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The East Texan

Lions ‘swing for the fences’ in year four

Mariah+Jameyson+%284%29+led+the+nation+in+RBI+in+2017.
Mariah Jameyson (4) led the nation in RBI in 2017.

Mariah Jameyson (4) led the nation in RBI in 2017.

Lion Athletics

Lion Athletics

Mariah Jameyson (4) led the nation in RBI in 2017.

BJ Laudermilk, Sports Editor

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The spring semester is upon us and that means it’s time to head out to the ballpark, buy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and take in America’s pastime by watching the Lions softball team head to the field.

The 2017 season saw ups and downs for the Lions. Picked to finish second in the conference before last season, the Lions started the season at 10-3, two of their three losses to ranked teams in tournaments. They improved their record to 21-9, before dropping two out of three at Texas A&M-Kingsville. They would win four of the next five, before being swept at West Texas A&M, ranked No. 9 in the country at the time. They would sweep two of their next three opponents, getting swept by No. 1 Angelo State.

As they came into the regular season’s final weekend, they needed a sweep of Texas Woman’s or some help to make it back to the conference tournament for the third consecutive year, every year since the team began competition. The Lions lost their first game to TWU and had to get a go-ahead base hit to win the second game. The Lions needed a loss by A&M-Kingsville in order to avoid losing a tiebreaker to the Javelinas, which would send them to the conference tournament instead. Thanks to a 7-5 win by Western New Mexico over A&M-Kingsville, the Lions faced a “win and you’re in” situation on the season’s final day.

A back-and-forth game saw the Lions trail by three, before they scored five in the second inning to take a two-run lead. The game was tied 5-5 after three. In the fourth, the Lions homered three times, scoring five more runs and led 10-5. The Pioneers scored three times in both the fifth and sixth innings to take a one-run lead before the Lions came back in the bottom of the sixth again, tallying three runs and leading by two in the final frame. With two outs, and the tying run at the plate, a diving catch by Tyler Oppenheim ended the game, and sent the Lions to the conference tournament again, where their season would come to a disappointing, early end.

Though the program is going into its fourth year of competition, the Lions still saw seven players from last year’s squad not return this season, a big reason why they’re projected to finish sixth in the conference, just like last year. Two players that made big dividends for the Lions last season are both returning in the form of senior Mariah Jameyson, a second-team All American last year, and the LSC Preseason Player of the Year this season, as well as sophomore Kinsie Hebler. The Lions have ten new faces on the roster this season, including five freshmen.

With a good bill of health, the Lions can return to competing for a conference championship, as they look to make their second-ever run to the NCAA playoffs. The Lions open the season Feb. 2 as they compete in a tournament in Rio Rancho, N.M. against New Mexico Highlands. A&M-Commerce opens their home slate of games at the John Cain Family Softball Complex Feb. 7 with a doubleheader against St. Edward’s at 3 and 5 P.M.

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Lions ‘swing for the fences’ in year four