Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Whether she’s in the classroom, on the softball field or thousands of feet in the air, junior catcher Erin Shireman excels.

Erin is an aerospace engineering student and four-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection. During her freshman season, she was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team. On the diamond, she has played four different positions for the Longhorns, spending most of her time as a catcher.

But what sets her furthest apart from most utility players is her private pilot’s license.

Erin’s father, Kirk, worked for NASA, so aerospace engineering has always been an interest of hers, she said. A few years ago, Kirk started flying again, and that prompted Erin to take lessons and earn her license too. The skills she uses when she flies carry over to other aspects of her life.

“It helps with softball and school a lot,” Erin said. “Whenever you’re flying, you have to constantly look at the instruments, make quick decisions, assess things and respond — kind of like catching. When I’m working on problems for different classes, I look at the formulas and sample problems, and stuff actually comes into play when I’m flying or in the wind tunnel, too.”

Erin’s versatility has helped her grow into a key fixture for Texas. She has played in 45 games this season, including 44 starts, as a catcher, third baseman and designated hitter. Head coach Connie Clark said she appreciates the intelligence Erin brings to the game.

“It couldn’t be better that she’s a catcher for us — that field general who just has a really good, big-picture sense about things,” Clark said. “She’s got a tremendous work ethic and a competitor’s mentality. She comes in early and works and is really a student of the game.”

That work ethic has helped Erin improve her offensive output. Early in her career, Erin struggled with chasing balls outside of the strike zone. She finished last season with a .284 batting average, three home runs and 16 RBIs in 34 games played. She currently boasts a .307 average, tied for third-best on the team, and eight home runs and 39 RBIs, both the second-best records on the team.

Erin put significant work into improving her hitting during the offseason. She said she believes her time as a catcher has influenced her offense as well.

“My whole job is to catch pitches and read the release out of a hand, so I think that comes into play, and it helps a lot with being able to recognize the spins quicker and know how pitchers think,” Erin said.

As Texas (32–14, 7–5 Big 12) prepares for a three-game road series against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State (20–28, 3–10), Erin and Clark both want to focus on the little things, while improving on consistency, to get the victory.

“I don’t know that we’ve hit on all cylinders yet,” Clark said. “We’ve had some great pitching outings and just didn’t get the timely hitting. Other times, we didn’t get the pitching, but we got the great offense, so I’d like to see it all come together.”

The series takes flight at 7 p.m. on Friday in Stillwater, Oklahoma, followed by afternoon games Saturday and Sunday.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

For many great athletes, training starts at a young age. They dedicate their lives to a sport and reap the benefits as they get older.

Junior second baseman Stephanie Ceo attributes her success to her early start in softball and to her family’s long history with the sport.

Stephanie has three older sisters — Britney, Natalie and Courtney — who all played softball growing up. Her parents, Brad and Kim, played baseball and softball growing up and are still involved with it today. The Ceos work with an 18-and-under program in their home state of California to help softball players make it to the collegiate level.

Stephanie said she never felt too much pressure to continue the family tradition. In fact, she said being coached by her parents and watching her sisters helped her get more prepared than the average freshman to play at the next level.

“Sometimes, when freshmen come in, they’re not prepared for the mental side of the game, whereas I came into college, and I was ready to start playing from the beginning,” Stephanie said. “[My family] helped me with my skills of course — but mentally, they prepared me so well to come into collegiate softball and make a difference.”

As a self-proclaimed visual learner, Stephanie said being the youngest sister helped her grown. She said she learned a lot from watching her sisters play and formed some of her own game around her sisters’ struggles and strengths.

“It was always a big motivator to be as good or better than they were,” Stephanie said. “Sometimes, sibling rivalry can become kind of a burden more than something that progresses you, but, in our family, it was always more that we wanted the best for each other.”

Her efficiency at the plate is one of the things her family helped her develop.

Stephanie’s father served as the hitting coach for Sierra College in 2012 when the Wolverines broke every California junior college hitting record. Her older sister Courtney was a standout hitter for the Oregon program from 2011 to 2014 and finished her career as the leader in three offensive categories.

Stephanie currently boasts a .311 batting average and is three RBIs away from reaching 50 in her career. As Texas faces Texas Tech in Lubbock this weekend for a Big 12 Conference series, Stephanie’s .483 road-game batting average will be a nice weapon.

Although the win-loss record in this matchup is swayed heavily in Texas’ favor, Stephanie and head coach Connie Clark are expecting a fight from the Red Raiders.

“We’ve played well on the road this year, but playing in Lubbock is always a challenge,” Clark said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us.”

The Longhorns (31–12, 6–3 Big 12) are entering this series with momentum from a crucial three-game sweep of Iowa State. Texas Tech (21–24, 5–7) is riding a four-game win streak after a conference sweep of their own over Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders will look to their leading hitter, junior Jordan Bettiol (.389), to spark their chances defeating Texas.

First pitch of the series is set for 6 p.m. on Friday.

Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

Another season of intramural softball at UT is underway after opening day this weekend.

Teams will face off over the five weeks of regular season play, vying for a spot in the playoffs. The spring sport, which features nine different divisions, attracts hundreds of students to an often light-hearted but competitive season.

“Intramural softball and intramural sports in general are great because you can have any skill level, any kind of person, come together,” said business honors and accounting junior Tommy Garber. “Everyone’s welcome to play.”

Second-year MBA student Douglas Flanagan, captain of coed team None of Your Business and men’s team Business as Usual believes intramural softball draws people in because of its mix of fun, fitness and competition.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Flanagan said. “It’s a great way for people to get outside … and play a competitive game [while keeping] it fun, keep[ing] it light and having a social experience while having an athletic experience.”

Each team plays four games against teams in its division, and the division winner moves on to the playoffs. From there, it’s a bracket tournament, with the winning team earning T-shirts and a spot on the Gregory Gym Wall of Fame. 

“It’s a single elimination tournament where you play until you lose,” Garber said. “If you can win three or four games, you can get crowned the champions, and you go down in history.”

With the stakes so high, finance junior Lee Friedman, a catcher for the Jelly Donuts, said the teams can get aggressive during postseason games.

“It’s pretty competitive at times,” Friedman said. “Some people really want to win. Others are just there for fun, but it can get pretty competitive and uptight, especially during the playoffs.”

Several of the teams participating this season are veterans to the league, having competed in the past years with many of the same players, including both of Flanagan’s teams. Garber believes this bond only adds to the experience.

“My teammates are honestly some of my best friends, and we do a lot more than just sports together,” Garber said. “But sports has definitely been an avenue where I’ve met these guys and got to know them better.”

While many teams are composed of friends or members of clubs or organizations, there is a free agent list of participants who are eager to play the sport despite not having a team. Captains regularly use this list to fill remaining spots to their teams.

“I think the best thing about intramurals is that anyone can do it,” Garber said. “Even if you don’t have an organization or group to sign up with, they have a free agent list … and captains … can pick you up, so that’s another good way to meet a random group that you might end up becoming friends with.”

Softball and other intramural sports give students a way to continue playing sports they had to leave when coming to college, with the excitement of actual games without the monotony of practice.

“It’s the fun aspects of all the sports you played growing up,” said Jacob Lodinger, a supply chain management junior and third baseman for the Jelly Donuts. “You don’t have to do the boring aspects. You get to just go out and have some fun and compete.”

After playing for the Longhorns, Karina Scott returned to Texas to coach after being offered a spot on coaching staff. Scott currently serves as a volunteer assistant for the Longhorns.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

After four years on the diamond for Texas softball, Karina Scott had a hard time leaving. However, she soon found out she didn’t have to.

After appearing in 38 games as a freshman, Scott started in 41 games the following year. Scott ranked highly on the team in numerous batting categories and achieved a perfect fielding percentage as a sophomore.

The coaches soon saw potential for Scott — not for a career at first base, but in the dugout. At the end of Scott’s second season, the coaches offered her a spot on the coaching squad upon graduation.

“I was shocked, and I was like, ‘Are you guys talking to me? Are you serious?’ ” Scott said.

Despite the surprise, it took little convincing to sway Scott.

“I jumped on it,” Scott said. “I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew it would be a great way to build my résumé and get started.”

When she was offered the job of volunteer assistant, Scott had only recently begun considering coaching because she had begun to support many of her teammates. Scott said she always played the role of “the big sister” and stepped up when the teammates needed help. 

After months of offseason training, the Longhorns took the field for their first game of the year in early February in Tempe, Arizona. No longer sporting a player’s jersey, Scott stepped out of play in a new wardrobe: a
coaching uniform.

“I think it was a great
moment for me,” Scott said. “The other seniors graduated, but I still get to do ‘The Eyes of Texas’ on the field, and I still get to do the other things, so it’s like I never left.”

Even with her new title, Scott’s characteristically friendly attitude toward her former teammates
hasn’t diminished.

“She’s still playful with us. She still interacts with us,” junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens said. “She’s still that friend, that teammate we had last year.”

Scott even offers a special
perspective that some of the other coaches can’t give their players.

“She’s struggled, just like we all have, and she’s succeeded, just like we all have,” Stephens said. “It’s a little more recent [than the other coaches], and that’s really helpful and comfortable for
us as players.”

A California native, Scott did not personally adopt softball until her teen years, although she grew up surrounded by the sport. Scott used to spend most of her time on the baseball or softball field because her uncle and older
brother played often. 

Just before high school, Scott picked up softball at the age of 13 with an ulterior motive separate from the competition and
winning aspects.

“I realized I needed a way to get to college, and I wanted a scholarship, so I told my parents I wanted to start playing softball,” she said.

Scott thrived instantly. A four-year letter winner in high school, a recipient of All-California recognition and various other accolades, Scott finished her senior year of high school batting over .400, slugging over .600 and with a spot on the Texas softball team.

While she strives to complete her goal of becoming a head coach, Scott plans to return to school soon to pursue a degree in education or sports management. Currently in a one-year position, Scott hopes her time doesn’t stop anytime soon.

“I would love to be the head softball coach at Texas,” she said. “[Connie] knows I want her job, and she said I could have it."

Junior Stephanie Ceo is ready to step into a leadership role this season after posting a .348 batting average and 34 RBIs so far in her career at Texas.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

When Texas’ softball season ended at the NCAA Lafayette Regional final last May, its offense was struggling.

The Longhorns only managed four hits against Louisiana-Lafayette, with the lone score coming off a solo home run by senior Gabby Smith. 

But as the team heads into a new season, it has two veteran juniors returning in place to lead this season’s offense in the right direction.

Junior right fielder Lindsey Stephens and junior second baseman Stephanie Ceo are the only two players on the current roster who played in all 58 games last season.

Stephens, who is one of 50 players on the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year watch list, had one of the most dominant offensive seasons in Texas softball history in 2014 with a .371 batting average for the year. She led the team in six offensive categories and ranked in the top 10 in nine offensive categories in the Big 12.

“She’s one of our captains,” Clark said. “She’s really going to step up and do some things really well. She definitely will help us offensively.”

Despite last season’s postseason struggles, Stephens said she believes her team has the confidence to succeed this season.

“We have such a strong foundation,” she said. “Everyone on this team is ready to learn, ready to make adjustments and ready to take that next step.”

Ceo is also expected to capitalize on her leadershipskills in the upcoming season. The junior hit .362 last season and recorded 10 multi-hit games. Ceo’s biggest talents were often on display at the plate in the postseason, where she notched team-high postseason batting averages as a sophomore in 2014 (.375) and as a freshman (.400) during the Women’s College World Series (WCWS).

In June, Ceo watched as her older sister, Courtney, competed for Oregon in the WCWS. This season, Ceo hopes to have that same experience.

“Last year had a lot of learning moments that we went through,” Ceo said. “Now we get to build off of that.”

But before the Longhorns start thinking about the postseason, they will have to focus on their tough non-conference schedule.

Texas will face several ranked opponents early, including No. 2 Oregon on Friday night at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona. Sunday afternoon, it faces No. 16 Arizona State.

The Longhorns will start their season by playing 11 teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in the preseason Softball rankings. Eight of those games will occur throughout the month of February and serve as challenges the Longhorns must face if they want to reach their ultimate goal.

“Not only do we want to get to the World Series, but we want to win the World Series,” Stephens said.

Cat Osterman remains one of the best pitchers the Texas softball program has ever had. She currently coaches softball at Texas State and is preparing to wrap up her professional career.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series looking back at past Texas athletes and examining where they are now. This week features former softball pitcher Cat Osterman, who played for Texas from 2002-2003 and 2005-2006.

By the time Osterman graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, she had already won an Olympic gold medal from Athens, notched 20 collegiate no-hitters and appeared twice on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

But even for Osterman, adjusting to life on the 40 Acres wasn’t easy.

“I had to learn real quick how to pitch and how to pitch successfully at that level,” Osterman said. “For me to be able to be thrown in the fire so quick, I think that’s what really made me mature as an athlete and, actually, in the long run, is probably what has allowed me to be so successful.”

Osterman took a year-long hiatus from school after her sophomore year to join the USA Softball Women’s National Team on its quest for Olympic gold in Athens in 2004.  

“It was a little difficult because I was playing with a bunch of older women, a lot of which had graduated from college already,” Osterman said. “But I think it was for the best. It taught me a lot. It made me grow up fast.”

She returned to the University after her Olympic stint to play two more seasons with Texas, and, in 2007, she was selected as the No. 1 pick in the National Pro Fastpitch softball league draft.

She continues to pitch professionally for the USSSA Pride, a fastpitch team in Kissimmee, Florida, while working full-time in the offseason as a softball coach at Texas State. Osterman devotes her time to recruiting in the fall, coaching in the spring and playing professionally in the summer.

“I think the hardest part is I have to work out, and I have to throw,” Osterman said. “I put coaching as a priority, so, if I have to skip a workout or something like that, I’ll do that over being late to practice because my first priority is to Texas State and coaching.”

But all good things come to an end. This summer will most likely be Osterman’s last season playing professionally, she said. Still, she has a clear path for her future in mind. 

“I have wanted to coach since I was in, like, fourth grade, and that was before I specialized in softball,” Osterman said. “Coaching is definitely my future.”

Junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens was named one of the softball team’s three captains and hopes to help the team bounce back after a relatively down year.

Photo Credit: Cristina Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ softball campaign came to an end last season at the hands of Louisiana-Lafayette in a 10-1 routing during Regionals.

This season, the Longhorns are looking to bounce back.

“Losing that game — it was heartbreaking,” junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens said. “It was actually hard for me to watch the [College] World Series and the Super Regionals after that because I wasn’t ready to finish the season.”

Because Texas lost four seniors last year and only has two seniors this year, leadership may be a challenge early on. However, Stephens said others on the team will not shy away from the challenge.

“The team as a whole—we all are great leaders at some point, and we also learn how to follow,” Stephens said. “So I think that’s what is really good about us.”

The three captains this year — outfielder Rachel Scott, second baseman Stephanie Ceo and Stephens — are juniors who went to the College World Series two years ago.

“We have some captains on the team, and I just think that we’re going to try to guide us all back to the World Series,” Stephens said.

Their experience and leadership will be key if the Longhorns want to return to Oklahoma City.

“I thought the team and the staff did a great job of being on the same page on who we would have wanted as captains,” head coach Connie Clark said. “Those are three young women that are ready to take on the reign.”

Clark said this year’s group is ready to get another shot at the Worlds Series. 

“I think this group is motivated to make to the top eight. We want to be at the Women’s College World Series, and that’s all we’re talking about,” Clark said. “It’s more realistic that we can talk about that this year.”

The players agree that this team feels more motivated.

“Our goal every year is to get back to the World Series and win the World Series,” Ceo said. “So, no matter what, it’s always going to be that motivation. We came up short in Regionals last year, and it’s just an extra push to get even further this year.”

A home run by senior catcher Mandy Ogle wasn't enough Thursday night in Texas' 4-1 loss to Oklahoma. The Longhorns managed just three hits against the sooners. 

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

The most recent chapter in the Red River Rivalry was written Thursday night on ESPN2, a platform not usually reserved for regular season softball games.

Texas (26-17, 6-2 Big 12) dropped its second Big 12 game this season in its 4-1 defeat at the hands of No. 16 Oklahoma (33-9, 10-1 Big 12). The game was a pitching duel for the most part, until the Sooners’ bats came alive to chase freshman star Tiarra Davis.

After two scoreless innings, senior Mandy Ogle got the Longhorns on the board first with a deep homer to left field, giving her seven on the season. Oklahoma responded in the bottom of the third with an RBI single, which tied the game at one until the fifth inning. 

Davis did a solid job against the Sooners, allowing just four hits and one run through four innings, but a Sooner rally of two homers in the bottom of the fifth sealed the deal for the Longhorns, who weren’t able to manage even a hit in the final two innings. Davis’ final line was six innings pitched, with six hits and four earned runs given up.

Despite the Ogle home run early in the game, Oklahoma sophomore pitcher Kelsey Stevens controlled the Longhorns on the mound, surrendering only three hits and one run while striking out seven Texas hitters on the night.

Senior outfielder Brejae Washington was hitless in the game and still remains two hits shy of second place on the Texas all-time hit list. She needs nine to take sole possession of the hits record.

Thursday night marked Texas’ first conference loss since April 5 against the Red Raiders and a break in momentum after a series sweep of Iowa State last weekend. Game two is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday night, in Norman, Okla. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

The phrase “Texas versus Oklahoma” conjures up images of a packed Cotton Bowl in October, but the rivalry between the two schools on the softball field has been just as fierce. For every “Colt McCoy versus Sam Bradford,” there has been a “Blaire Luna versus Keilani Ricketts.”

“It doesn’t matter what sport — when you match up the Longhorns and the Sooners, it’s always a rivalry,” head coach Connie Clark said.

In 49 games, the Sooners hold a slim 26-23 edge, and the teams have combined to win 10 regular season conference titles and eight conference tournament titles. With the departure of Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M, the rivalry has had a bigger role in determining the conference champion.

That will likely be the case this season. Oklahoma and Texas have each lost a game in conference play, but the Sooners hold a slight edge on percentage points.

Last year, the rivalry went to a new high as the teams faced each other in the Women’s College World Series for the first time. Texas took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third before Oklahoma came back with six in the bottom of the inning, including three on a throwing error by Kim Bruins, to win 10-2 on its way to the NCAA title.

In all, the Sooners took three of the four games the teams played last year.

“They were extremely tough,” senior shortstop Taylor Thom said.

Like the Cotton Bowl, both softball stadiums are sold out for each game of the series. Marita Hynes Stadium in Norman presents a unique situation, as there are bleachers also beyond the outfield wall, creating a “surround sound” of noise for the players to deal with.

Despite the tough environment and there being seven freshmen on the team, Clark said she enjoys taking this type of team up to Norman.

“You talk a lot about hostile environments, but, until you get into it and feel it, you can’t really get that experience,” Clark said.

Both teams come into this year’s edition of the rivalry riding a wave of momentum. Despite losing star first baseman Lauren Chamberlain for six weeks and having gotten a slow start to the season, the Sooners have gotten off to a hot start to Big 12 play, highlighted by their series win at Baylor last week.

The Longhorns also got off to a slow start, going 20-15 in non-conference play and struggling to score with runners on base. But Texas has scored 82 runs in its last eight games, including 38 in the series against Iowa State. Thom has led the charge, hitting five home runs and 17 RBIs in the last seven games.

Texas is 6-10 in games played in Norman, but, despite that record and the rivalry, senior catcher Mandy Ogle said the Longhorns are focused on just winning another Big 12 series.

“We’re just going to take it as another Big 12 series and not going to focus on our opponent and focus on us,” Ogle said.

Longhorn legend Cat Osterman announces retirement

Former Longhorns pitcher Cat Osterman announced her retirement from competitive softball Tuesday. 

The four-time All-American is the only player in college softball history to win National College Player of the Year three times. After setting Texas school records in career ERA (0.51), wins (136), shutouts (85) and no-hitters (20), Osterman moved on to professional softball, winning a pair of National Pro Fastpitch championships and an Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Athens games.

“As I turn 30 … I’m announcing I will hang up my cleats after this 2013 NPF season,” Osterman tweeted Tuesday, her 30th birthday. “Thank you again everyone for the love and support. I’m blessed. Looking forward to making my last season a good one!”

The only player to ever have the country’s best ERA in three different seasons, Osterman struck out 14.4 hitters per seven innings during her Longhorns career, an NCAA record. She fanned 554 hitters as a freshman in 2002, an NCAA record at the time, before she broke it as a junior and senior. Osterman held opposing hitters to a .095 batting average during her career and recorded
2,265 strikeouts.

When Osterman focused on playing for the U.S. Olympic softball team in 2004, Texas went 24-25, the program’s only losing season in the last decade. Osterman tossed 14 and two-thirds scoreless innings in the 2004 Olympics en route to helping the U.S. win gold.

Osterman, who led the NPF with a 0.72 ERA last season, is currently an assistant coach at St. Edward’s University under former Texas teammate Lindsay Gardner. Osterman and former Longhorns running back Ricky Williams were each inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame
in February. 

Texas had only played five seasons of varsity softball before Osterman arrived. The Longhorns lost both of their games of the only trip to the Women’s College World Series before Osterman led them to the WCWS three times — where they were knocked out by UCLA before the national title round each time — and have not been back to Oklahoma City since.

“She has been the most iconic softball athlete at the University of Texas as well as in the state of Texas,” Longhorns head softball coach Connie Clark said. “We are extremely proud of her and her representation of
our program.”