Longhorns’ dominance goes beyond stardom of Elish

AddThis

Photo Credit: Emily August | Daily Texan Staff

Miranda Elish is no stranger to the spotlight. The senior pitcher is in her second season as the star of the Texas program, and she continues to live up to the hype. But the Longhorns’ team numbers this year are even greater than those from her first season in Austin.

Through 27 games, the Longhorns are 24–3. For context, this is their best start to a season since 2013, when former head coach Connie Clark led Texas to its last College World Series appearance, and the Longhorns finished the season ranked No. 3 in the country.

Texas is No. 1 in the country in batting average (.376), and top-10 in nearly every other offensive statistic.

Save a couple anomaly performances, the Longhorns have been stifling in the circle as well. Texas’ team ERA of 1.78 ranks 16th in the country.

Of course, Elish has had her moments of stardom in nonconference play. She’s pitched nearly half the innings the Longhorns have played this season with a 1.25 ERA, all the while hitting .370 as the designated player. The transfer from Oregon has shown her flair for the dramatic, even in the mundane — her perfect game on Sunday closed out an otherwise routine weekend sweep with one of her best-ever pitching performances.

But while Elish’s greatness is undeniable, she is but a piece of the puzzle, albeit a vital one. Texas’ nonconference excellence is a sign that this team is not top-heavy, but it’s built to last as the season wears on.

The Longhorns have eight of their regular starters hitting at least .320. In last year’s run to the super regional, just two of Texas’ starters reached this mark.

“Our whole team just rallies together,” junior utility player Lauren Burke said. “Especially when we’re scoring a lot of runs, it’s easy to just feed off each other and just pass the bat.”

That rally starts with Burke and junior second baseman Janae Jefferson at the top of the lineup. Jefferson, a mainstay in the top of the Texas lineup for her three years as a Longhorn, is hitting a ridiculous .554 as the leadoff hitter, good for third in the country. Burke is fourth in the country with 12 doubles, and with Jefferson practically living at first base, the Longhorn offense is potent from the first pitch.

“It gets us going,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “Janae is on base all the time. There’s a lot of things we can do with her. Lauren’s really driving runs in with a lot of pop at that position.”

But while the consistency of the offensive lineup has thrust Texas among the country’s elites, depth in the circle will keep them there. In White’s first season in Austin last year, Elish took the brunt of the load in the circle, while Softball America National Freshman of the Year Shea O’Leary held down the second spot.

Yet the third pitching role never fully solidified, and when Elish went down with an injury in the Super Regional, the Longhorns suffered.

Freshman Courtney Day has more than filled that role in 2020. Through 28 innings pitched, Day leads the team with a 1.00 ERA.

“She’s just buying in,” White said. “We try to help them and tell them what to do in certain situations, and either they buy in or they don’t. Courtney is certainly buying in, both at the plate and on the mound.”

Elish’s heroics are sure to continue. But make no mistake — this is a complete team, from top to bottom. That’s precisely what separates these Longhorns from those of the past; their lack of holes makes them capable of achieving things no Texas team has ever done before.