While it’s just a number, 850 signified something greater for 22-year coaching veteran Connie Clark on Thursday night.
Lifted by a three-run shot from senior first baseman Paige von Sprecken in the fifth inning, Clark picked up her 850th career victory as head coach of the Texas program, as the Longhorns (10–11) edged out Coastal Carolina (14–11) for a 5-3 win in Conway, South Carolina.
“(850 wins) means I’ve been doing this a long time with a lot of great athletes,” Clark said. “Most important (thing) about tonight was getting back into the win column.”
The Longhorns jumped out ahead in the first inning after freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson scored from third base on a sacrifice fly to left field by freshman third baseman MK Tedder.
In the second inning, the Texas offense added another run, reversing a recent inability to capitalize on opponents’ mistakes. Following an error to start the inning that allowed senior designated player Randel Leahy to reach base, sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack stepped to the plate and poked an RBI single to right field, giving the Longhorns a 2-0 lead.
But Coastal Carolina quickly responded in the bottom of the frame. With two runners on base, junior designated player Natalie David shifted momentum back in the Chanticleers’ favor with a three-run shot to left field off junior pitcher Erica Wright to give Coastal Carolina a 3-2 lead.
Following a scoreless fourth inning, the Longhorns rallied in the fifth with consecutive singles from Jefferson and junior center fielder Ki’Audra Hayter. With opportunity knocking, von Sprecken roped a three-run home run down the left field line to give the Longhorns a 5-3 lead.
“Off the bat it felt pretty good, so I had a feeling it was going out,” von Sprecken said. “It’s just nice to give the team the lead and get us back in the win column.”
Senior pitcher Kristen Clark took matters from there, shutting down Coastal Carolina in the final three innings to the tune of one hit and two strikeouts to cement the Texas win.
“We’ve had a really challenging schedule, but we’ve competed well with all of our opponents,” von Sprecken said. “Getting back in the win column lets us feel more comfortable going into this weekend, and especially heading into conference.”