Texas softball ends nearly yearlong hiatus with 2 victories Sunday

Nicholas Pannes

The Texas softball team, playing in their first organized competition since March 8, 2020, started off their 2021 campaign undefeated Sunday in the Scrap Yard Blizzard Challenge, beating Wichita State 8-0 and North Texas 5-1.

After a week of record-setting cold weather in Texas, the Longhorns came out on fire to open the season with two solid victories. Their win over Wichita State continues Texas softball’s perfect record in opening games, marking their 25th consecutive opening victory. This game was also a repeat of last year’s opening matchup against Wichita State, which Texas won 10-2.

Sophomore pitcher Shea O’Leary paved the way for the Longhorns with a complete-game shutout in their 8-0, five-inning victory over the Shockers. She recorded four strikeouts while allowing just one hit and two walks the entire game.

The Texas veterans, junior infielder Janae Jefferson and junior utility player Lauren Burke, led a strong offensive attack that notched six runs in the first three innings. Burke recorded two runs and three RBIs on the day off the back of an electric three-run home run in the bottom of the second. Jefferson finished with two runs and an RBI of her own.

At the back end of the Longhorns’ double-header, Texas head coach Mike White decided to let his new defensive talent take the stage. Freshman pitcher Ryleigh White and graduate transfer pitcher Molly Jacobsen allowed a combined six hits and one run in their debuts for the Longhorns.

Their performances were supported by excellent fielding efforts from Jefferson and sophomore first baseman Colleen Sullivan. Sullivan recorded seven outs at first base and was involved in two double-plays.

Texas’ offense received contributions throughout the lineup, with 10 different players involved in the team’s 12 hits and five runs. Senior outfielder Shannon Rhodes led the team with a home run in the top of the fourth and a nice RBI off of a double-play in the seventh inning to close out the game.

Despite getting three hits in seven at-bats on Sunday, Jefferson fell two hits short from reaching a career 200-hit mark, which would make her the 11th Longhorn ever to do so. Given her performance in past games and seasons, it’s likely she’ll meet that number very soon.

The Scrap Yard Blizzard Challenge, which Texas added to their schedule after having the first ten games of their season postponed due to inclement weather, provided a much-needed warm up for the 2021 season.

The Longhorns face a daunting schedule in the early portion of the season, including 20 total matches against eight ranked teams such as No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 8 LSU and No. 9 Louisiana. Texas Softball was ranked No. 7 coming into this weekend in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches’ Poll.

Texas looks forward to a series of home games next week at the Lone Star State Invitational, a tournament including No. 22 Mississippi State, Houston, Connecticut, Ole Miss and Lamar University.