Power surge: Texas batters Iowa State to open conference play with series sweep

Marcus Krum

Red and Charline McCombs Field has never been an easy place to display power from the plate. Someone must have forgotten to tell the Texas softball team about that this weekend.

The Longhorns utilized their power to its fullest in a clean sweep of Iowa State, winning by a combined 24-3 in the weekend’s three games against the Cyclones to begin Big 12 play on the right foot.

“The main thing we’ve really talked about as a team is just being the hunter instead of being the hunted,” outfielder Kaitlyn Washington said. “Really going after pitches, just being aggressive in hitters counts.”

With an aggressive mindset at the plate, Washington and the Texas offense had a torrid weekend. The Longhorns hit four homers, two off the bat of Washington and racked up nine
extra-base hits.

“(Assistant) coach (Kerry) Shaw has been doing a great job with our hitters, getting them to be aggressive in certain counts, and that showed,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “We’re definitely trying to be
more aggressive.”

None of the weekend’s homers were more dramatic than that of Miranda Elish in Friday’s matchup. Coming to the plate with the bases loaded in the fifth inning, Texas with a 7-0 lead, she had more than just an opportunity to end the game on a run rule. With an RBI, she would seal her second career no-hitter, her first as a Longhorn.

Elish did more than deliver one RBI, blasting a liner over the fence in right field that ended the game in an 11-0 win and clinched her own no-hitter in the weekend’s first game.

“I was just trying to hunt a pitch and find a pitch I could put deep into the outfield so whoever was at third could tag up,” Elish said after Friday’s win. “I just saw a pitch, and I just turned on it and got it. It’s
super exciting.”

Elish’s outstanding performance in the circle was followed by two more excellent starts from Texas pitchers. Shealyn O’Leary made the start in game two, but she initially ran into trouble for the first time in her collegiate career, putting multiple base runners on early in innings.

Yet, facing adversity for the first time, O’Leary battled through, allowing just one run and throwing a complete game.

“It was definitely a little nerve wracking,” O’Leary said. “I just tried to stay calm out there and know that my defense would have my back, and if they did score, my offense would have me too.”

The powerful offense did have her back, using a two-out, fourth-inning rally to hit its way to a
6-1 victory.

Pitcher Brooke Bolinger fought her own battles on Sunday, as she allowed four hits and walked a pair of Iowa State hitters. Yet, aside from making one bad pitch that was driven over the wall in left for a two-run homer, Bolinger stuck it out, throwing six innings and allowing just those two runs.

“Having Elish there is great, O’Leary’s pitching well and Brooke gives us three different looks,” White said. “I like the fact that we can put three pitchers out there and get three wins.”

With the rotation as strong as it’s been all year combined with a lineup that is producing from top to bottom, everything is working for Texas as evidenced by the sweep to start conference play. Nothing’s been able to stop the Longhorns yet, and this weekend, not even the high green walls in the outfield of McCombs Field could contain them.