UHV softball edges LSU-Alexandria, wins second conference title
Dawn Villegas beamed with her teammates on the field Friday afternoon.
Under one arm, she held a plaque commemorating UHV's victory in the Association of Independent Institutions tournament.
With it, she had a plaque symbolizing a job well done as the most outstanding player of the tournament.
"It's also for the team; they hit the ball well and did everything great," said the senior pitcher. "So all of us deserve it."
The Jaguars (28-20) wrapped up their second conference title in the team's six-year history by winning 2-1 over LSU-Alexandria, a foe more familiar than anyone else this season.
UHV scrapped for every run they got. Their first run walked home in the fifth. The winning run came home on a sacrifice fly with one out in the seventh inning, when Ashley Winegeart lifted a ball deep enough to center field to allow Brittany Arredondo to come home.
Still, it was a hard-fought game for the Jaguars, who struggled at the plate for much of the game but benefited from 10 walks from LSU-Alexandria's three pitchers.
What kept the Jaguars in the game was Villegas, who pitched her third-straight complete game of the tournament while methodically retiring the Generals' lineup.
Her only blemish came in the fourth inning, when the senior pitcher loaded the bases and walked in the first run of the game. She finished the game striking out five batters and retiring the final 10 she faced.
The hits did not come easily for either team Friday, with LSU-Alexandria mustering just four hits and UHV getting just two.
UHV didn't get a hit until the fourth inning, when Jena West punched a single to left field to load the bases.
Still, the senior pitcher was confident her teammates would come through for her.
"I was confident out there - knowing your team is going to go out there and score runs makes it a lot easier," Villegas said.
This was the third time in the last six days Villegas had pitched against LSU-Alexandria. She pitched Thursday's 12-0 blowout over the Generals, which helped UHV earn one of two automatic bids into the NAIA tournament and led the Jaguars to a win in the second game of last Saturday's doubleheader.
One would think both sides would be tired - and familiar - with each other by now.
"You would think that, but it wasn't really the case," said assistant coach Lindsey Ferguson-Ortiz, who coaches UHV's pitchers.
Villegas gave a lot of credit to her coaches and especially to catcher Kristina Droz, who she said was helping her mix her pitches up and keep opponents who had seen her multiple times this year on their toes.
"She did a really good job back there mixing things up," Villegas said. "We've been working with coach (Ferguson-Ortiz) on a lot of different things. They had seen me a couple of times, but if I made it break like I was supposed to, they weren't going to be able to hit it anyways.
"We have a lot of history with LSU-A, and we wanted to come out and show them we are the better team."
The Jaguars beat the Generals all four times they started Villegas against them this season and were 5-1 overall against them.
"She's come a long way since she first arrived," Ferguson-Ortiz said.
The assistant coach was excited when Villegas transferred from Our Lady of the Lake after her sophomore year but realized there was a lot of work to be done.
"When she first got here, I asked her to throw a few pitches, and she said, 'Coach, I don't throw any pitches,'" Ferguson-Ortiz said. "Her coaches had taught her to just throw it hard but not how to pitch.
"She's evolved from a pitcher just trying to blow it by batters to someone who has more movement than anyone else on the team."