It was just a matter of minutes that separated the 16th win and the third loss on the year for Texas. But that’s all it took, as what was shaping up to be another excellent weekend took a hard right turn into the season’s first losing streak.
After winning the first three games of the Sun Devil Classic by a combined score of 31-7, Texas lost two straight against Wisconsin and No. 15 Arizona State to finish the weekend flat in Tempe, Arizona.
Heading into Saturday’s second matchup against the Badgers, the Longhorns were riding quite a streak as they were winners of 10 straight. The first three games in Tempe displayed precisely what had propelled them to that hot start: power throughout the lineup and a shutdown pitching staff.
Against Wisconsin and Arizona State on Friday, pitchers Brooke Bolinger and Miranda Elish took absolute control on the mound. The duo played a pair of complete games, with Bolinger allowing just one earned run and Elish letting in three.
“I think that Miranda might have let down just a little bit in some certain situations, but overall ... she threw very well,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “Her stuff was pretty electric and that’s what you like to see, you just have to get a little more consistent.”
The bats came alive in each of those games as well. After a 5-1 win over Wisconsin, the Texas lineup picked apart the Sun Devil pitching staff, putting up 11 runs — the most Arizona State has allowed all season.
Elish played a big role at the plate in the second game as well, knocking in four runs on two hits to continue her tear in the batter’s box.
“I was just looking to drive in runs for my team,” Elish said. “I know ASU is a great team and the balls fly here, so we had to take advantage of runners on base.”
The bats remained on fire in Saturday’s first matchup with Princeton, in which the Longhorns scored a season-high 15 runs to demolish the Tigers for their 10th consecutive victory. Yet it was Saturday’s second game in which the lineup went quiet.
It was a pitcher’s duel from the start as Shealyn O’Leary continued her dominance in the circle with a seven-inning shutout performance. But that simply wasn’t enough for Texas as there was nothing going right at the plate.
After eight scoreless innings, Wisconsin finally broke through, scoring three runs off Bolinger in the ninth inning to take a 3-1 victory.
On Friday, White said he “was a little disappointed in our patience at the plate and we’ve got to improve on that.” After one step forward was made against Princeton, the Longhorns seemingly took two steps back at the conclusion of the tournament.
The second game with Arizona State saw Elish get battered in the circle for the first time. She allowed seven earned runs as Arizona State scored five in the fifth inning. There was some life from the Texas offense, who finished with six runs, but it was too little too late as the Longhorns fell 9-6 to the country’s No. 15 team.
While it was a bleak finish to what could have been a strong weekend, nothing alleviates a small slump quite like home. The Longhorns will try to do just that in a doubleheader against Longwood at Red & Charline McCombs Field on Wednesday.