Weekend previews: Softball, track and field, women's tennis

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Junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens eyes a pitch headed her way. Stephens hit a grand slam in win over UC-Santa Barbara.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Softball

After an up-and-down three weeks, Texas softball returns home this weekend for the Texas Invitational.

The No. 25 Longhorns (9–6), who play five games over three days against Dartmouth, Texas Southern and Lamar, will look to make improvements in both pitching and defense.

“We’ve made some good progress in three weeks,” head coach Connie Clark said. “The pitchers have been up and down, but I really like the strides they’ve made. Defensively, we’re still searching a little bit with the infield. The outfield is tremendous.”

Minimizing defensive errors is one of the biggest things Texas expects to work on. Two big errors in the 4–3 loss to Missouri last Friday cost the Longhorns a game it should have won, Clark said. Texas has committed 22 errors so far
this season.

Most of the mistakes have come from the infield. Clark has scrambled the players around in infield positions to try and find the best fit and said she will continue to do so this weekend.

“We can put anyone on the field, and the chemistry’s there, and I think that’s important,” sophomore infielder Kelli Hanzel said. “If the chemistry’s there, then the plays will come.”

Although the pitching hasn’t been quite as consistent as Clark wants, the Longhorn hurlers have seen at least some success.

As a staff, the Texas pitchers have a 3.14 ERA and have given up 62 runs on 96 hits. Freshman pitcher Erica Wright anchors the staff with a 3–3 record and 1.89 ERA.

Texas pitchers shut out No. 8 Georgia and held No. 14 UCLA to eight hits before giving up 17 runs in the following three games in California last weekend.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re playing a team that just threw themselves together, or we’re playing the number one ranked team in the country; you can’t issue free passes,” Clark said. “You have to attack the strike zone and try to induce what you want to happen.”

Texas’ attack mind-set is starting to sink in, and the Longhorns are focused on starting every game strong.

Junior first baseman Holly Kern said she believes this weekend is about finding something the team can work on and making adjustments.

“We want to win every game, but we also want to learn from mistakes that we’re making,” Kern said.

Claire Cruz

Track and Field

With a Big 12 title on the line, Texas’ track and field team looks to close out the indoor season with style in Ames, Iowa.

This weekend, the Longhorns face their last test as a team in the indoor events. Before looking ahead to next week’s NCAA Championships, the Longhorns want to solidify their season with a Big 12 Championship.

The Longhorn women, led by Bowerman-hopeful junior Courtney Okolo, strive to repeat their performance as title winners from 2014. The 200 meters and 400 meters have the potential to be huge events for UT, with the potential for more than 20 points from each race.

On the men’s side, Texas hopes to claim its second title in three years with a win. The field events are the main show for the Longhorns, who have the top marks in three of the six events being held this weekend. Junior Ryan Crouser, who was named to February’s watch list for the Bowerman Award, looks to carry the group with his nation-leading throws.

The possibility for a sweep of the Big 12 Championships for the first time since 2006 is as high as it has been in quite some time. The Longhorn women currently sit at No. 4 in the country while the men hold on to the fifth spot for a second consecutive week.

Bradley Maddox

Women's Tennis

Coming off some rough losses, No. 35 Texas will try and prove itself against No. 10 Michigan this weekend in Ann Arbor.

Michigan (6–3) entered the top 10 after defeating No. 6 Baylor last Friday, and the team is hosting the Longhorns (2–3) on Saturday.

The leading lineup for the Wolverines showcases three nationally ranked singles captains of the team — seniors No. 18 Emina Bektas (6–3) and No. 114 Sarah Lee (4–4) and junior No. 21 Ronit Yurovsky (6–0).

For the Longhorns, No. 47 junior Breaunna Addison is the sole player who is ranked nationally for singles, but she completes a duo with freshman Ryann Foster in doubles that is ranked 27th on a national scale.  

The trip will be a homecoming for Longhorns head coach Danielle McNamara. McNamara competed for Michigan from 1997 to 2000 and left the school as a highly decorated player. She ranks ninth on Michigan’s list of all-time wins with 80 victories and was the first player in the team’s history to play in all three national championship events.

Texas has wins over DePaul and Rice so far this season but has fallen flat on road games. Texas suffered a 7–0 loss against No. 12 USC in their last game and will need to start gaining wins if they want to contend in Big 12 play this year. Texas’ first conference game will be another road game against Oklahoma on March 13.

Reanna Zuniga