San Antonio – St. Mary’s University will attempt to win its ninth straight Heartland Conference Tournament Championship when play begins at the 2009 Heartland Conference Softball Tournament Thursday morning at Rattler Field on the St. Mary’s University campus.

The second-seeded Rattlers (30-30 overall, 21-7 Heartland Conference play) will begin play Thursday afternoon against third-seeded Incarnate Word at 1:30 p.m. St. Mary’s enters play in the tournament after a pair of dominating wins over Incarnate Word last Saturday. The Rattlers won both games 9-0 in run-rule shortened games. The teams split the four games played this season. Incarnate Word is 26-31 overall and 19-9 in Heartland Conference play.

The Rattlers are led by Arlynda Flores (Jr., Uvalde), who is a Heartland Conference Player of the Year candidate and is second in the nation in homeruns. Flores is hitting .404 with 15 doubles, 23 homeruns, 69 RBI and 50 runs scored in 60 games at the plate. On the mound, she is 13-12 with a 4.63 ERA, 10 complete games and three shutouts in 184.2 innings of work. She has been named Heartland Conference Hitter of the Week four times this season. She is currently one homerun behind NCAA Division II national leader Jessika Anastos of Colorado-Colorado Springs, who hit two homeruns last weekend. Flores had been in the nation lead as of Saturday. She is just one homerun away from the school single-season record of 24, set by Elizabeth Beyer, in 2005.

Flores is having a special season on many levels. She dedicated her accomplishments during the 2009 season to the memory of her grandmother, Francis B. Hernandez, who passed away during the 2008 season. Flores’ grandmother rarely missed a softball game of Flores’ during her career. With her grandmother watching over her, Flores has gone from six homeruns last season to 23 this year. Flores, an outstanding student-athlete, is also a candidate for Academic All-American, producing a 3.67 GPA as a double major in Mathematics and exercise and sports science.

The Heartland Conference Softball Tournament will kick off with fourth-seeded Texas A&M International University facing the University of Texas of the Permian Basin at 11 a.m. on Thursday morning at Rattler Field.

2009 Heartland Conference Tournament Schedule
Thursday, April 30
Game 1 – (#5) Texas-Permian Basin vs. (#4) Texas A&M-International, 11 a.m.
Game 2 – (#3) Incarnate Word vs. (#2) St. Mary’s, 1:30 p.m.
Game 3 – (#1) St. Edward’s vs. Winner Game 1, 4 p.m.
Game 4 – Loser Game 2 vs. Loser Game 1, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, May 1
Game 5 – Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, noon
Game 6 – Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 2:30 p.m.
Game 7 – Loser Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, 5 p.m.
Saturday, May 2
Game 8 – Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 7, noon
Game 9 – Winner Game 8 vs. Loser Game 8, 2:30 p.m. (if necessary)

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