Jefferson’s hot bat fuels Texas’ 2 Saturday victories

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Photo Credit: Emily August | Daily Texan Staff

Junior second baseman Janae Jefferson went 3-for-5 over two games Saturday as the No. 2 Texas Longhorns defeated the Texas Southern Tigers and the Liberty Flames by scores of 13-5 and 3-0, respectively.

Saturday saw a continuation of Jefferson’s explosive Longhorn Invitational offensive performance. The Humble, Texas, native has gone 6-for-8 over the weekend with two RBIs. The dominant weekend, however, is a microcosm of Jefferson’s entire season. The 2019 Softball America First Team All-American came into Saturday night leading the team with a .538 batting average.

“I was sticking to what I know best: see ball, hit ball,” Jefferson said. “(I was) not trying to do too much at the plate … just sticking to my game and poking it somewhere.”

The dominant performances Saturday were due much in part to the production Texas got from the top of the lineup. In both contests, the Longhorns led off with Jefferson and followed with junior first baseman Lauren Burke in the two hole. Jefferson and Burke are first and second on the team, respectively, in batting average on the season, with Burke batting at a .456 clip entering Saturday night’s game.

In the morning match against Texas Southern, Burke went 2-for-2 with a walk and two home runs. Her home runs brought in four RBIs, two of which were courtesy of Jefferson, who had gotten on base just prior to Burke.

“It gets us going. Janae’s on base all the time, … and Lauren’s really driving runs in with a lot of pop at that position,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “Until we figure out the three, four and five (spots), I think they are really what’s doing it for us.”

The Texas bats were backed up by stellar pitching performances across both games. In the game against Texas Southern, freshman Courtney Day came on in relief of junior Ariana Adams to pitch 4.1 scoreless innings.

In the night game, sophomore pitcher Shealyn O’Leary was lights out. The reigning Softball America National Freshman Pitcher of the Year tossed a complete shutout game against a Liberty team that had won eight out of the last nine games they had played in.

Both performances were a welcome sign to White as he searches for a solid No. 2 option behind ace senior pitcher Miranda Elish. Day built upon her outstanding freshman campaign by improving to 5–0 on the season. O’Leary improved to 6–0 on the season, maintaining her perfect record despite admittedly struggling with consistency throughout the season. Three times already this year, O’Leary has given up at least three earned runs and has been taken out of the game in three contests having pitched only four innings or less.

“I think she was more focused tonight,” White said of O’Leary. “She was hitting her locations. Everyone knows what she throws, but she throws with enough velocity and hits her ins and outs.”

Texas, now 3–0 in this Longhorn Invitational tournament, will look to finish the weekend off with a win against the New Mexico Lobos on Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m.