LAFAYETTE, La. - The first round of the NCAA tournament will be a case of déjà vu for the Longhorns this weekend.
In the Lafayette Regional, Texas could square off against Louisiana-Lafayette and Texas Southern, two teams that the Longhorns faced and beat twice earlier this season.
But first things first, Texas will have to get by a Mississippi State team on Friday that went 38-19 in the regular season.
The Bulldogs come into the tournament having won three of their past four series in the SEC, including a 2-1 series win over Alabama; however, they fell to Kentucky in the opening round of the SEC tournament a week ago.
Freshman infielder Caroline Seitz led Mississippi State at the plate with a .350 batting average, 63 hits, 19 doubles and 36 RBIs. Senior catcher Sam Lenahan added 10 home runs and 42 RBIs for the Bulldogs, who are in the NCAA tournament for the third straight season.
Senior Alison Owen and freshman Alex Silkwood split time in the circle for Mississippi State. In 144 innings pitches, Owen allowed 111 hits, struck out 152 batters and compiled an ERA of 2.28, while Silkwood pitched 165.2 innings, giving up 130 hits, striking out 214 batters and ended the season with an ERA 3.00.
After the opening game against the Bulldogs Friday, Texas will either face ULL or Texas Southern.
The Longhorns opened up the season with a tournament in Lafayette, facing the Ragin’ Cajuns twice in two days. In the first game, ULL opened up with five runs in the first inning, but Texas came back with three runs in each of the last three innings, including two home runs, to take a 10-7 win.
The next day, the Ragin’ Cajuns again took an early 2-0 lead in the first, but a five-run fifth inning, capped off by a three-run home run from sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens, helped the Longhorns to a 7-3 win.
Texas had its way with Texas Southern in the Texas Invitational back on March 1 and 2. The Longhorns run-ruled the Lady Tigers in both games and combined for 23 hits in both games and outscored them 17-1.
But a lot has changed in the couple of months since the teams have played, especially for ULL and Texas. The Ragin’ Cajuns have won 35 of their last 38 games, including two wins each against Oklahoma and Baylor. They have three hitters with 30 or more RBIs this season and junior ace Christina Hamilton has allowed only 131 hits and struck out 166 batters, ending the year with an ERA of 1.55.
Texas, on the other hand, has found its ace in freshman Tiarra Davis, who has struck out 162 batters and has an ERA of 2.35. Despite a recent slump, Stephens still leads the team with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs.
With all of the challenges the Longhorns have faced this season, head coach Connie Clark said that their best is still ahead of them in the Lafayette Regional.
“We’ve grown a lot as a team this year,” Clark said. “The young ones have really learned a lot. This group has learned how to play mentally tough and play for each other. I think everything is hitting at the right time.”