No. 12 Texas hangs on to defeat No. 7 Oklahoma State, keeps possible World Series bid alive

Nicholas Pannes

Texas had lost to Oklahoma State in every one of their five previous matchups this season. The series of defects included a nine-inning loss in their first game of the Big 12 Postseason Tournament and a 1-6 rout in the opener of the Stillwater Super Regional yesterday.

The Longhorns finally broke their streak Saturday afternoon, however, beating the Cowgirls 4-2. The victory forces a tiebreaker game in their best-of-three NCAA Super Regional series against Oklahoma State. If they can manage another win against the Cowgirls on Sunday, Texas will earn a spot among the eight finalists advancing to the NCAA Women’s College World Series.

“It’s been a hard fight against (the Cowgirls). I mean, every game has been a dogfight,” Texas pitcher Shea O’Leary said. “But I think today, just getting the win over them was just an exciting experience for all of us, and we’re looking to carry that over into tomorrow.”

O’Leary, who held Oklahoma State’s elite offense to just three hits throughout the contest, said the Longhorns kept their composure throughout the day despite facing the possibility of their season ending with a loss.

“Pressure is a privilege,” O’Leary said. “I see it as a great opportunity to just go out there and have fun. I mean there’s pressure in every game, but if we just go out there with confidence like we did today, then I feel like we can beat anybody.”

The start of Saturday’s game was reminiscent of most of this season’s previous contests between the two teams. Elite pitching on both sides held the game to a low scoring-endeavor, with opportunities for batters few and far between.

Oklahoma State got out to an early one-run lead after a third-inning home run by junior shortstop Kiley Naomi. The two stalwart defenses continued to suffocate their opponents’ batters, and by the top of the fifth inning both teams had combined for three total hits.

However, with their 2021 season riding on the line, sophomore McKenzie Parker lit a spark for the Texas offense with a single into center field. Another hit sent Parker to second base, where All-American junior second baseman Janae Jefferson sent another single over the middle to bring Parker home and tie the game.

At that moment, Parker’s spark erupted into an explosion.

Texas’ ace inside the circle, O’Leary, combined with her defense to sit down the next three Oklahoma State batters in order.

Then, true freshman Jordyn Whitaker opened the bottom of the sixth inning with a home run blast over left field. The next few Texas batters followed her example, showing perfect poise and focus at the plate.

In one of the biggest moments of Texas’ season, Whitaker came through in the clutch despite her lack of experience in college softball. Whitaker said she was able to stay calm and confident during her at bat because of Texas head coach Mike White’s decision to let her bat.

“The main thing that gets me through these big moments is knowing that my coach trusts me enough to put me out there,” Whitaker said. “He believes in me to get it done. If he believes in me, I believe in myself, and I know I can do it. I just use everything I’ve been taught, and I know I can do it.”

A double from junior designated player Taylor Ellsworth set up a two run homer from junior catcher Mary Iakopo, her 16th on the season. After their defense held the Cowgirls scoreless in the seventh, the Longhorns were finally able to celebrate their first victory in the 2021 season against their Big 12 rivals.

“I think they’re a good team, a solid team, but so are we,” Whitaker said. “We just brought everything out today. We knew what we had at stake. And we’re not done.”