Luna and UT softball look to rebound at Texas Tech

Evan Berkowitz

Blaire Luna is dominating. Hitters are hitting just .121 off her. Teams are scoring just 1.25 runs a game off her. And most impressively, she is striking out a nation-leading 12.5 a game.

But she has a weakness — the long ball.

When Shelby Pendley went deep twice against Luna last Sunday, she hit the ninth and 10th home runs Luna has allowed on the year. But they were also the 14th and 15th runs off home runs that Luna allowed.

While just allowing 37 runs all year, the long ball makes up 40.5% of them — higher than the national average.

Despite her tendency to give up a blast here and there, she still is one of the top pitchers in the nation, with a 22-3 record.

But that third loss stings the most as it was against Oklahoma with a chance to win it in the seventh.

“I don’t think we should forget about this series,” catcher Mandy Ogle said after the Oklahoma finale. “Losing this hits us all pretty hard, but I think it’s going to light a fire underneath us and we’re going to come out next weekend and work hard.”

And that’s the sort of motivation Texas needs after pretty much coasting through the first part of its schedule.

This weekend, the No. 7 Longhorns (39-6, 9-2 Big 12) will travel up to Lubbock for a three-game set with Texas Tech (29-21, 3-9 Big 12).

Texas, one game behind Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings, most likely needs to win out, meaning three-game sweeps against both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and then winning the finale against Baylor, if it wants a shot at its first Big 12 championship since 2010.

And this weekend’s matchup against Texas Tech shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

The Red Raiders sit at the bottom of the Big 12 standings, and most of that can be attributed to the team’s .228 batting average in conference.

That average, coupled by a 5.40 team ERA, is not a recipe for success.

Put those offensive numbers against Blaire Luna, who should take the circle at least twice this weekend, and the Red Raiders may have a difficult time reaching first base.

As for Texas, Taylor Thom is a player to watch this weekend.  

Thom, the hottest-hitting Longhorn, finished the Oklahoma series with a .500 batting average, including a homer off the scoreboard in the finale. The two RBIs she collected in the finale put her season total at 50, good for second in program history and just seven off Lexy Bennett’s mark.