The sudden end to the 2020 NCAA softball season due to coronavirus concerns also marked the early conclusion of a promising campaign for the No. 3 Longhorns. Texas played its final game on March 8 against New Mexico and was given time to process the results of the pandemic’s spread before its dream season was terminated.
“I am so proud of this group of young women who accomplished so much and were poised to have an unprecedented season for Texas Softball,” Texas head coach Mike White said via Twitter. “We will be back stronger than ever!”
The Longhorns boasted a 24–3 record and were the No. 1 ranked team in the Softball America poll, a national listing feat that had not been accomplished since 2006. As a team, Texas led all NCAA Division I teams in batting average.
I am so proud of this group of young women who accomplished so much and were poised to have an unprecedented season for Texas Softball. We will be back stronger than ever! #OneTeamOneTexas - Hook'em Horns! (2/2)
The defining moment of Texas’s season, however, came in late February when the team traveled to the Pacific Coast and beat the No. 1 ranked UCLA Bruins and the No. 2 ranked Washington Huskies on back-to-back nights. This is the moment when the Longhorns cemented themselves as title contenders, and it is the moment that fans will now remember as the indication of what could have been.
In those two games, Texas changed the narrative surrounding their season from a promising dark horse team to a nationally recognized contender. The Longhorns were dominating their opponents before the game against No.1 ranked UCLA, but they were still untested. Texas had only played two ranked teams in three games up to that point and had won nine games by run rule.
“Everyone is going to be scrappy from now on,” senior outfielder Shannon Rhodes said in the days leading up to the games. “You’re not going to see many run rules.”
The Longhorns showed they could win a “scrappy” game on Thursday, Feb. 27, when they defeated the No.1-ranked Bruins 6-4 in extra innings. In doing so, they secured a victory over the best team in the nation for the first time since the 2013 season and ended the Bruins’ 23-game win streak.
Then, less than 24 hours later, Texas beat the No. 2 Huskies 8-6. The win marked the first time in program history that the Longhorns had beaten the top two ranked teams in consecutive games.
After breezing through a light regular season schedule up to that point, the wins against the top two teams in the nation signaled that this year’s Texas squad was special. After these games, the 18–2 Longhorns morphed into the team to watch in college softball.
“The target is on our back now,” White said after the Washington game. “It’s nothing new. We want those expectations; we want that pressure.”
Texas did not fold under pressure the rest of the season. Using this launch pad, the team roared to a 24–3 record before its season was cut short. There will be no trophies commemorating the 2020 Longhorns. However, fans will not soon forget how fun this team was to watch, the camaraderie displayed by the athletes or the week that Texas beat the top two teams in the nation and took the college softball world by storm.