Texas opens new softball season with a bang

Jason Epstein

Texas started off its season strong with three wins in five games at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, this weekend, including a final win against No. 16 Arizona State.

In the season opener, Texas kick-started the year with a 15–0 win over UC-Santa Barbara, including 13 fifth-inning runs to boost the Longhorns to their first win. Texas connected on nine hits, while junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens went 2-for-3, including her third career grand slam. Freshman pitcher Erica Wright took the mound and recorded a shutout with five strikeouts in her first collegiate victory.

Texas didn’t fare as well against No. 2 Oregon. With just two hits, the Ducks shut out the Longhorns on their way to a 9-0 win. Sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis struggled through three innings, allowing five earned runs on eight hits.

In its third game of the tournament, Texas powered through to beat Northwestern 5—4 in a matchup that came down to the final swing. In the bottom of the seventh, with Texas down 4-3, Davis stepped up to the plate as a designated player. In a role reversal from her usual spot on the mound, Davis drew a lead-off walk and became the tying run on first. She then advanced on a sacrifice fly by sophomore second baseman Kelli Hanzel and waited on second, ready to run. With two outs and a full count, junior catcher Erin Shireman connected on a pitch from Northwestern starter Amy Letourneau, sending it over the left field wall for a walk-off, two-run homer. 

Sophomore Lauren Slatten started the game in the circle for the Longhorns, allowing three earned runs while striking out four in four innings, but it was freshman Kristen Clark who completed the game. Letting up just one hit and walking two in the final inning, Clark earned her first collegiate win.

Despite a hard fought game full of lead changes and 10 hits for Texas, the Longhorns fell to Stanford, 10-9, Saturday. Texas battled back late in the game down 10–7 but could only cut the lead to one. With two outs and one runner on base in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning sent a long ball to left center that looked like it might clear the fence, only to fall into the glove of Stanford left fielder Tylyn Wells just short of the wall. Wright recorded her first loss, letting in three unearned runs on four hits and walking one in two and two thirds innings.

To round out the weekend, Texas faced its second ranked opponent of the tournament in No. 16 Arizona State. After starting out 2–2 on the weekend, the Longhorns scored six runs in the first inning to contribute to the win. On 11 hits, Texas concluded their time in the Kajikawa Classic with a 9–4 victory over the Sun Devils. Stephens went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and a home run, and, throughout the weekend, she hit a team-best .471. Wright earned her second win with seven strikeouts, walking three and allowing just four earned runs and eight hits in seven complete innings.

Texas plays Friday against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in Austin.