For Texas softball, there truly is no place like home.
In the second home tournament of the season, the Longhorns continued their dominance at Red and Charline McCombs Field, going 5–0 in the Texas Invitational to sweep the weekend’s competition by a combined score of 30-4.
“We’re feeling great,” designated pitcher Miranda Elish said. “Our fans are out here supporting us, and we want to get some more out here. It’s great, but we just have to keep getting better.”
With the weekend’s five victories, Texas moved to 9–0 on the season when playing in Austin. But it wasn’t all easy picking for the Longhorns, who were challenged in each of their two wins on Saturday, a 3-2 comeback win over Ole Miss and a 2-0 win over Tulsa.
Heading into the sixth inning against Ole Miss, it looked as if Texas may suffer its first loss to an unranked opponent, trailing the Rebels, 2-0. But with the bases jammed, right fielder Bekah Alcozer delivered a huge double to tie the game, and outfielder Shannon Rhodes knocked in the go-ahead run to take the lead.
It was the first comeback situation that Mike White’s squad had been faced with, a sight that was welcomed by the first-year head coach.
“It’s good because it keeps giving you that belief that you can do it,” White said. “We made some good adjustments at the plate in the fifth and the sixth (innings). To come through — Bekah with the big double — was huge for us.”
Pitcher Shea O’Leary came through in both the close wins for Texas. She first finished off the win over Ole Miss on the mound, pitching the final three innings and not allowing a run. She then threw five more innings of shutout ball in the win over Tulsa, picking up the win in both games.
O’Leary’s masterful performance on Saturday was just a sliver of what she has done this season as she has inserted herself into the rotation.
“She’s moved up into the No. 2 spot on the staff,” White said. “The ceiling is high for her. I like what she’s doing. I like that she’s not getting caught up in the moment, and she’s making some good pitches.”
Elish put in two excellent appearances of her own, throwing a total of 12 innings of shutout ball in two starts. Elish and O’Leary have developed into a strong one-two punch in the rotation for Texas in tournament play.
“We’re at an all-time high right now,” O’Leary said. “I know I just go out there with so much confidence right now knowing I have such a great offense and defense behind me.”
Friday’s two games and Sunday’s one matchup were displays of the bolstered lineup that has helped the Longhorns get off to a 12–1 start.
Texas started off the series with back-to-back 9-1 run-rule wins over Sam Houston State and Tulsa. After the close win over Ole Miss on Saturday, the Longhorns came back Sunday with a resounding 7-0 victory over the Rebels. But White knows that with Big 12 play on the horizon, things are about to get even tougher at McCombs Field.
“I think that winning is contagious, and right now they feel good about what they’ve done,” White said. “We got to make sure we keep our feet on the ground and understand once you get into conference ... It’s gonna be a little bit different.”