Texas takes down Arkansas in Super Regional finale, reaches 6th Women’s College World Series

Pitcher+Sophia+Simpson+throws+the+first+pitch+of+the+inning.+Texas+played+McNeese+State+at+Red+%26+Charline+McCombs+Field+on+February+16%2C+2022.

Lorianne Willett/The Daily Texan

Pitcher Sophia Simpson throws the first pitch of the inning. Texas played McNeese State at Red & Charline McCombs Field on February 16, 2022.

Nick Hargroue, Sports Reporter

With runners on second and third and no outs, freshman Sophia Simpson stared down senior designated player Linnie Malkin from the mound with the season on the line. Chants of “Woo Pig Sooie!” rang throughout Bogle Park. The hero of Texas’ postseason so far, graduate transfer Hailey Dolcini, looked on from the dugout.

What followed next was a masterful display from Simpson: she struck out Malkin, struck out the next Arkansas batter and got junior second-base player Audrie LaValley to fly out to center, ending the early threat from the Razorbacks in the second inning.

Texas held on to win the game 3-0, with the Longhorns becoming only the tenth team in college softball history to reach the Women’s College World Series as an unseeded team. Simpson dazzled, striking out seven on 111 pitches for her first shutout of the season.

Emotions ran high during Saturday’s win-or-go-home game against Arkansas, especially for Texas’ senior players. Dolcini screamed her support for Simpson from the sidelines, offering whatever she could to spur her teammate on. Senior Janae Jefferson put her body on the line in the bottom of the fifth inning, making another Sportscenter Top Ten-worthy diving play to prevent a base-hit. At every opportunity, the Longhorns hyped each other up and gave it their all in the midst of a hostile Arkansas crowd, doing whatever it took to keep their season’s hopes alive.

The win was a formative, trial-by-fire experience for Simpson, the righty strike-out specialist. In the second and third inning, Simpson found herself with two runners on base and no outs. In both innings, Simpson fought and clawed her way out of the jam in an impressive clutch performance.

Jefferson continued to make her mark on history on Saturday, sparking the Longhorn offense in the top of the sixth. To lead off the inning, she smashed a double to the wall, putting herself into scoring position. Freshman Mia Scott bunted Jefferson over to third base and sophomore Alyssa Washington, whose dream coming out of high school was to play in the same infield as Jefferson, slapped a two-run double into right-center field to break the stalemate.

Texas put the metaphorical dagger in the Razorbacks in the seventh inning, shutting down whatever remaining hope Arkansas had in securing its first WCWS berth. With runners on the corners and two outs, Simpson faced a former Longhorn in senior catcher Taylor Ellsworth. In a whirlwind of emotion, Simpson forced Ellsworth to fly out to senior left fielder Lauren Burke, sending the team into a frenzy and securing a trip to the Women’s College World Series.

A team that was snubbed of a top-16 seed entering the NCAA Tournament, the Longhorns have fought their way to the World Series. Play will begin June 2 in Oklahoma City.