For the Longhorns, scoring runs has never really been a problem, but for Texas to propel itself deep into postseason play, there’s no question on the importance of defense.
Texas doesn’t rank higher than third in any defensive standings in the Big 12. Its pitching is first in wins (32) and third in ERA (1.58) while the team ranks second in fielding percentage (.974).
The Longhorns have made a trip to the NCAA Regionals in each of their past eight seasons in large part due to their pitching. The program has been known as a pitching powerhouse since the infancy of the team — especially when Cat Osterman made her first appearance in a Texas uniform in 2002.
Well, while Osterman may not be in that uniform anymore, the Longhorns still have power in the circle with Blaire Luna. The Austin native leads the Big 12 in three categories — wins (17), batting average against (.108) and strikeouts (217).
Luna has proved to be one of the best pitchers to step in the circle, not only for Texas but in the conference. She has 97 careers wins, 1,223 career strikeouts and 43 career shutouts which puts her second — just behind Osterman — in almost all categories for Texas.
Head coach Connie Clark believes Luna and her team’s pitching is one of the main keys to get the team to the Women’s College World Series. This season Clark described that Luna has focused on her mental aspect of the game, which has thoroughly improved her play.
The senior and her teammates have allowed only 65 hits in 36 games this season ranking third in the Big 12. This past weekend during their away stand in Lawrence, Kan., the Longhorns gave up only eight runs on a mere nine hits in 20 innings of play.
The Longhorns have thrown 16 shutouts this season, which is tied for the second most in the program in the past six seasons. The 2012 squad finished with 16 but didn’t reach that mark until late May.
This strong defensive power will be the key to the Longhorns success this season if they can keep it up. The team scores an average of 6.5 runs a game but that doesn’t mean much without a strong presence in the field.
Texas is just as good in the dirt as it is in the circle. The team has 719 putouts — third in the Big 12 — and has 223 assists. When recording a double play in the game the Longhorns are 5-1 and are 17-3 when making no errors in the game.
If Texas continues to shine on defense, there is no question it will have a strong chance to propel themselves to the WCWS for the fifth time in program history.