Season opener blasts off with back-to-back shots

Sara Beth Purdy

Fans came early, despite the cold, out to Red and Charline McCombs Field to watch the Longhorns take on the Louisville Cardinals in the 2011 softball season opener Thursday night. The offensive side of the ball woke up in the third inning to put the Longhorns up early. After that, they never looked back, finishing the game up 6-4 on 10 hits.

Sophomore starting pitcher Blaire Luna struck out her first two batters and finished with 13 total strikeouts.

“It’s great, but I think tonight really goes to my defense,” Luna said. “Taylor Thom did a really good job and Amy Hooks helped me work through a lot of stuff… I have a lot of confidence in them.”

Junior first baseman Lexy Bennett made the first hit of the season for Texas — a single towards center field in the bottom of the first.

Unfortunately it wasn’t until the third when the Texas offense woke up. Sophomore right fielder Taylor Hoagland started off the bottom of the third with a home run over the left center wall and it wasn’t long before Bennett followed with a back-to-back home run in the same direction.

After two runs in the third, the Longhorns sealed the victory in the fifth inning when they scored an additional two runs to make it 4-0. The Cardinals made a valiant effort to close the scoring gap, scoring twice in the sixth, but it was not enough to upset the Longhorns.

In order to put to rest any doubts, the Longhorns brought in another two runs in their final at bat during the bottom of the sixth.

With the victory close and the temperature dropping, Luna finished the Cardinals quickly in the top of the seventh, striking out the last batter to end the game.

Even with Luna’s stellar night, Hoagland and Bennett were just as crucial. Hoagland finished the night with one hit off three at bats, culminating in two runs and one RBI. At one point, she hit a foul ball clear into the parking lot at UFCU Disch-Faulk field next door — a distance not many batters have achieved at McCombs field.

Bennett was even more impressive at the plate finishing with three hits off four at bats. She was responsible for half of the Longhorns’ point total, brining in two runs personally and batting in another.

“[Lexy] is so consistent,” Texas head Coach Connie Clark said. “She’s probably our most consistent performer on both sides of the ball. She will be very much of an anchor this year.”

The Longhorns face Tulsa at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Northern Illinois at 1:30 pm on Saturday. Highly touted freshman pitcher Rachel Fox will start against Tulsa.