Jaguars to face off with T-Birds, defend its conference championship
April 30, 2014 at 9:01 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2014 at 11:30 p.m.
The UHV softball team left Victoria at 4 a.m. to get to a morning practice in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Wednesday, the day before the Association of Independent Institutions Conference Championships.
Four hours later, coach Lindsey Ortiz admitted they were slightly grumpy.
"We had practice at 9:30 a.m.; they're excited to be here," Ortiz said. "I think they feel good."
The Jaguars are coming off a 10-game winning streak that ended with a victorious doubleheader against Texas College.
UHV (32-11) defeated Texas College 16-2, 13-0, with senior Alicia Fikac closing out the season with a perfect game.
"Even though they're coming in as a three-seed team, I think they feel good," Ortiz said. "They feel like they've peaked at the right time and are really embracing the underdog role."
The Jaguars had a back-and-forth record up until mid-March, when they started an 11-game winning streak.
UHV's 3-2 performance at the Gulf Shores Invitational in Florida in March turned the season around, Ortiz said.
"Those losses were to teams ranked in the NAIA and NCAA," Ortiz said. "I really think that tournament in Orange Beach showed them they belong up there. It's done a lot for their confidence."
With the exception of three losses to Texas Southern and LSU-Alexandria in April, the Jaguars have won every game since that tournament.
"They've played their best softball over the past few weeks; those teams were turning points for us," Ortiz said. "I couldn't ask them to be playing any better than they have been, and that's what you want - you want to be hot at the end."
With six pitchers on the roster, Ortiz still doesn't know who she will start on Thursday.
"It's a good problem to have," she said.
Freshman Savannah Crittenden has made the most progress on the mound, Ortiz said.
"(Crittenden's) a very talented pitcher," she said. "She's really come in and made it hard to ignore her. She's earned her spot and I'm extremely proud of her for that."
The Jaguars are used to being the underdogs.
They weren't seeded very high going into the conference tournament last season and ended up winning it all when they defeated LSU-Alexandria 2-1.
UHV will play their first game against the University of British Columbia at 10 a.m.