Devon Tunning

Freshman third baseman Randel Leahy had a career game Wednesday against UT-Arlington. Leahy blasted a grand slam in the first inning of play and clinched the Texas victory with a walk-off, solo home run in the fifth.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

It didn’t take long for Texas to come out victorious over UT-Arlington on Wednesday night.

Behind freshman third baseman Randel Leahy’s two-home-run night, the Longhorns run-ruled the Mavericks, 8–0. 

Texas (28–12) pounced on UT-Arlington (26–20) from the start. 

Sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis took the mound for the Longhorns and held the Mavericks scoreless. In the bottom of the first, the Longhorns launched an offensive strike. They started off quickly with a walk and a single from sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning and sophomore outfielder Stephanie Wong, respectively, but a setback occurred as the Mavericks retired the next two batters.

Then, with two outs and the bases loaded, junior catcher Erin Shireman sparked a rally with a single to right field, knocking in the first two runs of the game. The next two hitters connected for two more singles to load the bases as Leahy stepped up to the plate. As the ball traveled from the mound to the plate, Leahy held her stance, connected on the pitch and launched the ball over the left-field wall for her first career grand slam to extend Texas’ lead to 6–0.

“Great at-bats for Randel tonight,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “She’s really come along, and we’ve talked about it this season that she’s somebody we wanted to try to get in the lineup every single day.” 

After Davis retired three in the second, Tunning and Wong struck again. Tunning led off the second inning with a single but was put out on a fielder’s choice off Wong’s bat. To complete the frame, Wong stole second, advanced to third on a ground out and crossed the plate on a passed ball to make the score 7–0.

The next two innings were scoreless, thanks to Texas senior pitcher Gabby Smith’s six strikeouts.

Freshman Erica Wright came into the game in the fifth inning to pitch a perfect inning.

“Tonight was really about getting our pitchers work in a midweek, nonconference game,” Clark said. “All three of our pitchers did a great job of throwing to all zones and mixing speeds efficiently. That’s what we need is for those three to get stronger and stronger as we go on this season.”

In the bottom of the fifth, the Mavericks sent two Longhorns back to the dugout and needed just one more out for another offensive opportunity to get back in the game. But Leahy hit her second home run of the game, to the same wall as before, to clinch the victory.

“[The softball I saw] was pretty big,” Leahy said. “It was nice to come out tonight and redeem ourselves.”

Clark recognized Leahy’s success on a holistic level.

“Obviously, the grand slam was sweet, but to get the walk-off was tremendous,” Clark said.

The Mavericks were the last nonconference opponent on Texas’ schedule. Four Big 12 series are all that remain in the regular season for
the Longhorns. 

Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

After a nine-game winning streak, including three wins against No. 22 Kansas, Texas dropped three straight to Oklahoma at the Red and Charline McCombs Field over the course of the weekend.

In the softball edition of the Red River Rivalry, the Sooners entered the matchup with a 28–24 advantage, but the Longhorns were hopeful they could produce.

“We’re just going to try and go and attack them and see what we can do,” freshman pitcher Erica Wright said before the series. “They are a really good team obviously, but we’re a good team too.”

No. 5 Oklahoma (36–5, 9–0 Big 12) showed Texas (27–12, 3–3 Big 12) early how they had managed a 6–0 conference record and stayed at the top of the Big 12. Much of Oklahoma’s success arose thanks to freshman pitcher Paige Parker, who gave the Longhorns trouble all weekend. Parker earned two wins as she pitched 16 innings, struck out 21 batters and allowed just six hits and no runs.

In the first inning of the first game, Oklahoma senior first baseman Lauren Chamberlain led off with a double. Shortly after, senior shortstop Shelby Pendley brought her in on a two-run shot to give the Sooners a quick 2–0 lead. Texas sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning reached on an infield single in the bottom of the inning to improve her on-base streak to 22 games. But the next three batters went down, and the Longhorns left her there until the end of the inning.

The Longhorns provided a few reasons for optimism through the rest of the game, including a run-saving tag by junior catcher Erin Shireman in the third, another single for Tunning and a hit for junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens. But at the end of play, none rounded the bases, and the Longhorns lost, 8–0 — their biggest deficit of the season.

“We have to stay focused on ourselves and stay in attack mode,” head coach Connie Clark said.

And the Longhorns did that — for a little while, at least — in the next game.

In the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, the Longhorns jumped to a quick 1–0 lead on Stephens’ 13th home run of the season. With an offensive advantage, senior Gabby Smith stayed strong at the mound and retired the first 12 to keep Texas in the lead through four.

But in the top of the fifth, the Sooners quickly took over. Chamberlain hit one out of the park to tie up the score. Before the end of the inning, the Sooners scored another run off a hit by pitch with the bases loaded, putting them up one.

Down 3–1 after another Oklahoma run in the sixth, sophomore pinch hitter Mickenzi Krpec jumped on base from a single and advanced on an error to second. Unfortunately, the swing stopped there and three consecutive outs stranded Krpec on second for the remainder of play.

“They have a quality program and have quality athletes. We have a quality program, and we have quality athletes,” Clark said. “It really comes down to execution, making the pitch and competing well.”

The final contest failed to result in execution, as Parker held the Longhorns scoreless in seven innings of play. On Saturday, the Longhorns drew more walks than they had hits, as they had four walks and only two hits. When the last pitch had been thrown, the scoreboard read 4–0 in the Sooners’ favor.

The Longhorns play UT-Arlington on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at McCombs field.

Senior pitcher Gabby Smith has been a steady arm for Texas this season with a 7–1 record and a 2.13 in 52.2 innings of work.
Photo Credit: Mariana Gonzalez | Daily Texan Staff

Texas and Oklahoma, the only Big 12 teams who haven’t lost a conference game this season, are both riding nine-game winning streaks — but that’s about to change.

This weekend at Red and Charline McCombs Field, the Longhorns (27–9, 3–0 Big 12) and Sooners (33–5, 6–0 Big 12) will challenge each other in a pivotal three-game series. The No. 18 Sooners and No. 20 Longhorns sit one and two in conference standings, respectively.

Oklahoma enters the series with the best offense in the conference, boasting a .385 team batting average to Texas’ fourth-best .318. The long ball is a major part of their game — the Sooners claim the Big 12 home run leaders in senior pitcher and shortstop Shelby Pendley (19) and senior first baseman Lauren Chamberlain (16). Pendley and Chamberlain are two of 26 finalists for the 2015 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.

Senior pitcher Gabby Smith said Texas’ pitching staff, which has the third-best team ERA (3.10) in the conference, won’t let Oklahoma’s power hitters get in their heads.

“I’m just trying to not overthink it too much,” Smith said. “A batter is a batter, and I’m going to try and not give the hitters too much credit. They’re a great hitting team, and they’re going to make adjustments, so I’m going to have to make adjustments as well.”

Offensively, the Longhorns want to rely on the consistency they get from hitters such as sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning, who currently owns a 21-game on-base streak and has a .571 on-base percentage.

“She’s a tremendous offensive weapon,” head coach Kristen Clark said. “She really has taken ownership of the leadoff spot. She’s the hot hand and has a great eye and is really coming into her own.”

Although she said she feels good about her recent offensive success, Tunning said she’s also excited about Texas’ defense.

Early in the season the Longhorns struggled with defensive miscues while moving the infield around. The team committed 28 errors through the first 18 games. In the past 18 contests, since finalizing the defense, Texas has committed just nine errors.

“At the beginning of the year, we were working through things; there was no set lineup, so we were trying to figure out who’s going to be where,” Tunning said. “Right now, I think we know who’s going to be out there, and the communication is solid. We have good chemistry.”

That chemistry allows Texas enter this weekend with confidence despite struggling against Oklahoma in recent years. Since 2009, the Sooners have won nine of 15 meetings in the Red River Rivalry.

“We have a big weekend coming up, and we’re going into it confident,” Tunning said. “Our whole motto this year has been a championship mindset, and we’re taking that into this series.”

First pitch of the series will be at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. All games of the series will be aired by Longhorn Network.

Sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning watches one of her two homers leave the park Tuesday. Her pair of home runs sparked the Longhorns to their ninth-straight victory.
Photo Credit: Mariana Gonzalez | Daily Texan Staff

Texas extended its winning streak to nine, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 11–2, in five innings on Tuesday afternoon behind the bat of sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning.

Tunning got things going for the Longhorns (27–9) in a hurry with a lead-off home run. She added another solo shot in the bottom of the third, making it her second multi-home-run outing in the last three games and extending her career-high on-base streak to 23 games.

“I’m just trying to get on base; that’s my job,” Tunning said. “[Pitchers are] coming at me, and I’m just seeing the ball really well. My job is to start the team off right, and it’s working out.”

Texas went on to score six runs on four hits in the initial frame, continuing the theme of fast starts and bringing its season total to 57 first-inning runs. 

Five of those runs came from a pair of two-out RBI doubles from freshman third baseman Randel Leahy and then junior second baseman Stephanie Ceo.

“Our approach has been tremendous immediately, and I think that’s something to be said about our preparation,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I’m equally, or maybe even more, excited about how many runs we’re putting up with two outs. That means that you continue to get to the next pitch and compete hard regardless of what the scoreboard says.”

Senior pitcher Gabby Smith contributed to the 11-hit offensive performance, going 2-for-2 with two RBIs. Smith earned the victory from the mound to improve to 7–1 on the season. In her first start since March 28 because of a callous on her index finger of her throwing hand, Smith gave up seven hits and struck out five in a complete-game effort.

“It was fun being back in there,” Smith said. “I definitely wanted to throw this game, I was excited about it, and it felt good.”

Smith said her finger, when wrapped in tape, feels completely fine and that she will continue to tape it up as long as is necessary.

As a tough Big 12 Conference series against No. 5 Oklahoma approaches, the Longhorns feel good about the development they’ve made. 

“As we get prepared tomorrow and Thursday, we need to be on the attack,” Clark said. “I think we have two confident teams going at it, and I think we match up very well in a lot of ways and we’ll just see how it plays out.”

The Longhorns will home to improve their nine-game winning streak as they face off against the Sooners in a three-game series at Red and Charline McCombs Field starting Friday afternoon.

Correction: This article has been amended since its original publication. Tunning extended her career-high on-base streak to 23 games.

In the first two games of the series, the battle between Texas and Baylor was focused mainly on the pitchers. But in the final home game of her career and the last game of the season, senior shortstop Taylor Thom placed the spotlight on herself.

With the game tied at two in the bottom of the seventh and senior centerfielder Brejae Washington at first, Thom lined a doubled to right-center field to score Washington and give the Longhorns a 3-2 win over the Bears on Senior Day.

“It couldn’t have been scripted any better,” head coach Connie Clark said.

The game, as it has been any time Texas and Baylor play each other in softball, was a pitcher’s duel between the Longhorns’ freshman ace Tiarra Davis and the Bears’ senior ace Whitney Canion. After giving up runs in each of the last two innings in a loss against the Bears Tuesday night, Davis allowed only one run through the first four innings, mainly thanks to her control of the change up.

“Every day that we had from Tuesday to now, we spent working on [the change up],” Davis said. “It felt great to have it.”

Meanwhile, it was Canion who blinked first in the duel. In the second inning, the first two batters reached base and senior catcher Mandy Ogle laced a double to right-center field to score a run. Freshman left fielder Stephanie Wong then hit a sacrifice fly to up the Texas lead to 2-0.

But the Bears would chip away at that lead, scoring a run in the third on an RBI single by senior first baseman Holly Holl. Then in the fifth with a runner on base, Washington misplayed a single by freshman second baseman Ari Hawkins to center, which allowed a run to score to tie the game and Hawkins to reach third base. The Bears almost took the lead on a sacrifice fly from the next batter, but Hawkins was caught leaving third early to end the inning.

After a scoreless sixth, Baylor again threatened with two runners reaching base with two outs, including a single that bounced off the face of freshman third baseman Devon Tunning. Despite being down for multiple minutes and a bevy of trainers and coaches around her, Tunning stayed in the game.

“That was a shot,” Clark said. “Devon was tough through all of that and I’m proud of her tenacity and mental toughness.”

After a pop out ended the top half of the inning, the bottom of the seventh inning was set up perfectly for the Longhorns. Washington, sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens and Thom were due up. Then Washington reached on a signature bunt base hit to lead off the inning and after Stephens popped out, Thom took to the plate.

“You have to want that moment and I want that moment just as much as anybody else,” Thom said.

Thom took hold of that moment, lining a ball in a gap that Baylor had given her in right-center field which Washington scored easily on to give Texas the walk off win in the seniors’ last game at McCombs Field.

“I’m sad to say that that’s my last game here, but it was a great way to end [the game],” Thom said.

The four seniors on the team—Thom, Washington, Ogle and first baseman Karina Scott—leave the program with a record of 177-54 and a Women’s College World Series appearance, though those aren’t quite final numbers yet for the class.

Six hours after the game ended, the Longhorns learned that they are headed for a tenth-straight NCAA tournament. Texas will join Mississippi State, Louisiana at Lafayette and Texas Southern in the Lafayette Regional. Earlier this season, the Longhorns beat both ULL and Texas Southern twice in tournament play.

That, along with the momentum from the walk off win over Baylor, gives Thom hope that this team can make a run in the postseason.

“We have to keep pitching like Tiarra did today and we have to score runs and have great defense and I think we’re going to be great,” Thom said.

Freshman third baseman Devon Tunning notched a career-best three RBIs Sunday and smashed her second home run in the last four games. Tunning finished the day 2-for-3. 

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Since season’s start, freshman starting pitcher Tiarra Davis has improved from an inexperienced collegiate rookie to the ace of the Longhorn staff.

In two of Texas’ three games against Texas Tech this weekend — both of which Texas won — Davis combined to allow only two earned runs while striking out 17. Texas finished the weekend 2-1 for its first Big 12 series win of the year.

“This is just a good starting point,” Davis said.

Friday night, the Longhorn offense picked up where it left off after Wednesday’s win against Texas State, scoring five runs in just two innings. Senior shortstop Taylor Thom belted a two-run home run in the first and sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens added a two-run single in the second.

That would be all the runs Davis would need, but she didn’t walk off without some trouble. After Davis retired six of the first seven batters, Texas Tech loaded the bases in the third with one out. Davis sent the next two batters flying out to end the threat.

The Red Raiders would pose a threat again in the sixth, getting two on with one out. Davis nearly got out of the inning, but Texas Tech scored its only run of the game on an error by sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo.

“My defense was there to back me up when I got into jams,” Davis said. “I put my full trust in them that they’ll get me out of the jams I work myself in to.”

Saturday was a tougher day for Davis. The ace lasted only 2.1 innings, giving up four earned runs and four hits through 71 pitches.

Texas tied the game at four in the third, but in the top of the fifth, Tech reclaimed its lead on a home run by sophomore infielder Samantha Camello. An error by freshman shortstop Devon Tunning that inning extended the lead to 6-4. Texas bounced back to within one after Tunning walked with the bases loaded, but Ceo lined out to end the game.

Davis bounced back in the rubber match of the series Sunday, retiring the first seven batters of the game. Like Friday night, she managed to work her way through tough situations, allowing only two earned runs.

Davis said she tried staying more relaxed after giving up a hit.

“My teammates did great when somebody did get a hit,” Davis said. “They were like, ‘It’s okay Tiarra. You’re doing fine,’ and I would go to the next pitch.”

The offense rebounded as well, striking early and often in the game. Tunning, who had a career night Wednesday night, topped that outing with a three-RBI day, including a home run and a triple. The Longhorns took the game 7-3.

Texas moved into a tie with Baylor for second in the Big 12 and will play Iowa State in Ames this weekend.

Coming into college, not many freshmen are expected to make an impact on their team right away, especially on a team coming off of as strong of a season as Texas had last year.

But shortstop Devon Tunning hopes to do just that and has already set high goals for herself this season.

“I would like to be Big 12 Freshman of the Year and then help lead the team to the College World Series again,” Tunning said.

Tunning comes to Austin after a stellar high school career at Montgomery High School, where she was named twice to the Texas Girls Coaches Association 4A All-State team. In her senior year, she hit four home runs with a .580 batting average.

Head coach Connie Clark said Tunning’s athleticism jumped out at them during the recruiting process.

“Her athleticism separates her from everyone else,” Clark said. “She has a great swing, and, on defense, she makes things look easy, but she makes the big plays.”

Tunning will have to make the adjustment from being the top player in her district to being one of many top players at Texas. While she admitted that it has been nerve-racking at times, Tunning said it’s been a different experience.

“Everyone is pushing each other, and no one person is really better than the other,” Tunning said. “We’re all together pushing each other.”

Tunning showed some of her talent in the fall season, swatting two doubles and driving in three in a double-header with Incarnate Word and Odessa College. Then against St. Edwards she hit a home run. While the fall season is not as competitive as the regular season, Tunning said it helped her get into the swing of college softball.

“It set a solid base for me to build off of this spring,” Tunning said.

In addition to adjusting to the college game, Tunning might also have to adjust to a new position. Tunning is primarily a shortstop, but that position is currently occupied by senior Taylor Thom.

Clark said they’ll probably move her around to keep her bat in the lineup.

“We’re working with her at third base, and we could put her as the designated player to keep her in the lineup,” Clark said.

Going into the season, the Longhorns will be missing the bat of Taylor Hoagland, who graduated last spring. In 2013, Hoagland led the Longhorns with a .424 batting average, hit 14 home runs and drove in 45 runs.

While she might not be the vocal leader Hoagland was, senior first baseman Karina Scott said Tunning will still be a big leader on this team.

“Hoagland was a different kind of player and they both bring different kinds of aspects,” Scott said. “But, can [Tunning] bring the impact that Hoagland did? Yes, she can.”

Tunning’s spot in the starting lineup isn’t guaranteed as Clark said it’s still a day-to-day competition to figure out who will be in the lineup, but she plans to keep working at it and getting better.

If she does that, Clark said she’ll be a big part of the team’s success.

“She gives us a lot,” Clark said. “She’s one of our top four hitters and she’s going to be an impact player.”