LAFAYETTE, Louisiana – Down 3-1 to Mississippi State with two outs in the top of the seventh in an elimination game, the Longhorns weren’t quite ready to go home.
“We weren’t ready for this to end yet,” senior shortstop Taylor Thom said.
Sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo blooped in a single, followed by a single by senior Brejae Washington, bringing sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens to the plate. Up 3-1 in the count, Stephens, who entered the tournament in an 0-for-15 slump, blasted a home run to give Texas a lead they would hold on to in a 4-3 win.
“I wasn’t ready for the 2014 season to end,” Stephens said. “I wasn’t ready for anything to stop yet.”
Through the first six innings of the game, Mississippi State’s senior pitcher Alison Owens kept the Longhorn offense at bay, allowing three hits and only one run. The Bulldogs offense, meanwhile, took advantage of a Texas error in the first, a home run in the fourth and a double in the sixth to build the 3-1 lead going into the final inning.
Mississippi State appeared to be on its way to a showdown with UL-Lafayette on Sunday after the first two Texas hitters were sent down to start the seventh. But after Ceo’s bloop single fell in-between the second baseman and right fielder, an emotional exchange between Washington and Thom and Washington’s single up the middle, things were looking much better for the Longhorns.
That’s when Stephens stepped in, knowing the entire inning that she would get the chance to bat. Stephens turned on the fifth pitch of the at bat and hit a three-run shot that turned around the game and the season for Texas.
“We’re very capable and we can all hit,” Stephens said. “The game’s not over until the umpire says, ‘Ballgame,’ when that third out is made.”
Texas was put in the position to have to win the game against Mississippi State after a tough 2-1 loss to ULL earlier in the day.
The Longhorns entered the bottom of the seventh up 2-1 on the Ragin’ Cajuns thanks in part to a solo home run by Thom in the fourth inning. But freshman pitcher Tiarra Davis allowed the first four batters to reach base, allowing Louisiana to tie the game and two batters later walked in the winning run with the bases loaded.
Despite the tough loss, Stephens said they regrouped after the game, put on new jerseys and went out to keep playing in the postseason.
“It was like a new day and a new game and we just went after it,” Stephens said.
With the win, the Longhorns advanced to play the Ragin’ Cajuns again on Sunday at noon. Texas will have to win two games to advance to the Super Regionals for the third-straight season, while Louisiana would only need to win one of a possible two games Sunday to advance.
Even though the loss Saturday afternoon was difficult, Thom said they can take some momentum from that game and a lot of momentum from the seventh inning comeback to their advantage.
“We’ve already beat [Louisiana] twice this season,” Thom said. “We have all the confidence in the world that we can beat them.”