It took until the sixth inning for Texas to do it. But finally, after staying within reach for five innings, the Longhorns broke through with a big rally, winning 4-3 at UT-Arlington on Tuesday.
Up until the sixth inning, the Longhorns had picked up just one hit from second baseman Janae Jefferson in the second at-bat of the game. Outfielder Kaitlyn Washington got things going with a leadoff single, then first baseman Lauren Burke kept the ball rolling with a double into the gap in right-center to put runners in scoring position for just the second time on the day. Outfielder MK Tedder walked the bases loaded with no outs. It was time for the Longhorns to unleash the offense that had pushed them to a 35–9 record.
With Texas desperately needing a big hit, it was infielder Kaitlyn Slack who finally delivered one. She took the first pitch and slapped it to left field, bringing both Washington and Burke home to take a 3-2 lead.
After a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners and an out at the plate, Jefferson provided a single off the glove of the first baseman that scored Slack. The hit would prove to be huge, as UT-Arlington would go on to score another run in the seventh to tighten the margin to 4-3.
“This is what you call a trap game right here,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “We did enough to survive. We had the lead, then gave up, then we came back and were able to hold on.”
It was pitcher Brooke Bolinger in the circle that kept the Longhorns within striking distance even when there was nothing going right offensively. Bolinger allowed two hits and one earned run in 5.1 innings pitched.
Because they had the previous weekend off, Bolinger and the Longhorns spent it preparing for the big week ahead.
“Getting live at bats and staying in a rhythm,” Bolinger said, when asked about how she prepared for the weekend ahead after last week’s win over Houston. “Even at practice, just working on different pitches and different spots.”
She hit her spots enough Tuesday to hold the Mavericks to two runs for much of the contest. Pitcher Ariana Adams came into the game in relief in the fifth. Then, after Adams found trouble in the seventh, Bolinger came back in and closed out the win.
“Both pitchers did a pretty good job out there keeping their nerves under control — it was good,” White said.
Texas has had its fair share of troubles on the road this season, with a series loss at Oklahoma State and offensive struggles at Texas Tech. The pressure of being a top-ranked team on the road simply comes with its growing pains.
“You can’t replicate this at practice,” White said. “You’re going to be in those pressure situations. … We adjusted (well).”
Yet, there will be a different kind of pressure facing the Longhorns this weekend at home. A three-game series with No. 1 Oklahoma begins Thursday. For the first time in years, the two teams enter this series looking to compete for a Big 12 title.
Although the Longhorns “did enough to survive” Tuesday, this weekend will necessitate much more.