No. 9 Texas finds sweet spot in third inning in doubleheader sweep of Kansas

Jaclyn Helton

Texas started slow but quickly heated up in both third innings of Saturday’s doubleheader against Kansas.

The No. 9 Longhorns managed an 8-1 victory in their first game of the day and a 10-1 run-rule victory in their second, recording their 14th run-rule victory of the season.

The key momentum change in the first game came with a takeover on the mound by freshman Ryleigh White as she stepped in for graduate student Molly Jacobsen, who seemed unable to find a rhythm as Texas’ defense struggled with miscommunication.

“We ran into some trouble there with our pitching,” head coach Mike White said. “Ryleigh White came in and did a good job.”

Texas fell behind early after starting off slow offensively and defensively. But in the second inning, freshman catcher JJ Smith stepped to the plate and managed a single out to right field that brought sophomore shortstop McKenzie Parker and freshman infielder Alyssa Washington home.

With White and her defense able to shut down the Jayhawks in the top of the third, the offensive ran away with the lead. Junior utility player Mary Iakopo blasted a double to left center that brought senior outfielder Shannon Rhodes home. Following soon after, junior utility player Lauren Burke nailed a two-run hit that singled through the right side and brought teammates Iakopo and freshman infielder Camille Corona home, increasing the Longhorn lead to 5-1.

The rest of the game was steadily controlled by the Longhorns as they held the Jayhawks scoreless and managed three more runs to finish the game.

In their second face off of the day, Texas paralleled the first game and used the second inning as a stepping stool to launch their lead in the third.

Junior infielder Janae Jefferson, named USA Softball Player of the Year Top 25 finalist this past week, was able to get the game going in the second as she drove the ball to center field, driving in Parker and freshman utility player Bailey Williams. Smith then scored on a throwing error and Rhodes closed out the second with a nice hit down the left side, allowing Jefferson to score and give the Longhorns the 4-0 lead.

The third inning was a hay day for the Texas Longhorns. They ended up scoring six more runs with Parker, Smith, freshman Jordyn Whitaker, Rhodes, Jefferson and sophomore first baseman Colleen Sullivan recording runs. In addition, the Longhorns batted around the full order twice by the end of the third and forced the run-rule win.

“I thought we were very disciplined at the plate and driving the ball and that’s what you got to do against a team like Kansas,” White said.