Sandwiched between a California road trip and a date with the Cowgirls of Oklahoma State, Texas takes on McNeese State in a midweek showdown in Austin on Wednesday.
After playing a total of six road games in the past week, the team will host the Cowgirls of McNeese State. While the number of games has been tiring, head coach Connie Clark sees the positives that a packed schedule can bring.
“It’s tough, it’s challenging, but that’s what teams do this time of year,” Clark said. “We can schedule 56 games, and we can’t even find a slot for 56 games in our schedule (so) we maxed out at 54. It’s tough to get them scheduled in, but it’s also a good way to utilize your roster.”
McNeese State boasts a record of 19-10, with an unblemished 6-0 record in the Southland Conference. In addition, the Cowgirl lineup features the Southland Conference hitter of the week, junior Erika Piancastelli. Despite the midweek matchup against a quality opponent, Clark values the opportunity to test the roster.
“I like where we’re at being early,” Clark said. “I think that there are more good takeaways than things that I don’t like, but it’s kind of nice that we have such a short week we can turn it around quick, and you get a couple days of practice and get to throw them right back into the fire.”
This game serves as the final opportunity to display what the team is capable of before conference play next weekend. Clark said she likes the depth the team brings to the table and is pleased with the team’s performance heading into conference.
“I think when you ask our team what a couple of our strengths are, everybody always talks about the depth,” Clark said. “Obviously we’ve got one more game before we head into conference, but I think our prerequisites of heading into conference have been checked off.”
Clark’s players echoed her assessment. Senior infielder Kelli Hanzel likes where the team is headed.
“I think it’s really exciting,” Hanzel said. “You know right now we have a really big and good bullpen, our offense looks really good, and I think just being a senior is exciting because this is our last go round so you want to leave it all out there.”
While the Longhorns have played the fifth-toughest schedule in the nation and possess 12 victories over teams ranked in the RPI Top 100, the Big 12 contains a host of difficult opponents as well.
With teams such as the reigning national champions, the Oklahoma Sooners, on deck, Hanzel and her teammates will have to play at their best to compete for a conference title.
“I think our conference as a whole is pretty challenging,” Hanzel said. “Knowing that they’re in our conference is like a test early to see how we match up, and it’s all about how we play our game and what we bring to the table and make adjustments. So it’s pretty exciting to have such a challenging conference.”