Texas rallies in seventh inning to knock off UTSA 1-0

Robert Larkin

Sophomore left fielder Kaitlyn Washington knew her course of action before junior center fielder Ki’Audra Hayter even put the ball in play. Standing at second base in the middle of a scoreless stalemate, she knew her run represented a critical opportunity.

“We had a meeting, and that was the plan the entire time,” Washington said. “If she was feeling a soft slap and could be safe at first, my plan was keep on running and score.”

Racing home from second on Hayter’s infield single to third base, Washington provided the lone run the Longhorns needed in a walk-off victory, as Texas (20–14) knocked off UTSA (15–16) for a 1-0 win on Wednesday night.

Senior pitcher Paige von Sprecken continued her sensational season in the winning effort, silencing the UTSA lineup in a complete game shutout that included seven strikeouts and just three hits.

“(Sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth) and I were mixing in a lot of my pitches (tonight),” von Sprecken said. “As we got deeper into the game, we found a way to keep reinventing ourselves and making sure to use different pitches to throw them off.”

For most of the night, the game was a pitcher’s duel, as UTSA senior pitcher Lizzy Fox was just as dominant in the pitcher’s circle.

The Texas lineup finally appeared to have something working in the bottom of the third inning, after Ki’Audra Hayter singled and von Sprecken walked to give the Longhorns two runners on base with two outs. But Fox forced a fly out on the next hitter to retire the side.

Six innings of nearly flawless pitching ended for von Sprecken in the top of the seventh when she faced her biggest threat of the night.

After von Sprecken hit a batter to start the inning, and then again with two outs, UTSA sophomore catcher Kylea Nix came to the plate with an opportunity to break a scoreless stalemate with two runners on base. Von Sprecken, however, sent down Nix on a strikeout to retire the side.

With an opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the seventh, Washington opened with her second double of the game after smacking a pitch off the right field wall. After the next two Texas hitters went down consecutively, Hayter stepped to the plate in a crucial situation with two outs.

Head coach Connie Clark called a timeout to remind her center fielder what she needed to do.

“We took the timeout so she knew it wasn’t a dire swing away scenario,” Clark said. “She runs so well that even if she puts the ball in play, she can put some pressure on the defense, and (we) just reminded (Washington), you’re going.”

Hayter then delivered the Longhorns’ most important hit of the night.

Texas returns to action on Saturday in a double-header against Samford. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Red and Charline McCombs Field.