Longhorns open Big 12 play with win over Jayhawks

Wills Layton

In sports, one of the best feelings in the world for both athletes and fans is seeing more wins than losses in the record. For the first time since the season opening Texas Classic, the Longhorn softball team boasts a winning record.

The season has been very up and down so far this year, with 8 of 13 losses coming at home. The team has also played a total of 11 ranked teams, almost half of its total games.

While the schedule has been brutal and the team has failed to take advantage of opportunities all season long to register a big win over a ranked opponent, the Longhorns’ efforts have paid off with the 10-2 win over Kansas in five innings Friday night.

“It’s been challenging with a tough schedule,” head coach Connie Clark said. “We kept telling them all their hard work was going to pay off. We tweaked some practice stuff this week as well just to get them more reps.”

The Longhorns have prepared for the opening of conference play for weeks with a grueling schedule and a young roster learning both in games and in practice. This win has been a long time coming.

“You could see the confidence in practice being carried over to tonight’s game,” Clark said. “It’s good to see them feeling very confident, specifically at the plate.”

The game represented a season high in both runs and hits, a welcome change in pace from the largely stagnant offensive performance the team has put forward so far this season.

Every Texas starter recorded a hit tonight with several key contributions from the lineup. Junior outfielder Ki’Audra Hayter hit her first homerun as a Longhorn on a two-run shot in the first inning. Junior captain Bekah Alcozer hit a three-run homerun and had a game-high four RBIs.

The youth of the team shone tonight as well. Sophomore outfielder Kaitlyn Washington went 3-for-3 at the plate and recorded a double and an RBI. Freshman infielder Janae Jefferson went 2-for-3 from the leadoff spot while sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Slack added two RBI to the offensive onslaught.

On the circle for the Longhorns was junior pitcher Brooke Bolinger, who is the team’s second ace following senior Paige von Sprecken. Bolinger pitched four strong innings, collecting five strikeouts and allowing only one hit. Freshman Ariana Adams came in to complete the Mercy rule shortened game, allowing two runs over two-thirds of an inning.

A three game series brings about several challenges the team will need to move past to complete the sweep, one of which reared its head tonight was a full bullpen. Texas faced three pitchers in tonight’s game, which played to the Longhorns’ favor.

“Kansas has several pitchers,” Clark said. “We saw a couple of them today. When you’re playing a three-game series, the quicker you get to the bullpen, the more it benefits you because you’re getting looks for not only today but the whole weekend.”

The next game of the series begins at 12 p.m. at Red and Charline McCombs Field.