No. 11 Texas softball cruises past Saint Francis in World Series opener

Nicholas Pannes

Smiles, laughs and cheers filled Red & Charline McCombs Field on Friday as the Texas Longhorns routed the Saint Francis Red Flash in a five inning run-rule victory. The win was an impressive opener for the Longhorns in the NCAA Austin Regional and featured several important milestones.

Texas played 31 games in Austin this season, but for the first time the Longhorns fully enjoyed their home-field advantage thanks to a ruling by Texas Athletics on Thursday which removed capacity restrictions for outdoor spring sporting events. There were 822 fans in attendance for Texas’ stampede victory, nearly twice as many as any other softball event this year. The Longhorns’ victory Friday marks the 13th 40-victory season in the program’s 25-year history, and is the second of Mike White’s three years at Texas.

The Longhorns capitalized on every cheer and jeer from the crowd as they systematically dismantled Saint Francis.

The Longhorns opened the game with a near-perfect pitching effort from their ace sophomore Shea O’Leary. After allowing a hit on the first pitch of the game, O’Leary and her fielding crew came together to shut down the Red Flash for the rest of the contest, sitting down the next nine batters in order. Head coach Mike White praised O’Leary’s poise after giving up a first-pitch hit.

“Looking back at their offense, (the) first pitch of the game was a rocket. And I sat there thinking, ‘Oh, this could be a long day,’” White said.

The Texas offense burst onto the scene with a flurry of hits and runs, forcing the Red Flash to crack quickly under the pressure. An early error from Saint Francis and a wild pitch facilitated two of the Longhorns’ four first-inning runs.

“We made their pitcher work very hard,” White said. “She threw a lot of pitches and we weren’t chasing. And that’s what you gotta do, you gotta wait for your pitch. We were able to score a lot of runs in different ways.”

Texas’ runaway first inning set the tone for the rest of the game. The Longhorns’ relentless offense led the way for a 12-0 victory.

The win comes after a disappointing weekend in the Big 12 tournament where the Longhorns suffered a nine inning 3-2 loss to Oklahoma State and were upset 5-1 by Texas Tech in the second-place pool game. Junior second baseman Janae Jefferson commented on the importance of the victory after the game.

“I definitely feel like (our confidence) was regained in today’s performance,” Jefferson said. “We did a way better job of getting those two-out hits, scoring early in the game — stuff that really set us up for success in this game.”