Texas hosts Texas Southern before season’s pivotal finish

Wills Layton

Timing is everything. The right time, the right place and the right people can equal success. The Longhorn softball team appears to be hitting its stride at the right time.

Texas (27–18, 10–3 Big 12) has series against No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 19 Baylor to close out the season. These series present a vital opportunity to prove that the Longhorns belong in the NCAA Tournament.

But first, the team has a midweek nonconference matchup against Texas Southern on Wednesday night at McCombs Field.

“We can’t take teams lightly just because they’re not in conference,” senior pitcher Paige von Sprecken said. “We need to make sure we’re playing Texas softball and not playing to levels of our opponent, especially if we want to win a Big 12 championship.”

Texas got off to a very slow start to the season. Through the first seven games, the Longhorns only scored more than three runs on one occasion, limping to a 3–4 record.

“There (are) ups and downs through a season, but we have to stay positive with this young group,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “We’ve got some things to continue to learn and (can) continue to grow in some areas.”

But the start of Big 12 play triggered a turnaround for the team.

Texas swept its first three series over Big 12 foes. In addition, the Longhorns also swept Samford in a nonconference series. Although they lost a home series to No. 24 Oklahoma State, the Longhorns were still able to snag a win over the Cowgirls.

“We’ve thought we’re one of the best Big 12 teams from the start,” sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth said. “We had a tough schedule in the beginning, and that just prepared us more for the Big 12, and we’re ready to take on any team that comes out here.”

While Wednesday night’s game against the small-conference Texas Southern Tigers is not as flashy as the Red River Rivalry, it is still important for the Longhorns to give this game its due. It’s a chance to sharpen fundamentals before trying to make some noise in the postseason.

“You can’t make any game too big of a game,” sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Slack said. “You have to make sure you have the little things going and perform like you know how to.”

The Longhorns are in a strong position to end the season in style, riding solid play as of late, thanks to a stifling pitching staff. In order to bring home a Big 12 title, the Longhorns will have to maintain their momentum.

“You’re seeing some lights come on in terms of what we want to see come out in a championship-minded club,” Clark said. “With some tough competition coming in, our confidence is right where it needs to be.”