Hailey Dolcini racks up 14 strikeouts, leads Texas softball to victory against Sam Houston State

Nick Hargroue, Sports Reporter

In an otherwise slow Wednesday night game, senior pitcher Hailey Dolcini brought the heat with an impressive 14 strikeout performance against Sam Houston State, leading the Longhorns to a 2–0 victory in Austin.

Dolcini had a slow start to the season, coming into the outing with 3.39 ERA while struggling with her control. But against the Bearkats, Dolcini departed with only two walks allowed in a complete seven innings of work. After the game, she said controlling her movement has been her biggest challenge so far this season.

“That’s sometimes a good problem to have,” Dolcini said. “Fixing that earlier (in the season) would definitely be good for me.”

Texas jumped to an early lead, with freshman Mia Scott doubling to lead off the game and senior Janae Jefferson tripling to drive in the eventual go-ahead run. In games that Texas scores first, the Longhorns are 88–10 under head coach Mike White, highlighting the importance of doing so.

“It’s just making sure we do the small things correctly,” White said. “Like getting the bunts down, error-free games, getting lead off outs, 1-2-3 innings. Just simple stuff (where) sometimes you can get ahead of yourself.”

Texas made sure to follow that process against Sam Houston State, routinely putting runners on base and advancing them with crafty base running and timely bunts. 

In the bottom of the fourth inning, sophomore JJ Smith advanced all the way to third on a misplaced ball with one out in the inning. Following her at-bat, sophomore Bella Dayton pinch hit for fellow sophomore Jordyn Whitaker and laid down a perfect bunt to reach first base. Dayton then stole second, leaving runners at second and third base for sophomores Alyssa Washington and Brianna Cantu later in the inning.

While no runs would come that time around, the small-ball strategy is Texas’ blueprint and will be key for the Longhorns heading into the Crimson Classic in Tuscaloosa, Alabama starting on Friday. 

“You look at a team like ‘Bama, and you go, ‘How are we going to beat this team for seven innings?’” White said. “You do it one out at a time. (We’re) just preaching those little things that we can control and making sure that if something does happen, that it doesn’t get too big.”

White is confident in his team, with several players stepping up to provide leadership for the young and improving Longhorns.

“Hailey Dolcini has been pretty good (in that regard),” White said. “Obviously, she’s used to fewer runs, but she’s kept herself together. Sophia Simpson is coming out and doing her thing, and that’s helped a lot.”

As a whole, White preaches ‘Do Your Job’ as his team’s motto. If the team does its job this weekend, the Longhorns will be looking to jump back up in the rankings as quickly as they fell last weekend.

Texas is set to face one of their toughest battles of the young season against the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday.