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BEAUMONT, Texas - UTA takes the field in the postseason for the first time since 2003 when it takes on Abilene Christian in the first round of the National Invitational Softball Championship on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Beaumont, Texas.
The Mavericks enter the Beaumont Regional with a 32-26 overall record after making their way into the Sun Belt Championship tournament semifinals. The Mavs are 2-2 all-time in the postseason, having picked up wins against Florida State and Florida in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
The four-team, double-elimination regional also consists of host Lamar, as well as Sun Belt foe ULM. The winners of the opening-round games will meet on Wednesday at 3 p.m., while the losers will face elimination in a 12 p.m. matchup, also on Wednesday. The conclusion of the bracket will take place on Thursday at 12 p.m. (If Necessary game at 3 p.m.). The winner will advance into a six-team championship bracket beginning on May 24.
UTA saved its best for last, winning 10 of the final 15 games of the regular season as well as a 3-2 performance in the conference tournament, with seventh-inning dramatic wins over South Alabama and Georgia State. The Mavs notched four on the All-Conference second team list with junior Sandra Mendoza, sophomore Sam Clakley and sophomore Krista Rude earning their second-career selections. Freshman Aileen Garcia rounded out the group.
In the conference tournament, Clakley and sophomore Laura Curry were named to the SBC All-Tournament team. Clakley went 3-2 on the way to her 26th win of the season, third in UTA single-season history. Curry featured a tournament-high six RBI, including a game-tying home run with two outs in the seventh against Georgia State.
ABILENE CHRISTIAN (32-20, Southland Conference)
The Wildcats finished the season with a 32-20 record and were 20-7 in the Southland Conference. ACU was ineligible for NCAA postseason play as it is in a transition into Division I. The Wilcats are led by pitcher Sidney Holman, who features a 1.74 ERA and a 20-6 record in 40 appearances. On offense, Peyton Hedrick has a team-high .379 average and has knocked 15 homeruns (the team has 18 overall).
UTA and ACU will be meeting for the sixth time. The Mavs hold the overall record 3-2 in the series, all meeting taking place since 2014. The matchup is the second at a neutral site as ACU won the first-ever meeting in 2014, 2-1 in eight innings in Lubbock.
LAMAR (28-28, Southland Conference)
Lamar finished fourth in the Southland Conference and enter with a 28-28 overall record and were 17-10 in league play. Brittany Rodriguez holds a team-high batting average of .389, starting in all 55 games for the team. Ciara Luna leads the team in the circle with a 3.09 ERA and a 13-16 overall record.
A meeting with Lamar would mark the 14th between the programs, having met several times as foes in the Southland Conference. UTA leads the all-time series 12-1 and holds a seven-game winning streak over the Cardinals. LU's last win in the series came in 1986 when the teams met in Lafayette, La.
ULM (30-28, Sun Belt Conference)
ULM, one of the two Sun Belt teams in the Regional, enters the postseason for the first time since 1997 and for the second time overall, having participated in the NCAA Tournament in '97 and in the NIT in 1992. ULM was eliminated from the SBC tournament by South Alabama after eliminating Georgia Southern in the first round. The Warhawks are led by Sydney McKay, who hit .371. Melanie Coyne leads from the circle with a 17-13 record on the way to a 3.14 ERA in 35 appearances.
UTA and ULM met for the 100th time earlier this season as the teams played a three-game series in Arlington. The Mavs took 2-of-3 from the Warhawks, including a 15-inning affair in the finale as UTA won 2-1. The Mavs lead the all-time series 51-49 and have won four of the last five matchups. Despite a series that spans over two conferences (Sun Belt and Southland), the teams have never met in Beaumont.