There are only 15 people on the Texas roster this season, making it one of the smallest teams in the country.
Of those 15, five are freshmen and four are sophomores, which makes it a very young team. Despite having few upperclassmen, the Longhorns have surged to a top-three national ranking and a 37-4 record. This success is in large part because of several key freshmen who have proven their value.
“Once they get underway we don’t call them freshmen anymore because we expect them to contribute right away,” said head coach Connie Clark.
This group has several members who have won starting positions. Shortstop Taylor Thom and center fielder Brejae Washington have each started most of the games this season while pitcher Rachel Fox rotates with sophomore Blaire Luna for the starting job
inside the circle.
“They’re put into the mix,” Clark said. “If a freshman beats out a senior for a position then so be it. I think that keeps the work ethic going and keeps the competitive fire going.”
Mandy Ogle has been learning from senior Amy Hooks and is preparing to start behind the plate once Hooks graduates this semester.
“They do a great job,” Clark said. “They are absolutely ready when called upon to play.”
The various differences between high school and college ball do not seem to faze this group.
“Being in college is a little different than it was in high school,” Fox said. “We play five games in a day and you have to be more mental and the hitters are a lot better.”
Fox came in as a two-time Gatorade player of the year to help Luna with pitching duties. She’s 16-1 with a 1.01 ERA, slightly lower than Luna’s stats. She has thrown 13 complete games and fanned 94 batters so far this season.
Thom and Washington have both led the offense on multiple occasions this season with a .336 and .374 batting average respectively. Thom ranks second on the team in RBIs. After starting out a little sluggish behind the plate, Thom quickly stepped up and her nine home runs and 38 hits have helped the Longhorns win some key games.
“To just play is amazing,” Thom said. “But to score runs and contribute to this team is really amazing.”
Washington is the fastest player recruited in the 15 years of Texas Softball. She can turn singles and doubles into triples and in the game against Wisconsin, Washington became the first person to record two triples in a single game in UT history. She leads the Big 12 in triples and ranks second in stolen bases with 30.
“It always feels good to play jackrabbit,” said Washington. “My role on the team is to run so it feels good to get the ball in play and be able to fill that role.”
Texas takes the field twice this week against non-conference opponents. Texas will host UT-Arlington on Tuesday and Texas Woman’s University, both at 6:30 p.m., before heading to Lubbock to face the Raiders on Friday.