Saturday night marked the first time the Longhorns weren’t the superior team in the diamond this season.
Despite a gutsy, complete game from senior pitcher Miranda Elish, No. 4 Texas fell 1-0 to the Duke Blue Devils in the fourth game of the Texas Invitational tournament. The loss was the first time Texas’ offense failed to score a run since May 23, 2019.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Texas head coach Mike White said after the loss. “We didn’t lose that game because of Miranda Elish. We lost that because we didn’t capitalize on some opportunities.”
Perhaps the biggest story coming out of the Longhorns’ 4–1 performance over the weekend was the breakout of junior utility player Lauren Burke. Now in her third season playing for White, Burke went 9-for-15 over the five game stretch while picking up six RBIs.
After starting in only two out of the previous five games before the Texas Invitational tournament, Burke made her case as to why she should be a mainstay in the lineup as Texas begins its most challenging stretch of the season. Burke is a utility player who has the ability to rotate among outfield, first base or catcher. Her hot bat and versatility on the defensive end makes her a valuable asset as White attempts to craft a lineup with the most offensive potential.
“The more positions you play, the more successful you’ll be,” Burke said on Friday night. “Wherever Coach White puts me, I just do my best.”
Burke’s resurgence was a welcome sign for a Texas team that needs all hands on deck this week. The Longhorns will start with a doubleheader on Tuesday afternoon and evening against No.11 Louisiana at Red and Charline McCombs Field.
After ending its seven-game home stand, Texas will travel to the West Coast to face off against No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 Washington on consecutive nights.
The Longhorns have aced nearly every test this season, but this week will be the most challenging stretch they’ve faced so far. Louisiana, UCLA and Washington are a combined 41–4 on the season, and all three teams are ranked in the top 15 in the country. Texas played only one ranked team all season in No. 12 Tennessee.
Very rarely can a top 15 matchup be considered a trap game, but the Longhorns will have to fight the urge to look ahead to its Thursday trip in order to handle the Ragin’ Cajuns in both games of the doubleheader. Louisiana enters the contest sitting at 11–3 despite facing a grueling schedule in the early season. They have already won and lost matchups against No. 7 LSU and No. 8 Oklahoma State.
White said this stretch of games will be vital in battle testing the team for a postseason run.
“What I’m hoping is that … we are learning something that prepares us for the postseason.” White said. “That’s why you play these tough games in tough situations.”