When Texas faces Oklahoma, the stakes tend to escalate.
Many times, a coach’s or player’s record against the Sooners will often determine his or her legacy on the 40 Acres, for better or worse. It’s that added pressure that makes the Red River Rivalry one of the most dynamic atmospheres in all of college sports, no matter the sport or venue.
“It’s definitely one of the weekends we all look forward to,” senior pitcher Kristen Clark said. “It’s really fun to go up there and the crowd gets into it, so it’s really going to be a fun weekend.”
As the Longhorns (28–18, 10–3 Big 12) prepare to take on No. 3 Oklahoma (41–3, 12–0 Big 12) this weekend in Norman, Oklahoma, they’ll not only face the added pressure of competing against their bitter border rival, but also one of their toughest opponents of the season.
The Sooners have been dominant in 2018, holding a perfect conference record and winning seven Big 12 games by a run-rule. They’ve been elite at the national level as well, ranking fifth and third in the NCAA in team batting average and ERA, respectively.
Knowing her team faces a difficult road challenge, Texas head coach Connie Clark hopes the Longhorns will embrace their upcoming series as an opportunity, not a pressure-filled situation against one of the country’s top teams.
“The only thing we’re really going to talk about is that it’s really an opportunity,” Clark said. “We don’t really have anything to lose. They have the lead in conference, and the target is on their back.”
Much like it has all season, Texas embraces the fact that it cannot treat this game differently even in the midst of difficult circumstances. The Longhorns know the key to a successful weekend will not be in their ability to change Oklahoma’s game, but rather improve their own.
“We try to take it like any other game, but they’re a quality team,” said senior pitcher Paige von Sprecken. “Anything can happen on any given day, and we just need to focus on ourselves.”
That focus will need to begin with the Longhorns’ production at the plate. While the first part of the Big 12 schedule featured positive results for the Texas offense, the same cannot be said for the last
four conference games.
In fact, in those four games against No. 21 Baylor and No. 24 Oklahoma State, the Longhorns only managed to combine for five runs on the scoreboard.
For the results to change this weekend, Clark knows her squad will need to play aggressively against the Sooners and find ways to capitalize where it hasn’t consistently done so this season.
“We’re going to have to play together and force things to happen a little bit and thrive on the environment,” Clark said. “They love when the Longhorns come to town, so if we can do that, good things may happen for us, and that’s what we’ll focus on.”
The Longhorns open their three-game series with the Sooners on Friday night in Norman. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.