Texas defense falters against Oklahoma State, looks to work on ‘the little things’ for rest of weekend

Jaclyn Helton

In a pregame interview for Friday’s matchup against Oklahoma State, Texas softball head coach Mike White laid out some of the strengths and weaknesses of his team. While the Texas softball team’s offense is explosive, its defense oftentimes struggles to hold onto leads.

“Unfortunately, we are not able to play clean defense sometimes to keep the other team from scoring,” White said.

That’s exactly what it came down to Friday in the first of a three-game series against Oklahoma State.

The drizzling rain and cloudy skies mirrored the Longhorns’ performance at Red & Charline McCombs Field. The Texas defense committed two costly errors, compared to Oklahoma State’s zero, en route to a 3-1 defeat.

Shea O’Leary showed tremendous resilience in a complete game effort, but the sophomore pitcher got lit up in the first inning and allowed three hits and two runs. While O’Leary settled into the game and allowed only one more run through the next six innings, junior Mary Iakopo said the offense couldn’t do enough to help her out.

“It’s tough, being a pitcher, I’d hate to be in that position,” Iakopo said. “Our bats need to back her up a little better. Eight hits on the scoreboard helps, but one run isn’t anything.”

For the first time all season, the Longhorns lost a game in which they outhit the opponent. Texas got eight hits on the day compared to Oklahoma State’s six, but the Longhorns left four runners on base.

Iakopo got the team’s lone run across in the bottom of the fourth inning when she blasted a homerun to left field. The long ball marked her 14th of the season and tied her with senior outfielder Shannon Rhodes for the team lead.

Facing Oklahoma State ace pitcher Carrie Eberle, Iakopo said she had to make adjustments after grounding out in her first at-bat.

“She finally threw me an up pitch, and up game is my game,” Iakopo said. “I just stuck with the plan and really attacked what we planned going in.”

Both Texas and Oklahoma State are duking it out this weekend knowing the winner of the series will likely take second place in the Big 12 Conference behind No. 1-ranked Oklahoma. This series could also have implications for the NCAA Tournament, White said.

“It’s not only a fight for second place in the conference,” White said. “We think it’s also a fight to see who could host the Super Regional or Regional (in the Tournament).”

With the Big 12 Championship looming ever nearer, the Longhorns must bounce back and keep steady in order to clinch second place. With two more games left in this weekend’s series, Iakopo said that in order for the Longhorns to make the most of the rest of this weekend, the team as a whole needs to focus on being meticulous.

“It’s the little things, we take care of the little things for the next two days, and we take it seriously,” Iakopo said. “Just take care of those little things, and we’ll be okay.”