Nathan Wright, Managing Editor
The UT Tyler softball team battled back from a 5-2 deficit but lost to UT Dallas 6-5 on a walkoff home run in the bottom of the eighth inning in the winnerâ€™s bracket semifinal at the American Southwest Conference tournament Friday at Suddenlink Field.
The No. 2 Patriots (38-3) saw their 22-game winning streak come to an end and will now have to win three times to win the tournament. UT Tyler will face East Texas Baptist at 2 p.m. on Saturday. If the Patriots win that game, they will have to defeat UT Dallas twice, once on Saturday and then again on Sunday.
UT Dallas needs one win to claim its first ASC tournament championship.
â€œCredit to UT Dallas,â€ UT Tyler head coach Mike Reed said. â€œThey are an incredible team. They played well. But we didnâ€™t play sound defensively. We didnâ€™t give the effort we have given all year on some plays. You just canâ€™t do that in that scenario.â€
The Patriots took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a two-run single by KK Stevens. It gave Stevens five RBIs in the tournament, but that lead didnâ€™t last long.
UT Tyler starting pitcher Whitney Romero struggled in the bottom of the first, walking three batters and giving up three runs on no hits in just one-third of an inning. The Patriots also made two errors in the field behind her.
Alaina Kissinger relieved Romero, but gave up two more runs in the inning and the Patriots found themselves behind 5-2 going to the second inning.
â€œWe put too many free runners on in the bottom half [of the first inning] and put ourselves in a bind,â€ Reed said. â€œWe did fight back, so I was proud of that. We had several chances, we just couldnâ€™t get that timely hit.â€
The Patriots chipped away, scoring a run in the second on an RBI single by Kaylee Prather, one in the fourth on an RBI double by Andrea Gonzales and then one in the sixth on an RBI single by Cheyenne Thompson that tied the game at 5-5.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth, when UT Dallasâ€™ Samantha Halliburton hit a solo home run with one out to end the game.
Kissinger surrendered the home run and suffered her first loss of the season to drop to 21-1. She gave up three runs on seven hits and struck out three in seven innings.
Offensively, Thompson led UT Tyler with three hits. Prather had two and Stevens had two RBIs.
The Patriots and Tigers are scheduled to play at 2 p.m. on Saturday, weather permitting. The winner will face UT Dallas at 5 p.m.
â€œWe are going to test our resolve,â€ Reed said. â€œNow we have to see if we can regroup and see what we can see about ourselves being in this position. It has been a while since we have lost and had to bounce back.
â€œWeâ€™re not going to give up. This teamâ€™s not made like that. We know we have the ability to come out and win a couple more.â€