In anticipation for the Longhorns’ first game since the shortened spring season, softball head coach Mike White told reporters in a Feb. 9 teleconference that the outlook for the upcoming season centers around being “tough.”
As the team prepares for their opener against North Texas on Feb. 17, White confidently reassured Longhorn Nation that despite the unexpected opt-out of star pitcher Miranda Elish and a daunting schedule, the upcoming spring season will allow the team to show what they can overcome.
“We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us,” White said in the teleconference.
Though former Longhorn Miranda Elish was a strong asset to the team, closing out her senior season pitching a perfect game, the Longhorns don’t find themselves short of promising pitching talent.
Mary Iakopo, junior catcher and utility player, spoke on graduate transfer Molly Jacobsen and freshman Ryleigh White and the contributions they bring to the team.
“They fit in well,” Iakopo said in the teleconference. “They have a few of the things that Miranda had physically and mentally: Molly with the experience and Ryleigh with the same zones and speed that Miranda had.”
Jacobsen is a left-handed pitcher who transferred from the University of Mississippi. In her two years at Ole Miss, the southpaw won 19 games with a 2.53 ERA and 230 strikeouts over 238 innings.
“Molly Jacobsen is a competitor,” White said. “She has a lot of experience.”
Ryleigh is a first-year, right-handed pitcher from Immaculate Heart Academy in Washington Township, New Jersey. She placed No. 7 on the Extra Elite 100 Class of 2020 national player rankings and No. 17 on Softball America’s Top-100 recruit list.
“I think you’re going to be impressed with the new pitcher we have. … I think she is doing excellent,” White said of Ryleigh.
White also discussed Ryleigh’s potential to be a young leader on the team based on her skill and ability to maintain a cool façade on the field.
“We’ve stuck her out there, and she’s not overwhelmed by anything,” White said.
With Jacobsen and Ryleigh replacing Elish in the pitching rotation, the team looks ahead to a challenging schedule that will truly test the toughness of the team.
During the weekend of Feb. 13, the Longhorns were set to start their season out against No. 3 Arizona and No. 8 Alabama in the Texas Classic in Austin. However, due to an inclement weather threat, the tournament has been canceled.
Though the Longhorns were eager for the competition in that tournament, their upcoming schedule still provides ample opportunity for the team to compete against top teams. This spring, Texas will face No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 LSU and No. 9 Louisiana, with hopes to see No. 8 Alabama later in the postseason.
“To be the best, you got to play the best,” White said with a smile.
As the Longhorns face North Texas on Feb. 17 to kick off their season, they look ahead and begin preparing to take each week one game at a time.
With the new season here, Iakopo confidently expects her and her team to come out with energy and ready to take on the next team.
“I just want to see us put on a show,” Iakopo said. “If we can face them now, we can face them then.”
Editor's Note: This story first appeared in The Daily Texan's February 12 print edition.