CANYON – The Lady Buffs of West Texas A&M concluded their 2014 campaign in style on Memorial Day as they claimed the program’s first ever NCAA Division II National Championship in a thrilling victory over then #16 Valdosta State at the Moyers Sports Complex in Salem, Virginia. The crown marks the fourth NCAA National Championship in WT history as the Lady Buffs claimed titles on the volleyball court in 1990, 1991 and 1997.
The Lady Buffs finished the season with an overall record of 60-7 as they broke the Lone Star Conference single season wins record previously held by the Midwestern State teams of 2010 and 2011 who claimed 54 victories. WT become the fourth team in NCAA history to claim a title while winning 60 games in a season, joining Cal State-Northridge (1985), Augustana (1991) and North Dakota State (2000). WT rose to the top spot in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top-25 Poll back on February 26th and never looked back as the team sat atop of the rankings for 12 straight polls, the Lady Buffs will likely begin the 2015 campaign as DII’s top team.
The 2014 version of the Lady Buffs finished the season with a 35-3 record inside the friendly confines of Schaeffer Park including a perfect 13-0 mark in Lone Star Conference play, WT saw a total of 12,262 fans attend a game at Schaeffer Park during the season for an average of 341 per game to rank first in all of Division II with a percentage capacity of 56.77.
"Thank you to Buff Nation for supporting our players and staff all season long, it’s unbelievable to thing how the fan base has grown for WT Softball over the last nine years" said WT head coach Kevin Blaskowski "We finished the season number one in the country in attendance and that speaks to the support of our fans, our kids feed off of the energy and atmosphere every time they step on the field at Schaeffer Park.”
Expectations were high for the 2014 version of the Lady Buffs after an appearance in the 2013 NCAA Postseason, this year's team didn't disappoint as they claimed the program's first overall Lone Star Conference Regular Season Championship with a 23-4 league record as they swept rival and then #7 Angelo State in a four-game league series to decide the LSC Champion on the last weekend of the regular season in Canyon.
West Texas A&M was tabbed the top overall seed in the NCAA Postseason as they were selected to host the South Central Regional Tournament for the third time in program history on May 9-11 with victories over Midwestern State (6-2) and Metro State (13-5/5 inn) before the Lady Buffs dropped the Sunday opener to the Mustangs 12-11 before bouncing back for the 7-2 victory to advance to their second NCAA South Central Super Regional.
WT hosted the Rattlers of St. Mary’s in the Supers and the Heartland Conference Champion came away with a 4-3 victory in the opener on Friday night as the Lady Buffs played Saturday with their backs against the wall, Hannah Newcomb and Rita Hokianga proved why WT was the top team in the nation as they tossed a pair of complete game shutouts on Saturday to give the Lady Buffs the program’s first ever NCAA South Central Regional Championship on May 17.
The Lady Buffs made their way to the DII College World Series in Salem, Virginia on May 22-26 as they topped East Region Champion LIU-Post (8-1) in the opener before using a Jessica Sipe two run single in the sixth inning to top then #19 Armstrong Atlantic, 6-5. The pair of wins gave the Lady Buffs an off-day on Saturday followed by another nail-biter against #15 Dixie State as WT scored twice in the sixth to claim a 2-1 win.
The #16 Blazers of Valdosta State awaited in the National Title game as the teams took a scoreless tie into the seventh before Brittany Gehle registered her first hit of the weekend with a three run homerun to left field in the top of the frame with two outs. The Blazers wouldn’t go down without a fight as they hit back-to-back solo homeruns with two outs in the bottom of the seventh before Hokianga, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, registered a strikeout to end the game, 3-2.
LSC POSTSEASON AWARDS
12 members of the Lady Buffs were honored for their performance on the diamond during the league's annual postseason awards banquet being held inside Legacy Hall in the Jack B. Kelley Student Center prior to the start of the 2014 LSC Championship taking place at Schaeffer Park.
The Lady Buffs put six student-athletes on the All-LSC First Team along with three on the Second Team and three on the league's Third Team, WT also picked up the league's Newcomer and Pitcher of the Year (Hokianga) awards while Blaskowski was named the Coach of the Year. Hokianga along with Newcomb, Alyssa Lemos, Jessica Sipe, Renee Erwin and Allie Cranfill were named to the All-LSC First Team while Kaisha Dacosin, Brittany Gehle and Lacey Taylor were named to the Second Team.
Mallory Wyatt, Tyler Wilkinson and Tori Bayer earned Third Team accolades while Hokianga, Lemos, Sipe, Cranfill and Erwin were honored for their defensive efforts with a spot on the league's Golden Glove team. Cranfill and Lemos both repeated as Golden Glove winners from last season while both were honored for their dedication in the classroom as members of the All-LSC Academic Team.
NFCA/DAKTRONICS POSTSEASON AWARDS
It's said that with great success comes great rewards, that statement was true this season as seven members of the Lady Buffs were honored for their efforts on the diamond with postseason honors by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and Daktronics.
WT's Erwin, Hokianga Lemos, Newcomb, Cranfill, Sipe and Dacosin were honored as All-Region performers for their efforts on the diamond, Erwin was named the Daktronics South Central Region’s Player of the Year while Hokianga was tabbed the Pitcher of the Year. Four members of the team achieved the highest individual honor a Division II softball player can reach as the NFCA and Daktronics announced their 2014 All-American teams during and prior to the DII College World Series awards banquet being held at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Virginia.
Hokianga picked up 1st Team NFCA accolades while Sipe and Erwin were named to the second team by the association. On the Daktronics side, Lemos picked-up Honorable Mention accolades while Hokianga was named to the third team and Erwin was a first team selection while also being named the Ron Lenz Player of the Year. The four All-American honors during the 2014 season brings the Lady Buff program All-American total to six student-athletes as Sipe and Hokianga join Erwin, Lemos, Kasey Henderson (2009-11) and Kim LeComte (2009-12).
RE-WRITING THE RECORD BOOKS
The 2014 campaign saw the Lady Buffs re-write the program and Lone Star Conference record books as WT set seven new individual or team LSC marks along with way. Lemos is the all-time league leader in runs scored (251) and walks (179), the 251 runs is 3rd all-time in NCAA Division II history while the senior shortstop holds the NCAA career record in walks. As a team, the Lady Buffs broke the Lone Star Conference single-season records in runs (554), doubles (133), homeruns (105) and RBI (502) while also breaking the Lone Star Conference single season record for wins with 60.
WT's 554 runs scored ranks third all-time in the NCAA record books while the 133 doubles is third all-time and the 105 homeruns is third all-time. Erwin, the Daktronics Ron Lenz Player of the Year, broke the LSC record for runs scored (81) in a single season, which is fifth all-time in NCAA history, to pass Angelo State standout Morgan Spearman while also tying the league’s single season record for total bases with 175 (Macy Baker, ASU ’09) which ranks third all-time in NCAA history.