Longhorns look to rebound in Big 12 play

Claire Cruz

Texas didn’t get its Big 12 season started in the best fashion.

The Longhorns dropped two games to then-No. 20 Baylor to open conference play, but the time has come to make up for it.

Three-straight conference series are up next for the Longhorns, the first being a home series against Texas Tech this weekend. The competition level throughout the conference is rising, and Texas will need to be firing on all cylinders to earn its first Big 12 win.

“Nobody in this conference is going to roll over,” head coach Connie Clark said. “The bottom half of the conference and how they’ve been finishing is really changing. We’ve got to play our game, not issue free passes from the circle, get timely hitting and play solid defense.” 

Free passes were a big issue for the young pitching staff early, but the last few games have shown a drastic improvement in control from the circle. 

Sophomore pitcher Kristen Clark threw a career-high nine strikeouts in her last outing. All three pitchers have gone the distance and issued just four combined walks in Texas’ last three contests.

“I love that they’re attacking the strike zone,” Connie Clark said. “We’ve been talking about that since our first game. The hitters are just so good nowadays.”

That control is going to be key against a Red Raider offense that has plenty of hot hitters. Texas Tech has momentum after a sweep of Oklahoma State in which they scored 36 runs. Junior utility player Kierra Miles is the most potent hitter in the lineup, and leads the conference in home runs (13) and RBI (40).

“Tech is swinging the bat well,” Connie Clark said. “They’re really coming up and the bats are definitely weapons in their hands. You just have to attack and trust your stuff through the zone.” 

Aside from a less than stellar performance against UTSA on Wednesday night, the Texas offense has been efficient lately as well. Junior third baseman Celina Felix and sophomore pitcher Paige von Sprecken have both tallied seven hits through Texas’ five-game win streak.

The entire Longhorn lineup has been seeing the ball well, which bodes well against Texas Tech’s pitching staff. The Red Raiders have a collective 5.15 ERA and have given up 292 hits this season. 

The Longhorns lost their series against Texas Tech in Lubbock last season and are looking to return the favor at Red and Charline McCombs Field to get back on track to a Big 12 championship. 

“With what happened against Baylor, we need to turn it around,” von Sprecken said. “It’s really important because it’s a conference series, but we’re not worried and I think we’ll do just fine against [Tech].”