UHV seniors ready to end with a bang
May 16, 2012 at 12:16 a.m.
Twelve hours away from leaving for the biggest, and likely final, softball tournament of their lives the seniors in the University of Houston-Victoria softball team discussed their careers and some much more.
On the bleachers behind one of the fields at the O'Connor Athletic Complex in ascending order sat Baylea Wagener, Emily Bergstrom, Bre'Neka O'Bryant, Kayla Lindemann, Kori Kocian and Kelly King.
This group of young women are the elder batsmen on a team that reminds UHV softball coach Keri Lambeth of the group that laid the foundation for the program, and this year's run to the NAIA National Championships this week.
The 2008 and 2009 teams went a combined 67-30. From that point on, Lambeth said, the program essentially recruited itself.
"All six of the seniors had the desire to complete their softball and academic careers," Lambeth said. "It's very valuable to have the six seniors who are leaders on the field."
After falling short the last two years, the Jaguars (39-8) return to the tournament for the second time in school history.
"It was a relief," Kocian said once the Jaguars qualified. "We knew we were in good standing to go, but there is always that what if."
Wednesday, Kocian, a Hallettsville graduate, will be recognized as the team's Champion of Character at a pre-tournament banquet for all 32 teams at the national tournament.
Those that win the award are recognized for their intensity, respect, responsibility, servant leadership and sportsmanship.
Each of the six seniors previously played collegiate softball, albeit at the junior college level. Their head coach said that provided a maturity that has trickled down through the entire program.
As for the group, it is ready to prove the Jaguars at-large berth was not a fluke.
"Ever since our sophomore year when we were here it's been expected of us every year," Wagner said. "We've literally been just short every year."
"I am really excited that all six of us get to go out our senior year with a bang and go to nationals," said King, the team's third baseman.
King is one of three Jaguars to have played in all 47 games this season. She arguably has the biggest chip on her shoulder of the bunch, and desperately wants to prove the Jaguars can make a run.
Lindemann, Kocian and O'Bryant are all outfielders. Though none have been guaranteed a spot in the lineup of late, they have all played significantly. Kocian has a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in her 36 appearances.
Bergstrom is the team's ace in the pitching circle, while Wagener (10 appearances, 2.14 ERA) has transitioned from starter to reliever this season. Bergstrom (22-5, 2.26 ERA) will likely get the ball when the Jaguars face Central Methodist on Thursday afternoon.
"I'm ready for the first game, the first pitch and to go with my team," O'Bryant said. "Hopefully, we can come back as champions."