Texas softball ‘bends’ but doesn’t break in extra inning nail-biter

Nicholas Pannes

In its first home game in nearly a year, No. 7 Texas softball earned a 1-0 victory in a thrilling eight-inning contest after a costly error by Texas State allowed for a walk-off win.

The match proved to be a tough defensive battle, with key plays from both sides keeping it scoreless through all seven innings of regulation. In the game’s final at-bat, junior utility player Mary Iakopo hit a scorching ground ball to the left side of the diamond, forcing an error by Texas State shortstop Tara Oltmann that allowed junior utility player Lauren Burke to scamper home for the game-winning run.

Despite coming away with the victory, the Longhorns’ night was blemished by some avoidable defensive errors and missed opportunities on offense. After a closer-than-expected margin of victory, head coach Mike White said solid pitching made the difference in the win.

“We didn’t execute the small game as well as I’d have liked,” White said. “(We) made some mistakes here and there. (Sophomore pitcher) Shea O’Leary pitched very very well for us, got us out of some good jams. We of course made some good defensive plays when we had to, and that’s what you kind of want to do. You want to bend, not break.”

O’Leary capped off another stellar performance with three strikeouts and only four hits allowed across her 90 pitches. Her performance, combined with some clutch plays from the Longhorns’ defense, allowed O’Leary to secure a shutout.

Even though Texas recorded three errors in the game, its fielding managed to make up for the blunders with huge plays at key moments. Iakopo and O’Leary engineered a pick-off on Texas State’s Hannah Earls at third to halt a promising scoring opportunity in the second inning.

Consistent pitching and solid defensive play did not stop on Texas’s side of the ball. True freshman pitcher Jessica Mullins proved a tough adversary for the Longhorns all night long, earning two strikeouts and only allowing four hits on 102 pitches.

When asked about Mullens’ performance, Lauren Burke commended her efforts on the field.

“She’s a great pitcher,” Burke said. “She got us on her rise ball (and) her curveball. She threw lights out, and you could tell she wanted to be on the mound out there and compete with us. Texas State is scrappy, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to win.”

At the end of the day, the Longhorns emerged victorious from Wednesday’s game and remain undefeated on the season at 3-0. They look forward to the Lone Star State Invitational this weekend, in which they’ll host five teams at home, including Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

“I’m super eager to play,” Burke said when asked about the invitational. “It’s so great just being able to play in front of people. It’s a breath of fresh air to see even the limited fans out there that we have. I think all of us are just eager to compete and put everything together on the field.”