First Pitch: Freshman Wong shows she belongs


Shelby Tauber

Freshman Stephanie Wong has always dreamed of taking Red and Charline McCombs Field as a Longhorn. She'll get a chance to realize her dream in Texas' home opener on Jan. 12. 

Scarlett Smith

Stephanie Wong has been preparing for this moment her whole life.  

When the No. 10 Texas Longhorns take the field for their home opener on Feb. 12, it will be Wong’s first time wearing the burnt orange.  

“It is really fun and really intense,” Wong said of the transition to college ball. “It is a lot different than what I am used to in high school, a lot faster paced but really exciting.”

Growing up in the Central Texas area, where she spent four years as the starting shortstop at Westlake High School, Wong attended many Longhorn softball games throughout her youth. Watching three-time National Player of the Year Cat Osterman pitch the Longhorns all the way to the College World Series is one of her many memories.

One of seven freshmen on this year’s roster, Wong figures to be a key contributor on a squad without ace pitcher Blaire Luna or standout third baseman Taylor Hoagland, who both graduated last spring. 

A slap hitter of slight build, Wong brings a mix of quickness and athleticism to a lineup already dotted with speedsters in Taylor Thom and Brejae Washington. Wong likens her style of play to a 2008 U.S. Olympian’s.

“I watched Caitlin Lowe a lot,” Wong said. “She is fast and a slap hitter, so I tried to emulate her.”

Following a storied career at Westlake, where she was a three-time All-State selection and earned a spot in the TGCA area All-Star game as a senior, Wong joins Texas teammate, Thom, as the hometown favorites. But the two share more than local roots. Both Thom and Wong previously played for the Texas Blaze Gold select team, along with Luna, and both pose a threat on the base paths. 

Compared to last year’s team that was anchored by dominant pitching and experience, the 2014 crop of Longhorns are a notably youthful bunch, with only six upperclassmen on the roster.

“It is really fun having all the freshmen along with me,” Wong said. “The upperclassmen do a good job of telling us what to do and how things go.” 

Despite a relative lack of collective experience, the Longhorns expect to defend their preseason No. 10 ranking and compete well into the postseason. 

“My personal goal is to get as much playing time on the field as possible,” Wong said. “As a team, we want to make it back to the College World Series.”