High expectations greet Patriots

Published on Wednesday, 6 February 2013 00:32 - Written by Victor Texcucano

The UT Tyler Patriot baseball and softball teams will begin the 2013 season looking to prove the preseason polls right.

Last week, American Southwest Conference polls — voted on by each division’s head coaches, sports information directors and media members — picked both Patriot teams to win their respective divisions.

Baseball

The Patriot baseball team, which is led by new head coach Chris Bertrand, is attempting to capture their seventh-straight ASC East title.

Bertrand, who last coached at LSU-Shreveport, is adjusting well to his surroundings, he said.

“… The veterans that we have on this ballclub and the winning history that we have in this program, all of that stuff has made it so much easier on me,” he said. “The adjustment has been really, really easy because of the group of players that we have.”

Bertrand is looking forward to starting the season with a team that has substantial amounts of achievement in the past few seasons, he said.

“That’s what you want,” he said about inheriting a successful ballclub.

“Anytime you’re a coach, or you’re a competitive person or leader of an organization, you want to have the ability and resources around you to win, and that’s obviously what we have here.”

The 2013 Patriots boast 23 upperclassmen, with nine juniors and 14 seniors. First baseman Issac Tijerina is looking forward to starting his senior season with coach Bertrand.

“(Coach Bertrand) put out there, first off, high expectations for us,” he said. “I think he makes a big difference from last year, and I feel like we have a great team this year because of him.”

The team aims to advance past the NCAA regionals for the first time in school history, Bertrand said.

Last season, The Patriots advanced to the ASC championship round, but fell short against Concordia University and McMurry University.

The Patriots open the season on the road Feb. 8 in the Dallas Christian Tournament, and have their home opener scheduled Feb. 15 against Hardin-Simmons University.

Softball

Ninth-year head coach Mike Reed looks to lead the Patriot softball team to its third ASC East division title in the past four years.

Reed, who has been at UT Tyler since the start of the program, pointed to successes last season but said the job is not done.

In 2012, the Patriots advanced to the NCAA regionals but fell short against Pacific Lutheran University, the team that would go on to win the national championship.

“I think we do a good job every year of really kind of resetting the slate and focusing on new challenges” he said. “Our goals kind of stay the same every year, and that’s a good thing: To win the conference championship, win the regionals and get yourself a chance to play for the national championship.”

The Patriots return eight seniors. Reed said the team would lean heavily on the experience they have gathered in their time at UT Tyler.

“It’s the biggest group of seniors I’ve ever had on the team, he said. “We’ll rely a lot on them, and their experiences and their leadership. I think we’ll go as our seniors go.”

Senior first baseman Rachel Howell said the preseason polls will not affect the amount of hard work they will put into the season.

“We ignore (the polls). Because we want to focus on what we do on the field and not necessarily on what everyone else thinks we’ll do,” she said. “We just want to go out there and perform to the best of our ability.”

The Patriot softball team also begins the season on the road at Mary Hardin-Baylor University on Feb. 16, and the home opener is Feb. 24 against Trinity University.