The Longhorns offense started off the game a little sluggishly on Sunday, until the 6th inning when it exploded for 5 runs, on their way to a 5-0 victory against Missouri State.
Up until that point the game had largely been a pitchers’ duel, with each pitcher only allowing two hits through the first five innings in the final of the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational championship game.
The sixth inning started off in a big way with a double in the left center field gap off the bat of freshman Taylor Thom; it was the first ball the Longhorns had really hit hard all game. The next two hitters for the team reached base, leaving the bases loaded with no outs for junior Lexy Bennett, who delivered with a two-run double to right field, which was just out of the reach of the fielder’s glove.
“I was kind of nervous. I hadn’t been doing so well through the first half of the game,” Bennett said. “I just wanted a long fly ball or something through the infield to get a base hit and get some runners moving.”
The team continued to lay on the pressure in the inning, scoring three more runs, with every Texas hitter seeing the plate at least once in the inning. A big part of the success of the inning was the hitting adjustments they made, going into the sixth shorting up their swings and trying to just slap the ball around.
“We started tracking the ball,” Bennett said. “We were just trying to catch that changeup and curve ball she kept throwing. Once everyone started keying on that, we started seeing the ball better and hitting well.”
The team also received a lights-out performance from Blaire Luna, who kept the team afloat throughout the first five innings, not giving up a run and matching Missouri State pitcher Natalie Rose pitch for pitch, staying calm throughout the game despite the lack of Texas early run support.
“I try to stay the same [mentally],” she said. “Sometimes, it’s a little harder to stay focused because of the score. Today, I didn’t have much trouble focusing because of how tight the game was.”
Luna ended the game with 12 strikeouts, while only giving up two hits on the day for her second complete game of the year.
The win moved Texas to 10-0 on the season and shows another way for the team to win. The Longhorns dominated throughout most of the tournament but needed a big day from Luna to finish undefeated.
“It was nice. We had to do it in a difficult manner today,” said Texas coach Connie Clark. “Even coming into the tournament yesterday, we struggled with the short game.”
The close win serves the team well going into their first road trip of the season, where they will face tougher pitching and some top 25 competition.
“It couldn’t prepare us any better for what we are about to embark on, which is a little different level in terms of the pitching we face and some top 25 teams,” Clark said. “It’s part of the process of a real big picture and a long season, but so far so good.”