There’s a new team playing this season at Red & Charline McCombs Field in Austin.
It’s still the Texas softball squad that plays its home games in the quaint ballpark situated just across I-35 from the UT campus. But heading into a home matchup with Houston Baptist on Wednesday riding a six-game win streak, it’s clear that talk of “A New Era” of Texas softball is not just limited to a Twitter hashtag.
Since the day newly hired head coach Mike White and a quartet of Oregon transfers arrived on campus in the fall, a new product has been on full display. White and his coaching staff took a team with a wealth of talent that had struggled to pick up victories and has immediately instilled a winning culture.
“They’re excited about the season,” White said. “They’re excited about something new, they liked the direction that the coaching staff was taking them and they kind of bought in. We kind of got the trust early, and our job now is to keep that trust.”
White said his first indication that the new-look team was getting along was during a team Christmas party at his house, a type of event where he usually would have to “pull teeth to get (players) there.” However, this year, everyone showed up, and nobody wanted to leave.
“The team’s really meshing really well,” outfielder Shannon Rhodes said. “We have a lot of fun together. It’s kind of cool to have those feelings out there on the field.”
Rhodes was part of the caravan of players who transferred from Oregon this offseason that also included pitcher/designated player Miranda Elish, catcher Mary Iakopo and utility player Lauren Burke. Adding four starting-caliber players to an already filled out team is no easy task, but it’s one that’s been accepted gracefully by the veteran team members.
“The transition was very easy,” Iakopo said. “The team was so open and welcoming … The support staff here was so much greater here than it was at my previous school so that was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to walk into.”
The reasons the four transfers made the move to Austin vary from comfort to the desire to play on a winning team. But for each of them, White’s move to Texas played a major role in their decisions to join the Longhorns.
“Coach White, he has three daughters so he relates to us as female athletes,” Burke said. “He understands that we have life outside of softball … He brings us in together. He’s made this transition a lot better.”
White and the four former Ducks players have quickly made an on-field impact. Texas is 12–1 in its best start since 2016. There’s a new excitement at McCombs Field, something that has been missing over the last few years. It starts with the energy brought daily by the new coaching staff.
But with this culture change comes new expectations. The wins are simply a byproduct of a 180-degree shift in the attitude of a program that needed direction. With an adjustment in approach, White believes this team is built to recreate the McCombs Magic of years past.
“Athletically, we’re the same as any other team in the country,” White said. “But a lot of it is mental, our approach … Do we believe that with the hard work and doing some things a little differently, can we get to the top and be there? I have full confidence that we can.”