First conference road test looms as Longhorn rotation clicks

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guenther | Daily Texan Staff

As Big 12 play enters full swing, it’s time for the good teams to start to show they’re just that. With four conference games coming this week, the Texas softball team will be looking to hit its stride and prove its place in this conference.

The Longhorns’ start to conference play went almost exactly as planned. Winning the three games at McCombs Field by a combined score of 24-3 to sweep Iowa State, Texas gained the momentum it was looking for.

“(It was) really important,” outfielder Kaitlyn Washington said. “It was a big confidence booster for us, and it helps us get ready for the rest of the conference.”

The three wins came at the hands of a stingy pitching staff which is rounding into form at just the right time. The Longhorns have given up just three runs over the last six games as pitchers Miranda Elish, Shea O’Leary and Brooke Bolinger have really settled into their roles after Bolinger and Elish went through a couple rough starts against powerful lineups in non-conference play.

“All of us, we all work together really well, and we all have different kinds of pitches,” Bolinger said. “(Texas head) coach (Mike) White works great with us working on our pitches, and we all mix really well.”

The odd one out is Ari Adams, whose 1.79 ERA is atypical for someone who is left out of a rotation. Yet, with Elish and Bolinger’s experience combined with O’Leary’s NCAA-leading 0.45 ERA, there’s just not a spot for her as one of the three starters at this point in the season.

“It all depends on how we do,” White said. “Ari Adams, right now she’s kind of that fourth one, probably working the middle half of the order, that middle part in early relief.”

If having “too many” solid starting pitchers is the biggest problem that White is faced with this season, then Texas will be just fine. A wealth of pitching talent could prove key as the Longhorns dive into conference play this week, with one game at Baylor on Wednesday and a weekend series in Stillwater against Oklahoma State.

The first away conference series could end up being a test for Texas. At 23–9, the Cowboys have beaten the likes of Kentucky, Arizona State and Oregon — all ranked teams. Oklahoma State is 5–0 at home, as well.

The sweep one weekend ago was not just a good start to conference play, but a step towards the Longhorns’ postseason goals. In series against teams like Oklahoma State, continuing to try to pick up more three-win weekends is something that will help push Texas to the next level.

“The biggest thing is to win the series,” White said after last weekend’s series. “Sweeps are bonuses. Obviously to have a chance at the championship, you’ve got to be able to get those sweeps.”