Fresh off of a dominant six-game start to the season in the Texas Classic, the No. 6 Texas Longhorns resume play with a tournament this weekend. But instead of playing in front of a few hundred fans at Red and Charline McCombs Field, the Longhorns are heading down south.
Texas is traveling to Mexico for a unique opportunity to compete in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge for the second time, the first time being in the 2018 season. Unlike the 2018 team, this season’s version of the Longhorns are off one of the best starts in program history.
Describing the Texas Classic performance “dominant” would be an understatement. In merely four days’ time, the Longhorns won a record six straight games decided by the run rule, outscoring their opponents 78-8 over the course of the weekend. Texas was led by senior pitcher Miranda Elish, who batted for a whopping .818 average and posted a 1.40 ERA en route to being named the Big 12 Player of the Week.
“We put … 10-plus runs up every single game,” Elish said after the tournament. “That’s a testament to the work we have put in this offseason.”
Despite confidence running high after a scorching stretch, this weekend will be a truer indication of how dominant Texas can be. Aside from the challenge of playing five games in three days, the Longhorns have to face off against Utah (5–0), No. 12 Tennessee (3–1) and the Mexican Olympic Team.
The Texas Classic generated well-deserved buzz regarding the Longhorns’ seemingly infinite potential, but the team’s performance in Puerto Vallarta is vital in determining how they will be able to handle inevitable adversity.
Texas is scheduled to play eight of the current Top 25 teams this season. This weekend will provide the Longhorns with a good challenge that can battle test them before they are forced to run the gauntlet.
“If we can be aggressive on balls in the strike zone, that’s what the key is,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “We have to score more runs.”
The tournament in Puerto Vallarta will also be critical to giving young players much-needed experience. Texas has plenty of proven players, including Elish, junior second baseman Janae Jefferson and junior catcher Mary Iakopo. As Texas tries to vault themselves among the traditional national powers, they will look for several unproven players to grow into vital roles.
Several underclassmen gained their first experience on the field last weekend due to the lopsided nature of the games, but the trip to Mexico will give Texas the opportunity to thrust these young players into more consequential game situations.
One of the young prospects that the team hopes to rely on during conference play is pitcher Courtney Day. The freshman out of Pearland, Texas, pitched five scoreless innings across three games last weekend while picking up seven hits in 11 at-bats.
“Courtney works really hard in practice,” Elish said after the Texas Classic. “I was so happy to see what she did.”
Texas kicks off the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge with a game against California Baptist at 3 p.m. Thursday.