Texas softball pitcher Shea O’Leary shuts down Texas Tech to sweep series

Nicholas Pannes

Sophomore star pitcher Shea O’Leary threw a career-high 11 strikeouts on Saturday as she stifled the Red Raider offense, allowing the Texas softball team to secure a narrow 2-1 victory and the series sweep over Texas Tech.

Heading back into the locker room, Texas head coach Mike White was thoroughly impressed by her performance.

“I think that’s one of the best games I’ve seen Shea (O’Leary) throw. We didn’t help her out at all defensively,” White said. “We bent, giving up the one run, but we didn’t break. She got us out of a tough jam there. (They) could’ve scored a lot more runs.”

O’Leary has maintained a comfortable hold on her starting position since the beginning of the season, and on Saturday, she reminded everyone why she’s the best pitcher on the team and one of Texas’ three contenders for 2021’s USA Softball Player of the Year.

Saturday’s game started off as a mirror image of Friday’s game against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders managed to sneak in an early first-inning lead, this time off the back of a fielding error from the Longhorns, and they were held scoreless for the rest of the game.

But unlike the last two matches in the series, the Longhorns couldn’t find any traction offensively throughout the game.

“Our bats weren’t the hottest today. We didn’t do a great job there,” White said. “I think a lot of it comes down to energy. I think after that emotional win last night, (we were) all pumped up, and then today (we came) out a little bit flat.”

Despite their woes at the plate, the Longhorns were still able to string together a pair of runs in the fifth inning. Freshman utility player Courtney Day sent a line drive double down the left foul line to score junior utility player Lauren Burke and redshirt junior catcher Taylor Ellsworth.

In Saturday’s low-scoring, low-hitting game, the trio accounted for four of the Longhorn’s five hits across the game. The only other Texas player to glean a hit from the Red Raiders’ bullpen was All-American Janae Jefferson, who now leads the team with an incredible .506 batting average.

The win gave Texas the series sweep and brought the Longhorns to a 27–3 record and a perfect 3–0 to start Big 12 play. After the game, White stressed the importance of approaching the season one game at a time, especially as the intensity ramps up with big conference matchups looming ahead.

“If you want to be a contender in this conference title race, then you’ve gotta stay up with the best team in the conference, which is Oklahoma. Sweeps are the way to go,” White said. “We were talking about it (earlier): every game’s independent. This coming week, we have a game up at UT-Arlington and then a big series up at Iowa State. So hopefully we’ll come out to play.”