Head coach Connie Clark gathered her team four days ago. Frustrated by her team’s uninspired start to the season, she explained how expectations differ for the Texas softball program.
“(Coach Clark) talked about how we carry ourselves and how we wear the logo on our chest,” sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack said. “We came out and represented that well tonight.”
On Wednesday night, the Texas players responded to their coach’s message.
In their last non-conference game before the start of Big 12 play, the Longhorns (13-13) were led by a two-run RBI double by Slack and a three-hit shutout from senior pitcher Paige von Sprecken, cruising to a 3-0 victory against No. 25 Texas State (22-8).
“It’s big for our confidence heading into the Big 12 conference this weekend,” Clark said. “I thought we played solid all the way around, and we were able to make the adjustments we needed to make offensively after tweaking our lineup.”
The Longhorns struck for the game’s first run in the bottom of the third inning, ditching a recent inability to capitalize on scoring chances.
With junior center fielder Ki’Audra Hayter at second base after reaching on an error, senior pitcher Paige von Sprecken helped her own cause by lining a shot through the left side of the infield to score Hayter for a 1-0 lead.
More defensive mistakes by the Bobcats set up the Longhorns again in the bottom of the fourth. Facing a pitcher’s count with two outs, sophomore left fielder Kaitlyn Washington kept the inning alive after putting a ball in play that resulted in a throwing error by Texas State shortstop Ariel Ortiz.
A walk by sophomore first baseman Malory Schattle set the table for Slack who took advantage, driving a breaking ball through the gap in left centerfield that cleared the bases for a 3-0 lead.
“I was just sitting late to get my pitch and wanted to get the runs for my team,” Slack said. “I focused on my timing and was fortunate enough to get a change up and drive it in the gap.”
Von Sprecken finally ran into trouble in the fifth inning after retiring 11 hitters in a row. Following two walks and a single, the Bobcats had the bases loaded with two outs, but the Longhorns’ senior pitcher masterfully worked out of the inning without forfeiting a run, stranding the bases loaded with a strikeout to end the frame.
With the Longhorns unable to add any insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, Texas State had an opportunity to tie the game in the top of the seventh after consecutive hitters reached base to start the inning. However, von Sprecken sent down the next three hitters in order, securing the 3-0 win.
“We had really good scouting on their team, so (sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth) and I had a really strong game plan going into it,” von Sprecken said. “I trusted her play calling, and she trusts me, so we were just rolling through and I was feeling good.”
Texas will host Kansas on Friday in the Longhorns’ first conference game this season. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Red and Charline McCombs Field.