Bounce it off the chest, pass it on, use an arm instead of a hand, keep it going.
Those are Mandy Ogle’s tips for hacky sack, the latest pastime in No. 6 Texas’ pregame routine. Pair that with cheers — Ogle’s favorite is “Ain’t no party like a Texas party” — and the squad drives the energy that fuels its 35-4 season, currently on a 12-game winning streak.
“We have the drive, the skill and the talent,” Ogle said. “We want [to win the National Championship] and if you want it, you can make it happen. People forget you need to make it fun and worthwhile to be out here.”
But amidst cheers, hacky-sack rivalries and the jokes, Ogle remains focused and successful behind the plate. Her perfect fielding percentage speaks for itself, and the confidence she gives pitchers helps the team even further.
“Anytime you can have a veteran behind the plate who can help the pitching staff out, it allows our pitchers to focus on pounding the mitt,” head Coach Connie Clark said. “[Ogle] helps us tremendously and does a great job keeping pitchers emotionally where they need to be.”
Behind the plate, Ogle has a lot to remember. She analyzes the angle of the ball, noticing up-close differences for a drop ball, how the ball moves and at which angle. Game-deciding collisions are her favorite opportunities, but it’s her eye contact and nonverbal understandings that help in games most.
“I constantly talk to my family and other teammates to see what I need to improve on but in the moment, you just go for it and can’t think about anything,” Ogle said. “When you do think about it, it messes you up.”
As Ogle’s catching eye stays sharp, she also boasts a .500 (eight-for-16) during her last six games, including a game-winning bases-loaded walk to break a third inning 0-0 against Western Kentucky on Sunday. Her 31 RBIs this season nearly total those of her first two seasons (33) and eight doubles off 32 hits this season keep the offense strong.
“I’m grateful that I’m actually having the results show in the statistics,” Ogle said. “Being behind the plate is very normal for me and I feel very comfortable so I just try to get a hit and help the team.”
Ogle is always learning from her teammates.
“[Taylor Hoagland] took me in as a freshman and we became really close,” Ogle said. “She’s a role model and wants everyone to have passion for the game because that’s why we’re all out here. Being a leadoff, she picks up on something and tells us what the pitcher’s throwing so we can look for it.”
Ogle echoes this mentorship in helping the new freshmen. Excited about their talent and the team chemistry, Ogle looks out for pitcher Holly Kern.
“I just try to get laughs out of her,” Ogle said. “I try to get her to stay calm, take deep breaths and realize that she’s been doing this her whole life.”
Sharing tips in the diamond is nothing new for Ogle. She’s been learning from a family of athletes for years. Brother Tyler Ogle was a three-year starter for the Oklahoma baseball team, and was drafted in 2011 to the minor leagues. He now catches for the Great Lakes Loons.
“Everything my brother learns new, he tells me,” Ogle said. “He says, ‘Oh if I knew this in college, that would’ve helped me,’ so he shares it with me and it’s bettering me.”
And Clark thinks it is.
“Mandy is tremendous,” Clark said. “As a junior, she has worked into this role in the last couple of years, and I am really proud of her. Oftentimes, catchers don’t get enough credit, but she is tremendous. She is one of the best.”