville University and No. 24-ranked Central Baptist College (0-2) on March 5 and close the tournament by facing No. 13-ranked Central Methodist University (0-1) on March 6.
The last few non-conference contests include games on the road against NCAA D3 Schreiner University (SU) (14-2) on March 16, NCAA D3 Trinity University (13-9) on March 23 and home against SU on April 6. They close the non-conference schedule with a doubleheader at home versus Dallas Christian College on April 10.
The Saints finished with a 12-6 mark in the RRAC last season. OLLU finished as semifinalists in the 2021 RRAC Tournament after defeating the University of the Southwest (USW) and LSU-Alexandria (LSUA) and losing to Texas A&M University-Texarkana (TAMUT).
Conference play begins with a doubleheader at No. 25-ranked UHV (15-27) on Feb. 25. The Saints host Huston-Tillotson University (HTU) (25-11) for a doubleheader on March 8. Four days later, they travel to TAMUSA (4-0) for two games and host doubleheaders against RRAC newcomers Louisiana Christian University on March 18 and Xavier University of Louisiana on March 19.
The Saints head to New Mexico for a doubleheader against the University of the Southwest (USW) (35-13) on March 26. From March 29-April 9, the Saints host its longest homestand of the season against UHV on March 29, Jarvis Christian College (13-5) on April 1, Texas College (31-2) on April 2 and TAMUSA on April 9.
OLLU travels north to face HTU in Austin, Texas, on April 12 and returns home to host USW on April 16. They close the regular season in Alexandria, La., for a doubleheader versus LSUA on April 22 and in Texarkana against TAMUT on April 23.
Hosting the RRAC Tournament
The Saints will host the RRAC Tournament for the first time on May 5-7. OLLU will partner with St. Mary’s University to host some games due to the tournament being an eight-team field. The championship game will take place at the OLLU Softball Field on Saturday, May 7.
“We are very excited to host the tournament, and we have worked hard on improving our facilities. We feel that it is one of the best facilities at the conference,” Lenington commented. Improvements to the facility include fencing, concessions and a new press box.
Inaugural Hall of Fame
Lenington recently created the “OLLU Softball Hall of Fame.” The first class of athletes included Taylor Doege, Brittany McInnis and Katrisha Arocha. “The honorees were very appreciative of the university and softball program, making them feel good for all of the work they have done,” Lenington said.
Message to fans
The Saints plan to begin the season with no restrictions to fan attendance but encourage mask-wearing and social distancing. OLLU also plans to provide play-by-play broadcasts of home games here: https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ollusaints/.