McCombs Field

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

The weather was the exact opposite of last weekend’s series, but that did not change the result. The Longhorns beat Texas Tech, 5-2, Friday night in warm and muggy conditions, much different from last week’s wind and cold.

The Longhorns collected their seventh Big 12 victory, already tying last season’s regular season win total against conference opponents with 11 games left to go.

“We had a great practice yesterday, and I thought we brought that right into today,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “Texas Tech’s always been a scrappy team.”

Texas once again jumped out to an early lead, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first. Sophomore Kaitlyn Washington doubled in two runners to score the first runs of the game. She was followed by Sophomore Malory Schattle, who roped a double to drive in two more runs.

But Texas Tech came back to trim the deficit to two runs in the top of the third on a two-run double. While the sudden jolt of offense gave Texas a slight scare, junior captain Bekah Alcozer knocked in an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth to seal the win.

Texas Tech refused to go out without scoring at least one run against junior ace Brooke Bolinger, as she gave up both runs in a single inning.

“I think they’ve been shutout just twice this year,” Clark said. “I know they don’t get shutout a lot. They’ll play you hard the entire game.”

Bolinger collected her 10th win of the season as she continued to establish herself on the mound. She struck out eight and pitched a complete game, her fifth of the season.

Bolinger has already eclipsed her win total, strikeout total and innings total from last season. Needless to say, her adjustment after transferring from Nevada has been completed.

“I thought Brooke got better as the game went on, and she and Taylor found a little different way to set people up,” Clark said. “Their hitters had at-bats all over the place.”

Friday also featured a strong defensive performance from Texas, as the infield stepped up to protect the Longhorns’ lead. Sophomore Kaitlyn Slack had a strong performance all night at shortstop, while freshman MK Tedder made a tough out on a chopper to third with Texas Tech mounting a rally.

Texas’ defense has been the one part of the team’s game that has yet to develop alongside the solid pitching and vastly improved offense.

“I can’t go without saying Slack made some big plays,” Clark said. “Really solid defense for us tonight. We needed every bit of it.”

The Longhorns play Texas Tech on Saturday and will go for their fourth consecutive series victory. First pitch is 1 p.m. at McCombs Field.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Despite an inconsistent performance throughout, the Longhorn softball team rode to a series victory by winning both games in a Saturday doubleheader against Samford, 15-2 and 1-0, at McCombs Field.

The conditions in Austin were windy and chilly, reminiscent of a road series Texas embarked on a couple of weeks ago.

“It felt just like Iowa State,” senior ace pitcher Paige von Sprecken said. “We were kind of complaining, like, ‘No, we’re back in Austin.’ But we just can’t let that affect us. We have to continue to play our game and not let the uncontrollable be a factor.”

Both games highlighted different aspects of the Texas squad — one, the offense; the other, the pitching. The first game was a blowout that ended in five innings, with the Longhorns scoring a whopping nine runs in the first inning. Von Sprecken led the team with four runs batted in, followed by freshman Janae Jefferson, who collected three of her own.

In the second game, von Sprecken put down the bat and took her place in the circle, twirling a three-hitter and shutting out Samford. Through four and two-thirds innings, she had a perfect game going. But Texas’ offense fell flat in the second game, scoring a single run in the first inning.

“Obviously, it was a tale of two games,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “Conditions were tough, man — it’s cold again just like when we were at Iowa State. We were pretty bang-bang out of the gate in the first game, then turned on cruise control and you just can’t do that.”

The first game of the day also saw several pitchers and pinch hitters making appearances, and it was a good showing of the work that has been put in during practice.

“We did a nice job in the early game with our pitch-identification that we had been working on,” Clark said. “It was good to see that a majority of our players weren’t chasing pitches they didn’t need to be chasing. Good to get a couple of pitchers in. We really wanted to give them some work.”

Sunday is the series finale, and Texas will look for its third consecutive sweep of the season after winning three games against both Iowa State and Kansas in back-to-back series.

It will take a balanced offense and a solid pitching performance to lock down the sweep. It will also take a solid start to get the game moving in the Longhorns’ direction early.

“We just need to come out strong like we did in the first game today,” von Sprecken said. “We need to make sure we are attacking the right pitches, have good pitch selection and keep them off balance from the circle.”

Expect to see junior ace Brooke Bolinger take the mound. Sunday’s game begins 11 a.m. at McCombs Field.

The trend the Longhorn softball team has started of losing to ranked teams at home continued Friday night as Texas lost, 2-0, to the Arizona Wildcats.

The offense struggled all game despite a solid pitching performance from senior Paige von Sprecken, who pitched the complete-game loss only allowing two runs. She also struck out eight and collected a walk as a batter.

The Longhorns were up against the No. 9 ranked Wildcats and their ace, junior Taylor McQuillin, whose last four consecutive starts have resulted in one-hit shutouts. That streak was snapped as the Longhorns mustered two hits in seven innings off of her.

“We’ve got to figure out how to scratch and claw and find a way to put a couple runs up,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I think that’s something we have to do for us to get an outcome. The difficult schedule only helps you if you continue to get a couple wins in the mix, so we’ve got to be able to figure out how to do that.”

The Longhorns’ best chance to score a run or two occurred in the bottom of the second inning. Arizona had scored in the top half, and the Longhorns looked ready to pounce, as von Sprecken was at third base after a double by freshman MK Tedder with no outs in the inning.

However, this scoring opportunity was snuffed out after sophomore Kaitlyn Slack struck out, which was followed by a fielder’s choice that had von Sprecken out at home. Finally, sophomore Malory Schattle struck out to squash the scoring chance for the Longhorns.

“We had some opportunities tonight,” Clark said. “We tried to force things in a little bit. Unfortunately, again, we had some big strikeouts in key situations.”

The Longhorns have now faced seven ranked teams this far in the season, losing to six of them. The lone win was against No. 20 Michigan in the Texas Invitiational.

However, the experience gained going against so many ranked teams early in the season is not lost on the players.

“It’s definitely very valuable for us because we’re going to be playing ranked teams for the rest of the season,” von Sprecken said. “We have to continue being able to compete with them and eventually we’re going to get the outcomes.”

The Longhorns have limped out of the gate to start this season, compiling a record of 7–9. While one would assume a losing record at this point in the season may be affecting team morale, the team sees their performance thus far in the season a little differently.

“I don’t think that there’s any correlation between morale and record,” von Sprecken said. “I think that we have great chemistry on our team and we’re proud of the way that we’ve been playing. We just know that eventually we are going to get those outcomes. We just need to keep our morale up and we don’t let games like this define us and define our season.”

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

In the midst of a five-run rally in the first inning, Texas head coach Connie Clark broke from her usual coaching stance at third base and cracked a quick smile. 

This victory, while expected, felt good for her struggling team. 

Thanks to an offensive explosion at the plate and dominant pitching in the circle from redshirt junior pitcher Erica Wright, the Longhorns (7–8) run-ruled the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders (5–10) in five quick innings for an 8-0 win.

“This time of year, you’re coming off those big tournaments, and we’ve been playing so much we haven’t had much practice opportunities,” Clark said. “We had an opportunity yesterday and tonight to work through some things we needed to get after.” 

The Longhorns’ offense pressured the Islanders right off the bat in the first inning.

After dropping a bunt single with one out, junior right fielder Ki’Audra Hayter swiped second base on a steal and advanced to third on a throwing error by Islanders catcher Kaylee Hoppens.

Sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth promptly followed suit, stealing second after drawing a walk. But another errant throw by Hoppens allowed Hayter to advance home for the Longhorns’ first lead of the game.

With Ellsworth at third, senior first baseman Paige von Sprecken lined a shot through the right side of the infield to make it 2-0. She scored just shortly after, as sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack looped a single to shallow left field for a three-run lead.

Following a walk from freshman third baseman MK Tedder, junior designated player Bekah Alcozer broke the game open by roping a RBI double to the alley in right-center field, giving the Longhorns a 5-0 lead.

“I felt good this week and earlier during batting practice,” Alcozer said. “I knew I was seeing the ball well and coming in to hit the way I know how to.”

Texas added more runs in the second, as von Sprecken, with runners at first and third, recorded her second RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly to move the Texas lead to 6-0. Sophomore left fielder Kaitlyn Washington then flared a pitch over the glove of Islanders second baseman Destiney Diaz to bring home another Texas run.

Wright, meanwhile, delivered a much-needed quality start in the pitcher’s circle for the Longhorns. The junior allowed only one hit and whiffed four Islanders hitters en route to her second victory of the season.

Texas added its final run in the bottom of the fourth inning. In her first plate appearance of the season, senior pitcher Kristen Clark smoked an RBI single to left field, scoring sophomore first baseman Malory Schattle from second for the 8-0 lead.

Freshman pitcher Ariana Adams closed out the final Islanders hitters in the top of the fifth inning, sealing the Texas win in her first collegiate appearance.

“It’s about the growth process with these young athletes and getting a bunch of different looks,” Connie Clark said. “(There were) some good things in terms of piecing it together.” 

Texas now shifts its attention to No. 9 Arizona, as the Longhorns prepare for a three-game series at McCombs Field this weekend.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Few things in sports provide a sense of pride and accomplishment to an athlete the way winning on home turf does. But through the first two days of the Texas Invitational, the Longhorns have struggled to do that.

Texas beat a ranked team in No. 20 Michigan and added a win versus Virginia Tech this weekend. But the Longhorns also lost to No. 21 Ohio State and Wichita State.

Texas finally recorded a win against a top-25 team on the opening day of the tournament, but its second such win failed to come the next day. Texas has a record of 2–2 in the tournament heading into the final day of play, where the team will face Michigan once again.

“Our communication and our chemistry are really big strengths,” sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth said. “All of us get along, and we all hang out off the field. We’re never alone — we’re always together. I think just having the chemistry is a strength that brings you together as a team. You have that trust in the person, on and off the field.”

In Saturday’s first game of the doubleheader, Texas had to rely on a rally to defeat the Hokies, trailing by two runs until the fourth inning. Freshman Chloe Romero started for the Longhorns and got rocked for three runs in just a third of an inning. Romero was relieved by junior Paige von Sprecken.

Von Sprecken continued her strong start to the season, bringing her record to 3–1, after recording two shutouts earlier this season. Texas defeated Virginia Tech, 3-2.

“Paige von Sprecken is doing a lot of things for us this year,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “She’s one of our top hitters and needs to be in the lineup whether she’s in the circle or not. Working at first, working in the outfield — she’s doing really well.”

In the second game, senior Kristen Clark started for Texas and pitched four strong innings of two earned-run ball. Junior Brooke Bolinger came into the game to collect the last couple of innings. She gave up a grand slam in the top of the seventh to give the Buckeyes an 8-5 lead. The Longhorns weren’t able to recover.

The depth of the Texas pitching staff was on full display in both games — when one pitcher grew tired or was being out-played, another came in. Having so many pitchers pitch in one game can be challenging, but with time, could be a weapon for the team.

“It takes some getting used to, just knowing what pitches each pitcher throws,” senior captain Randel Leahy said. “We’ve been working on that a lot in practice.”

Texas plays No. 20 Michigan at 1:30 p.m. Sunday to close out the Texas Invitational at McCombs Field.

Junior catcher Randel Leahy attempts to hit an incoming pitch. Leahy has been impressed with Taylor Ellsworth’s quick development at the same position.
Photo Credit: Mary Pistorius | Daily Texan Staff

Two steps forward, one step back.

That’s been the mantra for the Texas softball team so far in 2018.

On a Friday where the Longhorns showed promise in a 3-0 victory against No. 20 Michigan, they followed it up with an even more disappointing 7-5 loss to Wichita State.

“It’s such a game of momentum, and I felt we gave them a little bit of momentum tonight,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “We had the opportunity to put our ace in the game, and we have the firepower to put more runs up, but we just didn’t get that done.”

All started well for the Longhorns (5–6) at the beginning of the nightcap against the Shockers, as the Texas lineup saw a quick revival of life against Wichita State.

An offensive onslaught began in the second inning when sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack and freshman third baseman MK Tedder combined for back-to-back singles. On the next at-bat, Wichita State’s Bailey Lange fired a wild pitch, scoring Tedder from third and giving the Longhorns a 1-0 lead.

After junior catcher Randel Leahy was hit by a pitch, sophomore outfielder Tuesday DerMargosian looped a single to left field, preparing a bases-loaded situation for a pinch-hitting Ciera Schick.

On the first pitch she saw, the junior infielder lined a ball to right field to score two more Texas runners, improving the Longhorns’ lead to 3-0. Texas added one more run shortly after thanks to another Shockers wild pitch.

But Wichita State didn’t go away quietly.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the third, the Shockers’ Laurie Derrico slapped a line drive off the centerfield wall in order to cut the Longhorns’ lead in half.

Texas responded with another run of their own in the bottom of the third. With a runner on third, Tedder roped a RBI double down the left-field line for her second hit of the night, putting Texas up 5-2.

But Wichita State erased the Longhorns’ lead in the blink of an eye in the following frame. With the bases loaded again, sophomore first baseman Ryleigh Buck doubled to left-center field, clearing the bases and tying the game at five a piece.

Unable to respond in the bottom half of the inning, Texas opened the door for Wichita State to seize control of the game in the top of the fifth.

After opening with a lead-off triple, junior catcher Madison Perrigan scored on a RBI single from junior right fielder Asea Webber to make the score 6-5. Senior left fielder Morgan Palmer added another run to Wichita State’s lead with a RBI single of her own, driving Weber in with a looping single just over second base.

The Longhorns were unable to respond from there, leaving runners on base in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings, losing 7-5.

“I thought we had a little bit of lull (in terms of playing with energy),” Clark said. “I know it’s late, but we have to keep the energy going and keep the pedal down.”

The problems that plagued the Longhorns against Wichita State were mostly absent in their earlier game against Michigan.

Junior starting pitcher Brooke Bolinger was sensational in working around Michigan hitters, accounting for a complete-game shutout, seven strikeouts and only five hits.

The Texas bats finally came to life in the bottom of the third.

Following singles by sophomore first baseman Malory Schattle and freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson that gave Texas its first two hits of the game, sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth uncorked a hanging pitch for a three-run homer over the left-field wall to put Texas up 3-0.

“I knew my team was down and we needed something to get going,” Ellsworth said. “I was just looking for a hard hit, and my hard hit ended up going over.”

The Wolverines loaded the bases in the top of the fifth — their second time on the night. But Bolinger was able to work out of the frame without any damage, and Texas cruised the rest of the way to the shutout win.

Texas returns to action on Saturday for another doubleheader in the Texas Invitational, with games against Virginia Tech and No. 21 Ohio State.

“Our energy can’t get down,” Ellsworth said. “We have to continue to work hard and take stuff from each game and just build on top of it.”