For the first time in this young season, the No. 6-ranked Texas Longhorns had their backs against the wall.
In the first game of Friday’s doubleheader in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, the Longhorns entered the bottom of the seventh inning needing three runs to preserve their unbeaten record. For a team that had not trailed in a game after the first inning all year, this was uncharted territory.
All signs pointed to Texas falling to Utah in the battle of the unbeatens. The Longhorns’ high-octane offense, which averaged nearly 12 runs per game to start the season, had been held scoreless by Utah freshman pitcher Halle Morris. Texas was leading off the final frame with its nine-hole hitter, senior infielder Kaitlyn Slack, who had only managed three hits all season.
In a game in which nothing had gone Texas’ way, everything seemed to click in the bottom of the seventh.
Slack led off with a solo home run to cut the lead to 2-1. Senior outfielder Reagan Hathaway followed Slack with another solo shot to tie the game. Texas got a runner in scoring position with their next two at-bats, and sophomore catcher/first baseman Colleen Sullivan won the game for Texas with a walk-off double.
“We were kind of getting frustrated there. The kid (Utah pitcher Halle Morris) was throwing a lot of change ups, not really making any mistakes,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “We kept the faith, had some Texas Fight and came back.”
After coasting through their first seven games to an unbeaten record, the Longhorns had to respond in the face of adversity for the first time all season. The team could have folded under the pressure, chalking up the woeful offensive performance to just a bad day at the plate.
Instead, the Longhorns displayed grit and passed their first true test.
“There’s gonna be a kick in the gut, and you have to decide whether or not to pick yourself up off the canvas,” White said. “I was pleased with the way we did that.”
While the first game of the day was a show of heart, the second was a true testament to dominance. Texas scored eight runs in the first inning while sending a whopping 12 batters to the plate on its way to a resounding 11-0 run rule victory over No. 12 Tennessee, one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference. Led by reigning Big 12 Player of the Week Miranda Elish, who tossed a complete game shutout, Texas got back to its blistering start for another resounding win.
While the win over the Lady Volunteers was impressive, Texas may have made their first true statement of the season just a few hours earlier when Slack launched that solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Even in Puerto Vallarta, Texas showed its first display of fight.