Clark, Texas softball walk off with milestone in doubleheader against UTSA

Claire Cruz

As the only head coach in Texas softball history, Connie Clark had more on the line than improving the Longhorns record going into Tuesday’s doubleheader with UTSA.

The 2–1 Texas walk-off victory in the first game of the doubleheader gave Clark and the program win No. 750. Then, a 3–2 Texas walk-off on the tail end gave them No. 751.

“It’s great, but all it is is that I’ve had some great players through the program,” Clark said. “The best part about it is that we got to 751 real quick.”

The biggest thing Clark took from the first game was the improvement in her pitching staff and her team’s focus.

“[Senior Gabby Smith] and [freshman Erica Wright] competed pitch to pitch and really trusted their stuff,” Clark said. “I think they’re at a good place as we head into conference to compete, and we’re hoping to have Tiarra [Davis] back soon as well.”

Solid performances from the Texas pitching staff helped the Longhorns (20–9) to consecutive walk-off wins for the first time since 2009. The Roadrunners came into the doubleheader with one of the strongest offenses in the nation, ranking in the top 25 in four offensive categories, but the Texas duo handled them. 

A pair of home runs accounted for all three UTSA runs, as it tabbed just 10 hits total in both games.

Smith pitched the Longhorns to victory in the first by throwing a complete game, giving up just six hits and totaling seven strikeouts. But when she left the mound in the seventh, her team still wasn’t ahead.

That changed when junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens drove a double down the right-field line, scoring sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning for the walk-off victory.

Tunning, who extended her on-base streak to 14 games by reaching safely in both matches, set up Stephens’ heroics. Sophomore left fielder Stephanie Wong executed the sacrifice bunt to advance Tunning to second, and Stephens provided the magic.

Wright followed up Smith’s night with a big one of her own, giving up just four hits and tallying a career-high 13 strikeouts to improve her record to 8–4.

“I’ve been doubting myself a little bit, so going out there and having that good night before conference is definitely going to be positive,” Wright said. “Gabby pitched an awesome game the first game, and that’s great because it takes everybody to win a series.”

Despite Wright’s performance, the Longhorns found themselves trailing by one in the final inning.

Freshman catcher Randel Leahy singled to start the inning and junior pinch hitter Erin Shireman reached on a bunt to set up sophomore pinch hitter Mickenzi Krpec.

Krpec blasted a shot through the right side of the field that scored Leahy and Shireman to win the game as the Longhorns rushed the field in celebration for the second time in the day.

“I felt good,” Krpec said of her at-bat. “I did what I could. I did my job, and that’s all I can ask for.”