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Steve Hemphill | NCAA.com | May 23, 2014

West Texas A&M's Erwin improves with her teammates

  West Texas A&M's Renee Erwin was named the Daktronics Division II player of the year.

SALEM, Va. -- Renee Erwin goes on and on when the subject is her teammates or coaches who have been around during her always-improving softball career at West Texas A&M.

On her Lady Buffaloes teammates: “This team is like a family. We just love each other, and we know whoever's in the box is going to drive someone in.”

On her school’s new strength coach, Nate Suchomel: “We were in a lot better shape this season, and it’s because of Nate. … He has made us faster and stronger.”

On her team, ranked No. 1 in Division II, which has a never-say-die attitude: “This team right here, we fight. No matter how far down we are, we fight. We have seven losses this year, and in those seven games we lost, we still fought and tried to come back and win those games.”

When it comes to talking about her own accomplishments, that’s something Erwin would rather not dwell upon. It’s not necessary anyway. Her play takes care of that subject.

As a freshman two years ago, Erwin was pretty good. She hit .377 with 36 RBI and six home runs on the way to earning third-team all-Lone Star Conference honors.

That was followed by a junior year where her power improved to 62 RBI and 15 home runs. The accolades continued – first-team all-conference and second-team All-America.

Now everyone is talking about Erwin. A native of Anna, Texas, she has vaulted to the front of the line. Her .460 batting average, 18 home runs and 74 RBI and 80 runs scored. She vaulted right from second team All-America to Daktronics Division II player of the year.

She’s done nothing but confirm that her selection for that award was the proper choice. West Texas A&M won its first two games of the Division II national championship tournament at Moyer Sports Complex, topping LIU Post 8-1 on Thursday, followed by a Friday’s back-and-forth 6-5 victory against Armstrong Atlantic.

And few have been a harder out than Erwin. She’s gone 2 for 3 with a home run and three RBI in her official at bats, but she’s also drawn five walks and scored four of the Lady Buffaloes’ 14 runs.

On her first at-bat against Armstrong Atlantic, Erwin hit a three-run home run, which put West Texas up 3-2 at the time. She said the long ball was really not the goal.

“When they went up two runs, not many teams have done that to us,” Erwin said. “So, I just went up thinking 'two runners on, nobody out. ... just get it to drop somewhere, it doesn't matter where.'

They just kept pitching me outside, so that's where i figured they'd keep going, so I got another one, and took it over the right field fence.”

But after that, Erwin was fine with drawing walks the next three times she came up to bat.

“Renee does a real good job of being disciplined at the plate,” West Texas coach Kevin Blaskowski said. She's had some big at-bats for us. When you come up on your first at-bat and hit the ball out of the park, that's going to change the way the pitch to you.

“I really give her credit for not overworking or over-swinging and expanding her zones. She did a real good job of drawing two walks after that.”

Erwin shrugs off her plate discipline. She said it’s just what a good team player needs to do. And when you’re on a team like the Lady Buffaloes.

“She's smart and knows when people are working around her, and she trusts the people behind her to hit her in,” Blaskowski said.

On Friday, the key hit came off of the bat of Jessica Sipe, whose bloop single with two on and two out in the bottom of the sixth inning put the Lady Buffaloes ahead 6-5.

“That’s the kind of team we have,” Erwin said.

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