Cruising at 39-4, Texas hit an unexpected road bump this week when it was forced to find a replacement for star first baseman Lexy Bennett.
Bennett has been a key piece of the Texas lineup all year — she is one of 25 finalists for the national player of the year award and is hitting a team-leading .455.
“She is about as hot as anyone in the country and has been the last three weeks,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark after the Texas A&M game on April 6. “She just has ice water in her veins right now. She’s amazing.”
But after Bennett was struck by a pitch on her right arm last weekend versus Iowa State, Texas has had to turn to other sources of offense. With her arm in a cast, Bennett is out for an undisclosed amount of time, and the Longhorns are wondering who will step up to fill her spot in the batting order.
Clark and the team are hoping it will be a collective effort.
Two players in particular will be expected to fill the hole that Bennett left at first base. Senior Shelby Savony and sophomore Kim Bruins will split the time at first, at least until one of them really takes control of the position, and Clark gives them a full-time starting role.
“They’re doing a good job,” Clark said. “We pretty much told them yesterday, coming out and sat them down, and said, ‘You know what, it’s there for the taking, and you two are going to compete for it.’”
Savony is a senior with plenty of experience under her belt. She has made solid contributions to the team in her four years here, mostly in the role of a pinch hitter, so she knows how to perform under pressure. She also brings plenty of power to the lineup, hitting 11 home runs in limited action her junior season. Most importantly, she adds a layer of leadership on the field as one of three captains on the team.
Bruins brings a different flair to the position. She doesn’t have a lot of experience at the collegiate level playing first base, being a pitcher first and foremost for the team. But with freshman Rachel Fox solidly cemented behind Blaire Luna as the No. 2 pitcher, Bruins will get the opportunity to try her hand in the field. Bruins hasn’t hit much in her time here but averaged .419 at the plate as a senior at Redlands High School.
The decision as to who will start hasn’t been made yet and will most likely remain an open competition after the weekend.
“We’ll try to go set into the weekend for sure and see how that person performs,” Clark said. “They both bring good things to the table, so it’s a challenge for the coaches but a good challenge to have. We’ll look at the Tech notes to see how they match up in regards to their short game and speed game and go from there.”