Shea’s all that: O’Leary dominates with no-hitter in doubleheader sweep

Marcus Krum

When Ki’Audra Hayter lined a triple down the right field line to beat Longwood 9-1 in a run-rule finish, it did more than just start a new streak for a Texas team that had been coming off back-to-back losses. Hayter’s hit also played a part in sealing history for pitcher Shea O’Leary, as it capped off the freshman’s dazzling no-hitter in the second of Wednesday’s two wins.

“I have no words to explain it,” O’Leary said of her emotions after the historic performance. “I’m just overjoyed right now and just kind of taking it all in.”

While she made it look easy, the no-no was no cakewalk for O’Leary, who picked up her sixth win of the season. She got into trouble in the first after a runner reached on an error then advanced all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt. The run scored on a grounder to first, but despite giving up an unearned first-inning run, she didn’t panic.

“She just seems unfazeable,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “She has the same expression on her face. She gave up a run in the first inning … still, she never changed anything.”

On Wednesday, O’Leary was nothing if not efficient. She got ahead in counts and attacked the strike zone, forcing hitters to swing at her strong fastballs. In her five innings of work, she threw just 40 pitches, an astounding number for a complete game.

“She just kept attacking the hitters,” White said. “She just got right after them. That’s pretty confident pitching, and that’s exactly what we try to preach, is attacking hitters early.”

The pitching gem from O’Leary overshadowed what was another outstanding performance from pitcher Brooke Bolinger in the 8-0 win in the first game. Bolinger threw a complete game of her own, pitching five shutout innings and allowing just three hits.

“Just going five innings each, that was a bonus,” White said. “It enabled us to save some arms here as well, because we’ve got a pretty big weekend coming up.”

Yet the team needed some kind of spark in the early goings of game one. Several mental mistakes in the first couple innings prompted an animated talk from White to the team midway through the second frame. The Longhorns responded perfectly, scoring at least two runs in each of the final three innings.

“He said that we weren’t really switched on yet, and we weren’t really mentally in the game yet,” said second baseman Janae Jefferson, who finished with five hits and three RBI in the two games. “That was the biggest thing. We knew that we weren’t really all the way there just yet.”

It didn’t take long for Texas to rally, and rally it did, winning the two games by a combined 17-1. As the temperature in Austin looks like it’s finally beginning to rise, it looks like the Texas softball team is heating up right along with it.

“We’re starting to really build our confidence,” O’Leary said. “Definitely with the no-hitter and the shutout from Brooke … Just going out there and having fun, we’ll just keep building our confidence from here on out.”