Longhorns lose first game of the season in Texas Invitational Tournament

Seth Forman

Texas entered the Texas Invitational Tournament at Red & Charline McCombs Field at 11–0. To start the weekend, the Longhorns continued to look like one of the nation’s elite teams.

Blowout wins over Lipscomb and North Dakota State on Friday kept one of the best starts in program history alive.

But something was different about Saturday night at McCombs Field.

In the weekend’s second matchup with Lipscomb, Texas got out to a rare slow start, falling behind 3-0 in the first. 

That deficit didn’t last long, however, as Texas rallied behind sophomore pitcher Shealyn O’Leary and began picking runs from everywhere in the lineup. With three runs in the second, two in the third and three more in the fourth, Texas quickly found themselves up 8-3 and on track for its third consecutive run-rule win of the Invitational.

But something seemed to change around the fifth inning. The Longhorns committed some uncharacteristic errors and conceded two runs. While they picked up some insurance runs in the bottom half of the inning, the momentum began to shift.

Junior pitcher Ariana Adams entered the circle and quickly conceded four runs in the sixth. With the cushion cut down to just a two-run lead, Adams was pulled out of the game, and O’Leary re-entered the circle. Texas had committed a season high five errors to that point, and O’Leary quickly let in two more runs. Once down by six, Lipscomb had tied it.

The energy in the stadium immediately shifted when a meeting was called, and senior pitcher Miranda Elish jogged onto the field. It was as if upon seeing the number 40, fans and players alike knew momentum was due to shift again.

“I just tell myself to relax,” Elish said. “I can’t make the situation any bigger than it is … and try and hit it past one of my girls because they’re some of the best defenders.”

Elish began pitching in the sixth inning of a tied game with just one out. She wasted no time getting Texas out of the inning with back-to-back strikeouts to keep the game tied.

“She’s one of the best players in the country for a reason,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “She goes out there and does her job. She’s on a mission.”

Elish’s completed her mission against Lipscomb. In 1 1/3 innings pitched, Elish shut down the Bisons and earned the win in the walk-off 12-11 victory.

Elish’s pitching prowess continued into the Duke game, but the same could not be said about the Texas bats. The Texas star pitched all seven innings — eight-plus consecutive innings pitched — and managed to hold the Blue Devils to only one run. But on the crowded Saturday night, it wasn’t enough to keep the Horns’ wining streak alive. 

Duke managed to hand Texas its first loss of the season, as Texas was shut out for the first time all year in a 1-0 loss.

“We hit really hard balls right to them,” Elish said after the game. “I don’t think there’s anything about (Duke) in particular that makes them hard to score runs off of them, I think if different balls drop the score would be a lot different. … It sucks to lose but it was going to come sooner or later.”

The win streak may have ended, but with a 9-4 win over Weber State to end the weekend at 4–1 and to start the season with a 15–1 record, the next streak for the Longhorns may have just begun.