After outscoring Cal State Fullerton 14-1 in Saturday’s double-header, Texas continued its stretch of stifling play. The Longhorns defeated McNeese State 4-0 on Wednesday night.
With highly anticipated conference competition on the horizon, Texas showed up to play, with redshirt sophomore Erica Wright starting the game and a balanced offensive performance led by junior Randel Leahy, who opened the scoring with an RBI double in the bottom of the first.
After jumping out to a 3-0 advantage in the first inning, the Longhorns never looked back, maintaining a lead for the remainder of the contest.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, sophomore Bekah Alcozer added a solo home run to add to the Longhorn’s advantage. McNeese State proved unable to overcome the deficit.
The Cowgirls put forward a good fight, with starting pitcher junior Rachel Smith throwing for a solid six innings and an offense led by Southland Conference Hitter of the Week junior Erika Piancastelli. While the 19-11 Cowgirls are from a relatively smaller conference, they are a Top-50 RPI team and represent an impressive pre-conference challenge.
“They’re a really good program,” Alcozer said. “I’ve seen them in the postseason the past few years so just beating them that’s a good W on our part.”
In an attempt to get much of the roster game action before conference, head coach Connie Clark rotated in multiple pitchers and catchers, with Wright starting the game and ace senior Tiarra Davis coming in to relieve. Behind the plate Leahy started with freshman Taylor Ellsworth coming into the game in the later innings.
This strategy by Connie Clark paid immediate dividends, as the first batter Davis faced was promptly struck out. The staff ace picked up where she left off where she won her 50th career game in a Longhorn uniform last weekend versus Cal State Fullerton.
After one lights out inning from Davis, junior Kristen Clark came in to relieve her. Kirsten Clark then threw a scoreless inning of her own. Following Kirsten Clark came sophomore Brooke Bolinger, who threw a strikeout to her first batter faced. Finally, in relief of Bolinger, junior Paige von Sprecken pitched two shutout innings to end the game. The entire staff looked sharp as the team shut out McNeese State.
“We’re kind of like a team within our team,” Wright said. “It’s just cool to know that if you don’t have your best game somebody else is going to come in behind you and get it done. Just having everybody out there today I think was really cool because it showed that we aren’t just a one-trick pony we have five of us.”
With the non-conference schedule over and done with, the focus shifts to conference play. For the freshman, the challenging nature of the conference has yet to be experienced. For the seniors, this challenge is welcome and encouraged.
“I think our conference as a whole is pretty challenging,” senior infielder Kelli Hanzel said. “It’s all about how we play our game and what we bring to the table and how we make adjustments. So it’s pretty exciting to have such a challenging conference.”