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Wagener, UHV set to defend title at conference tournament

May 5, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.

Baylea Wagener winds up throwing during Monday's practice in preparation for the Association of Independent Institutions Conference softball tournament in Victoria.

The University of Houston-Victoria softball team hosts the Association of Independent Institutions Conference softball tournament. Games are at Burdge Field at the St. Joseph-O'Connor Sports Complex, 3006 N. Cameron in Victoria.


Ohio Dominican will play British Columbia at 11 a.m.

UHV takes on LSU-Alexandria at 1:30 p.m.

No. 1 seed Cal State San Marcos plays the winner of the first game, 4 p.m.

Simon Fraser plays the winner of the UHV game, 6:30 p.m.

Games on Friday and Saturday in the double-elimination tournament will be determined by what happens on the first day.

Here are previews of the five visiting teams that will compete in the Association of Independent Institutions Conference softball tournament

Cal State San Marcos

HEAD COACH: Dave Williams, first year

RECORD: 35-13, ranked No. 5 nationally

NOTABLE WINS:7-4 win over top-ranked Cal Baptist University, a 7-0 win over No. 8 Concordia University (Calif.).

KEY PLAYERS: The Cougars are led in the circle by junior pitcher Brenna Sandberg, who has a 33-10 record with a 1.30 ERA. Sandberg has pitched 280.1 innings allowing 81 runs on 191 hits with 54 walks and 263 strikeouts. She has all but five of the Cougars' decisions this year. .At the plate, sophomore Alyssa Dronenburg leads the team with a .440 average, 16 home runs, 48 RBI, 41 runs and 119 total bases. Sophomore Ciera Ashman follows with a .354 average and leads the team with 14 doubles.

NOTES: The Cougars enter the tournament on a three-game win streak, which includes a 7-4 win over top-ranked Cal Baptist University. .The team's longest winning streak this season was 10 games, while the longest losing streak was three. The Cougars are the tournament's top seed.

Simon Fraser University

HEAD COACH: Mike Renny, 16th season

RECORD: 17-12, ranked 14th

NOTABLE WINS:Two one-run wins against No. 21 UHV. A few wins against Division-1 opponents.

KEY PLAYERS: The Clan relies on four pitchers and include senior Jennifer Van Egdom (7-4, 2.49 ERA), junior Myriam Poirier (5-4, 2.24 ERA), and freshmen Cara Lukawesky (3-1, 2.02 ERA) and Ashley Hadland (2-3, 1.99 ERA). .Sophomore Kelsey Haberl leads the team at the plate with a .400 average and has 21 RBI, 19 runs, seven doubles and four home runs. Sophomore Leah Riske leads the team with 31 RBI and six home runs, while compiling a .345 average.

NOTES: Renney has a 464-160 record. Simon Fraser is located in Burnaby, B.C., and qualified for the NAIA Championships last year. The Clan enter the tournament having lost three of its past five. .The team's longest win streak this season has been six games, while the longest losing streak has been three games. The Clan are seeded second.

Ohio Dominican

HEAD COACH: Marcella Vanlandingham, 15th season

RECORD: 28-23

NOTABLE WINS: No wins over top 25 teams.

KEY PLAYERS:Junior Maria Staton and sophomore Erica Sutter have controlled the circle for the Panthers, combing for a 26-19 record this season. Staton is 16-8 with a 2.00 ERA and Sutter is 10-11 with a 3.43 ERA. Sutter is also hitting .400 with 36 runs. .At the plate, junior Jennifer Baker has a .359 average with a team leading 45 runs, while junior Samantha Wolfe has a .297 average with a team-leading 45 RBI and 12 doubles. Sophomores Kylee Crislip and Chelsea Archer have provided the power for the Panthers leading the way with five home runs each.

NOTES: Vanlandingham holds a 475-330 record at the Columbus, Ohio, school. .The Panthers have won seven of their past 10 games, with their longest win streak being six games and their longest losing streak three.

University of British Columbia


RECORD: 9-15

NOTABLE WINS: an 8-5 win over No. 11 Dickinson State.

KEY PLAYERS:Freshman Nicole Day leads the team in the circle with a 4-6 record and 4.93 ERA. .At the plate, freshman Lindsay McElroy leads the way with a .420 batting average and a .594 slugging average. She has two home runs and 19 RBI.

NOTES:Coach Thom is in his first season with the Thunderbirds. . The Thunderbirds have won six of their past 10 games with their longest win streak being five games that also snapped a six-game losing streak. .The Thunderbirds squad includes 11 freshmen, one sophomore and five juniors.


HEAD COACH: McKewn Dannelly

RECORD: 11-32

NOTABLE WINS: 3-2 over University of Houston-Victoria.

KEY PLAYERS:Sophomore Jessica Pocorello has been the big gun at the plate with a .369 average, 31 RBI, 26 runs and 12 doubles. Amanda Savoie follows with a .316 average, 20 RBI, 37 runs and 10 doubles.

NOTES:The Generals come into the tournament as the sixth seed. The Generals are on a six-game losing streak and have lost nine of their past 11 games coming into the tournament. The team's longest win streak has been four games and the longest losing streak is nine.

- Compiled by Thomas R. Martinez and Paul Ebner

When things get stressful for Baylea Wagener, she talks to a rebel.

Her horse, Rebel.

"It really helps to have him here in Victoria because there's so much focus on softball and school," said Wagener, a sophomore pitcher for the University of Houston-Victoria softball team. "I mean, we really don't have a lot of other stuff to go do because we don't have a lot of time. But 30 minutes a day, I can go and feed him and say hi, and just get away from it."

If there was ever a time for Wagener and her teammates to feel a little stress, it's this week as they prepare to defend their title in the Association of Independent Institutions Conference softball tournament. Games start Thursday at Burdge Field in Victoria.

Wagener takes the mound for the Jaguars in their opening game vs. LSU-Alexandria. At stake is a possible berth in the national championship tournament. The top two teams from the tournament get automatic berths. The others will be left waiting for an invitation that may or may not happen.

Wagener thinks her team is ready.

"We've been preparing for it all year," she said. "You don't let it get in your head. It's another softball game. We've been doing this for how many years now?"

UHV coach Keri Lambeth agrees.

"They're ready to go. I know they'll do what they need to do to get the job done," she said.

That hasn't always been the case for UHV or Wagener this year.

Wagener's stats are solid as evidenced by a 12-2 record and 2.43 earned run average. She has at times been inconsistent and lacked focus.

But she's worked hard to overcome those, Lambeth said.

"She's a young pitcher with a lot of talent. But she's definitely grown a lot this year," Lambeth said.

Assistant coach Lyndsey Ferguson has worked with Wagener during the season on her command and mechanics, working on the spin she puts on the ball, Lambeth said.

If there's one person on the team who knows about Wagener's growth, it's veteran catcher Brittany Faas, the team's only three-year player who's caught every game this season.

"Just in a year's span, Baylea has grown so much and is becoming a stronger pitcher and leader on the field every day," Faas said.

Wagener has teamed with Tasha Rotramel and Emily Bergstrom to give the Jaguars a well-rounded pitching staff, Faas added.

"She works hard at practice and if something isn't working or we notice something we need to work on, she puts in the effort to change it and will keep pushing and practicing until we can figure it out," Faas said.

That kind of effort will pay off in the coming years, too, Faas said, when Wagener will step into a leadership role on the team.

"Baylea is young, so she will be with this team for two more years. She has already accomplished so much this year and learned so much that she has a lot of potential for the next two years," Faas said.

Wagener came to UHV via Angleton High School with a little Arkansas and Galveston mixed in.

The University of Central Arkansas recruited Wagener to pitch for the Division I school. A coaching change and a glut of pitchers there left her playing the outfield as a freshman. A pitcher since the age of 8, Wagner felt out of sorts.

So she transferred to Galveston Junior College - "they just called on the right day," she says - and eventually made her way to UHV after a semester on the beach.

Wagener will team with lefty sophomore Emily Bergstrom and some talented incoming recruits to man the mound, giving UHV some continuity moving forward.

"Her speed and movement will definitely keep benefiting the Jaguars as she grows and matures," Faas said.

To win the conference tournament again, the whole team will have to show it's matured. UHV is ranked No. 21, and two other top-ranked teams will try to take the Jaguars' title away. Simon-Fraser (No. 14) and Cal State San Marcos (No. 5) both boast strong teams. UHV hasn't played Cal State yet, but the Jaguars did lose a pair of one-run games to Simon Fraser at the UHV Invite in March.

Not only will the Jaguars need strong performances on the mound from Wagener, Bergstrom and Rotramel, they'll need consistent production from their offense to repeat as conference champions.

Inconsistency on offense has plagued the team at times this year, Wagener said.

"We have games where we hit great, then we have games where we just can't seem to get it away from people, where we just hit it straight to players," Wagener said. "I think if we can get consistent in the box, then we'll be set for the tournament for sure."

If things go the way the Jaguars want, they'll be conference champs. Then, the stress level of players such as Wagener will be lower.

Wagener, an accomplished artist and a psychology major, will be fine either way. Psychology has taught her coping skills.

"It helps me to separate myself emotionally from situations and sit back and look at the big picture," she said.

And what psychology doesn't help, Rebel, the trusty horse she's owned for about 10 years, will.

"He's a thoroughbred, and he's very pretty," she said. "I'll take him and just trail ride and that kind of thing. I'll trailer him to the beach, and find places to go. It's really an adventure, something to do to get away from stress."



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