Formidable Texas State squad stands between Texas and start of conference play

Robert Larkin

Twenty‍-five games into the season, it’s safe to say the 2018 Longhorns (12–13) haven’t lived up to expectations.

For a coach who has mentored Texas to five Women’s College World Series appearances and four Big 12 titles under her tutelage, head coach Connie Clark realizes this season’s results are a far cry from where her team needs to be.

“We chatted pretty specifically (Saturday) about them figuring out that the bar is higher at Texas,” Clark said.

Now only one game separates the Longhorns from a decisive conference slate, and Texas will have one final chance to iron out wrinkles in a Wednesday night matchup against Texas State. However, a midweek contest against the Bobcats will be no cakewalk for a struggling Longhorn squad. 

Entering Wednesday’s contest, Texas State is riding an eight-game win streak, including a win over No. 12 Baylor, and sits at No. 33 in the NCAA Softball RPI with a 22–7 overall record to boot.

The main area where the Bobcats are figured to challenge the Longhorns will be in the pitcher’s circle, where their staff enters with a combined 1.97 ERA this season. Meanwhile, the Longhorns have only averaged 1.57 runs per game over their last seven contests and are struggling to register runs. 

“Team 2018 needs to figure out how they’re going to hit it, to be quite honest,” Clark said. “We had them get together and kind of work it out.”

Although inexperience litters the starting lineup with six freshmen and sophomores on the card, the Texas players know it can’t serve as an excuse and understand production needs to come from anyone on the roster.

“Some of our sophomores and even freshmen are leaders on this team,” senior catcher Randel Leahy said. “I think we’re stressing that it doesn’t necessarily have to be upperclassmen that take control; it needs to be everyone on the field.” 

In the pitcher’s circle, Texas hopes to improve its confidence, which received a boost over its last three games at the Charleston Invitational last weekend. Over those three matchups, the Longhorns went 2–1, with four different pitchers combining efforts to give up only three runs.

If the depth continues to grow in the Longhorns’ rotation, it will be an asset the Texas coaching staff can not only utilize on Wednesday night against Texas State, but for the remainder of the season as well.

“Just having that depth should be good because if someone is struggling, someone else should be able to come in and get the job done,” redshirt junior pitcher Erica Wright said. “We all want each other to do well, and if not, we have each other’s backs.” 

More than anything, however, Texas understands it must continue to play at a high energy level throughout the game, and not dwell on individual mistakes.  

“Our energy can’t get down, and we have to stay up.” sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth said. “Both teams are battling, and we have to continue to work hard.”

First pitch for Wednesday night’s game against Texas State is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Red and Charline McCombs Field.