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Sports business Texas Wesleyan wraps up strong sports year

With all due respect to the athletes at the better-known bigger schools around the area, there’s a group of athletes over on Rosedale Street in Fort Worth who deserve a tip of the hat.

The blue-and-gold colors are a bit brighter than most, but that’s not the only thing that stands out about Texas Wesleyan University’s sports program.

Its players are just plain good across the board. From volleyball to table tennis, they are competitive — and often much more — in just about every sport, and the last school year’s schedule of sports was no different.

And they aren’t just succeeding on the field of play. They’re taking the term “student-athlete” seriously. The Sooner Athletic Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll was recently announced and Texas Wesleyan had 147 athletes on the list, the most of any team in the league, a third straight year for that honor.

On the field, the recent baseball and softball seasons wrapped up with a pair of monumental firsts.

In baseball, senior outfielder Kiki Menendez became the first player in the 49-year history of the Rams program to be named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Player of the Year.

From softball, junior third-baseman Bailey Terry became the first Lady Ram to be named first-team NAIA All-American in the program’s 34 years of competing.

Menendez led the nation with 26 home runs, 190 total bases, and a .995 slugging percentage. He was second in the nation with 84 runs batted in and fifth in batting average at .466. He set school records in home runs, total bases, batting average and hits (89).

Menendez was also named the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC) Player of the Year, leading the Rams to a 36-16 overall record and a 19-8 mark in conference play. This was despite the team’s making a classy move and refusing to accept three forfeit victories from now-defunct St. Gregory’s University. The season also included a 17-game win streak, matching the second-longest in team history.

Menendez is now with the Arizona Angels Rookie League team, hoping to make his big league dreams come true. Though he may come from a small school, he has what it takes to make an impact at the highest level.

“He is one of the best hitters to ever wear a Texas Wesleyan uniform,” interim head coach Bobby Garza said. “We are proud of him and his accomplishments.”

The Rams also overcame a controversial coaching change during the season. Mike Jeffcoat was fired early in the season after sending an email to a high school player in Colorado, where marijuana has been legalized, saying he does not recruit in that state because of fear that players might not pass a drug test.

Instead of letting the controversy blow up the squad, the team rallied behind Garza for a great season.

Also, bear in mind that the Rams were playing in a conference with two of the NAIA’s top-10 teams nationally, No. 5 Oklahoma City University and No. 8 University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma.

Terry set a school record with 71 RBI (fourth in the nation), adding to her school record for career RBI (153). She was fifth in the nation in home runs with 17, one shy of tying the school record, and third in the nation in total bases with 142. She batted .420.

“It was an incredible season and I’m just so appreciative to be a part of it all,” Terry said. “I am honored to play for Texas Wesleyan, contributing to the ever-growing NAIA softball competition. Coach [Shannon] Gower, Coach [Felix] Esparza and my teammates are very supportive and it was one of those years where our effort, practice and dedication paid off.”

The Lady Rams finished 42-17 overall and 24-8 in the SAC. It’s the most victories in a single season for the program, one of 14 individual and team records set during one of the best ever seasons for the team.

“I thought we had an awesome season. I was really impressed with our seniors who displayed great leadership and our younger class who bought into our culture,” Gower said. “We have 15 returning next year, and last year our class was still young. So we are very excited about the growth of these young ladies.

“Bailey has been such an amazing leader on and off the field since she was a freshman. Every year she has done something phenomenal. She is the best third baseman I have ever coached, very knowledgeable, and just gets it.”

Here’s a recap of the Texas Wesleyan programs’ greatest successes in the last school year:

· Football — Returned to the field after a hiatus since 1941. Though they did not win on the field, a forfeit win over Wayland Baptist made team history, and the future looks solid with a young roster and great head coach in Joe Prud’homme, so winning on the field is sure to happen this season. Junior running back Jermarcus Jones was named second-team all-conference.

· Volleyball — Made their first national tournament appearance since 2005, finishing 27-7. Also, senior Shelby Stinnett was named second-team All-American.

· Men’s basketball — After winning it all in 2017, the Rams again advanced to the national tournament and won a third straight SAC title. They finished 22-11 and ranked 15th in the nation with a pair of senior All-American guards, Branden Jenkins (also the SAC Player of the Year) on the first team and Ryan Harris on the third team.

· Cross country — Four runners advanced to the national meet, junior Jonathan Swiatocha among the men and sophomore Melissa Gonzalez and freshmen Alex Barrientez and Ray Vidales among the women.

· Track and field — Gonzalez advanced to the national meet to run in marathon competition.

· Women’s golf — Advanced to the national tournament, finishing 15th in nation as senior Alex Schies was named first-team All-American for a fourth straight year and also SAC Player of the Year for a fourth consecutive time, holding every team record imaginable. Sophomore Trudy Allen was named third-team All-American.

· Women’s soccer — Finished 14-4 and advanced to the SAC Tournament semifinals. Senior Samantha Moore was named the league’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year.

· Tennis — Both the women and the men won the SAC, with the women advancing to their regional final for a third straight year. The men, playing for the first time since 2000, reached the regional semifinals.

· Men’s golf — Finished third at the national tournament with four All-Americans: sophomore Rowan Lester (second straight year) and junior Leo Mathard on the first team, freshman Victor Miron on the second team, and junior Futa Yamagishi on the third team. Lester was also named to the All-Nicklaus Team for a second consecutive year.

· Table tennis — Though not an NAIA sport, it is the one in which the school is most dominant year after year, and this time was no different. They won an eighth national championship, with sophomore Yue Wu capturing a women’s national championship and teaming with graduate student Wenting Zha for the women’s doubles title, while senior Bruno Ventura and grad student Zhe Feng won the men’s doubles title.

That’s a resume that any school in America can be proud of.

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