While Texas has veteran players, the bulk of the depth that is so crucial to long-term success falls at the feet of the freshman class.
As the end of the 2017 season approaches, the importance of youth has become increasingly apparent.
On Sunday, the Longhorns won both games in a doubleheader versus Houston. Freshmen were responsible for every run that crossed the plate. Catcher Taylor Ellsworth had two RBIs, and infielder Kaitlyn Slack hit the walk-off RBI single to end the second game of the day to complete the sweep.
“It felt good,” Ellsworth said. “I mean, we’ve been all putting in extra work and just coming out everyday just doing the best we can, and finally getting an oportunity to bring my team up is amazing.”
However, Ellsworth and Slack aren’t the only first-year players that have made an impact this season. Freshman Jade Gortarez, who is known for her defensive play and has her own highlight reel of defensive web gems, has also made contributions of her own.
Following Gortarez are fellow freshmen Taylor McAllister and Malory Schattle, who have displayed potential and skill in the relatively limited action they have seen on the field.
In a long season in which injuries can plague a team at any moment, the young players on the roster must be ready to see the field whenever called upon — and they have been.
“Kaitlyn has had some very good looks,” head coach Connie Clark said. “Taylor McAllister does a nice job of staying alive in the box. Mallory gets some work at first base and in the outfield, which is something we want to continue to take a look at.”
This season, Texas has developed and progressed the freshman class quicker than most, as the team features two freshmen as everyday starters, including Gortarez and Ellsworth, who supplanted junior and captain Randel Leahy for a stretch due to her hot performance at the plate.
There are many reasons that the team fosters growth early on in the younger athletes. However, the athletes themselves seem to key in on one reason in particular.
While the coaching staff shares the responsibility of developing the players, the senior class has taken an active role in teaching the newcomers.
“There’s just so much to learn from our seniors and even our upperclassmen,” Gortarez said. “I would hope to take little bits and pieces of them and just contribute into my game.”
Moving forward into the home stretch of the season, the freshmen and the depth they provide will be critical for postseason play as the Longhorns look to continue their success in the upcoming series versus No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 14 Baylor.
“I think this group of newcomers is tremendous,” Clark said. “I mean, we’ve said that all along. You know we’re twenty deep, and we really need to continue to give everybody looks.”