When a softball team is struggling at the plate, sometimes all it takes is one player to lift the offense to a victory.
In a 5-0 win over Houston on Wednesday night, catcher Mary Iakopo provided that and more for Texas.
Iakopo had a near perfect night at the plate as she knocked in three runs and went 3-for-3 against the Cougars. She gave the Longhorns several timely hits that broke the game open.
“She has the experience now,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “She played in a tough conference last year … She’s a big part of our key, not only defensively but offensively. She can contribute and pick her teammates up.”
Iakopo’s first at-bat was possibly her best. After a leadoff double and a bunt to move the runner to third, Texas couldn’t get the runner home with one out. But with two outs, she took a 1-1 pitch and hit a laser over the wall in left field to give Texas a 2-0 lead — one that was important to have early on in the game.
“Definitely getting a lead in the beginning is a great feeling,” said pitcher Brooke Bolinger, who made the start on the mound for Texas. “(Iakopo) did great tonight.”
With the lead, Bolinger always looked comfortable in the circle as she went four scoreless innings and allowed just two hits while striking out seven. Yet, the Longhorns were unable to add to their lead until Iakopo came through again with a well-timed hit.
With two runners on base and none out, she came to the plate with a rally brewing in the fifth and delivered an RBI single that sparked a three-run fifth inning. The insurance runs built a comfortable five-run lead that was more than enough for pitcher Shea O’Leary, who came into the game in the fifth and closed out the shutout.
“(I) just adjusted with the pitcher, whoever came in and (saw) it waist-high,” Iakopo said. “That’s all I was looking for.”
The Longhorns have notably had problems scoring runs as of late. In last weekend’s series against Texas Tech, they won the series but scored just six runs across the three games. Wednesday night’s rally may have provided a glimpse of what adjustments need to be made to try to find a steadier offense.
“We were pretty consistent,” White said. “We were a bit more selective at the plate, we weren’t chasing many pitches. I just told them that when we were selective, and we swung at strikes, it was a good result.”
Next up, the Longhorns will have the weekend off, which White said will be used primarily to rest. But when they return, the next weekend is a rivalry matchup in a series with the formidable No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners.
“We just need to start playing better this time of year,” White said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we just need to play better than what we have been offensively.”
The weekend date with the Sooners is on the horizon, and the Longhorns will need everyone at their best. But Wednesday night, it was one player and a rally that did just enough.