Longhorns forced to evaluate where they stand

Leah Vann and Wills Layton

After 45 games, the Longhorns are not where they thought they would be. In February, junior catcher Randel Leahy stood with her left fist clenched and covered by her right hand. It was the first media day and she was eager to tell everyone how different this team felt from previous Longhorn squads. 

“We’re always texting in the GroupMe like, ‘Hey, be ready for practice today because we’ve gotta go beat OU this year.’” Leahy said. “One of my teammates sent a picture of all of OU’s rings and we were like, ‘Alright, this is our time.’”

The Longhorns looked good on paper with seven seniors on staff — the most since 2005. Head coach Connie Clark beamed under the hot sun talking about the five-member bullpen, completed by sophomore transfer lefty Brooke Bolinger. 

“I am so excited to have five pitchers, you have no idea,” Clark said in February. “I think the expectations are high. They’ll be disappointed if we don’t attack conference and win a championship and get ourselves in the Women’s College World Series.”

Since then, the team has lost 10 games by a margin of one run, including the first three Big 12 conference games against the Oklahoma State Cowgirls. 

“We have been losing a lot by one run, and obviously that’s frustrating,” freshman outfielder Kaitlyn Washington said. “We have a lot of potential and just aren’t there yet.”

Now at 25–20 (4–8 Big 12), the Longhorns are on the heels of a series loss to Iowa State, the worst team in the Big 12. Texas currently stands in the middle of the seven Big 12 teams at No. 4. The team has two Big 12 series left against Baylor (36–9, 9–3) and Kansas (24–23, 3–9). 

With eight total games left, Texas softball is in a crucial place to live up to the bar set in February.

“You have a Texas Softball standard like you have standards at the University of Texas,” Clark said. “A lot of teams talk the talk, but I think you have to be able to walk the walk as well and be accountable for those things and own them and take them.”

In Clark’s 20-year era, Texas has been one of 11 schools to qualify for the Women’s College World Series five or more times in the last 19 years.

Texas has won four regular-season conference crowns (2002, 2003, 2006, 2010) and four post-season tournament conference crowns (1999, 2002, 2003, 2005), the second and first most in the Big 12, respectively. 

“When you have Texas on your chest you better have bodies hitting the floor,” Clark said. “I think that flips over to your lack of competitive factor at the plate and assuming that it’s all going to happen. There is a lack of leadership going on and a lack of commitment to how we do business.”