It was only two weeks ago that the Longhorns (23–15, 6–0 Big 12) were playing with extreme confidence and a playful swagger. Fresh off three-game sweeps over Big 12 foes Kansas and Iowa State, Texas appeared ready to turn the corner on an otherwise inconsistent season.
But the timespan since indicates the Longhorns still have work to do before they prepare to compete against the Big 12 elite.
The record hasn’t been the problem. In fact, Texas has gone 4–2 since its three-game sweep of Iowa State that took the Longhorns to 6–0 in Big 12 play.
The more concerning matter for the Longhorns and head coach Connie Clark is the Texas hitters’ regression at the plate.
Outside of a three-game sweep over Samford, Clark’s squad put together only three runs in its three other contests against Texas State, UTSA and Houston, leaving 17 runners on base in those three games.
With missed chances continually piling up, Clark knows her team must find a way to push more runners across when they get in scoring position.
“I think those missed opportunities are something that we have to be able to take away and be just a little better on,” Clark said. “You gotta be able to have answers when they score, and when they score, you got to have answers back.”
Whether or not the Longhorns can take advantage of their offensive opportunities will be put to the test quickly, as the Longhorns return to Big 12 play this weekend against the Texas Tech Red Raiders (21–19, 1–8 Big 12).
A weekend series against the Red Raiders provides a chance to earn more than just bragging rights against an in-state rival. With the Longhorns entering the weekend with an undefeated conference record, Texas will have an opportunity to maintain its status near the top of the Big 12 standings with a strong series.
Couple that with a rivalry and the added intensity of conference play, and the weekend series should provide a thrilling atmosphere between the two in-state rivals.
“The atmosphere of the Big 12 (makes it very special),” sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack said. “Every team in the Big 12 is challenging, so you want to go out there and give it your best every time.”
Texas Tech arrives in Austin on a cold streak of its own. Losers of nine of their last 10 contests, including four straight in conference play, the Red Raiders will desperately be searching for a win against the Longhorns.
While the Red Raiders appear to be struggling on paper, Clark understands her ball club can’t afford to overlook a team who competes every game in an elite softball conference.
“Obviously it’s going to be on our turf, that’s always nice,” Clark said. “But Texas Tech, just like our other conference opponents, they just compete well, so we’re going to have to compete.”
The Longhorns’ series against Texas Tech begins Friday night at McCombs Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.