No. 5 Texas softball to face ranked opponents in Citrus Classic


Zachary Strain

Catcher Taylor King scores a run for the 16-1 Longhorns. King returns to her home state of Florida, where she played her high school ball, for this weekend’s tournament. 

Jori Epstein

After escaping the eighth inning with a victory against No. 21 Tulsa last weekend, the Longhorns head to Kissimmee, Fla., for the Citrus Classic. 

Now ranked No. 5 in the country, the team faces No. 15 Louisville, Hofstra, No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette and Syracuse this weekend. Freshman Taylor King is excited to compete near her hometown.

“When I was around 9 years old I saw Texas play, and all I wanted to do was play here,” King said. “Hopefully, my energy in being there and our energy in being there will carry over to the field.”

Texas trumped Louisville 14-4 and Hofstra 5-0 in the last matches against each of these teams in 2011. Pitcher Blaire Luna struck out 10 batters against Hofstra, but the Pride have yet to see her two years of improvement. Against Louisville and Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas looks to improve its record against ranked opponents. The team is 161-168-1 all-time, but 36-26 since Luna and her class arrived on campus.

“These are the fun games and these are the games that you play for,” Luna said of facing more competitive opponents.

During the 16-1 campaign for Texas thus far, shortstop Taylor Thom has posed a strong offensive threat. The first Longhorn to win consecutive Big 12 Player of the Week titles, Thom earned her second after last weekend’s performance at the Texas Invitational. Her six runs and eight RBIs included a three-double game to tie an NCAA single-game record. On Feb. 16 in Houston, her single-game two grand slams tied another.

“We continue to work hard in the cages,” Thom said. “The ball looks a little like a beach ball. I’m getting good swings on good pitches and going up to the plate with a plan.”

Thom looks to continue the dominance as the Longhorns open the tournament Friday at 10 a.m.

“We’re a mentally tough team,” Thom said. “We have the confidence in ourselves and I think we can go really far.”