A year later, Super Regional disappointment fresh in Texas' mind as it eyes first WCWS berth since 2006
It's time. They can feel it.
Last year was heartbreaking. But something in the air tells them this year will be different.
Oregon denied Texas a chance to reach the Women's College World Series for the first time since 2006 when the Ducks took the final two games of last year's Super Regional against the Longhorns. The softball team came back this year, earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and made it through the Regionals without a loss for the first time since its last run to Oklahoma City seven seasons ago.
"There's a difference between this team and last year's team," outfielder Brejae Washington said. "Last year we kind of peaked a little early and we didn't have the depth in our lineup that was all on one page. I think this year, toward the end of the year, everyone is hitting as one unit and that's made a difference."
Texas cruised to a 4-2 win over Oregon in Game 1 of last year's Super Regional series, hosted by the Longhorns, and took a 4-3 lead into the fifth inning of Game 2. But an unearned run in that frame tied the game and a sacrifice fly in extras won it for Oregon.
A six-run second inning by the Ducks in the decisive Game 3 helped send them to Oklahoma City with a 10-6 victory. Just like that, Texas' season was over.
"To watch someone else celebrate on your field, it sucks," shortstop Taylor Thom said. "We don't want that to happen again. It's definitely put a fuel in our fire."
Thom did her part to give the Longhorns another chance to clinch a spot in the WCWS during last weekend's Regionals. She hit .556 in Texas' three wins while hitting two home runs, including a grand slam, and driving all six of Texas' runs in a Regionals-clinching 6-0 win over South Carolina on Sunday.
Now, the Longhorns once again host a Super Regional, facing Florida State this time, beginning Friday night at 8 p.m.
"It's fresh in our mind," head coach Connie Clark said of last year's Super Regional loss to Oregon. "It's a little different feel than last year. I don't know if the pain is still there and you can feel it. It just slipped through last year. I thought it was a tremendous matchup with us and a great Oregon club. If you couldn't pick us to win a national championship this year, I think it'll be Oregon. That's how good that program is."
Last year, Texas went into the Super Regional round with a record 46-11, going 25-3 at home. Now the Longhorns are 47-8 with a 27-3 record at home. Blaire Luna is still the ace. She's still dominant, to the tune of a 28-5 record and 1.17 ERA this year. The Longhorns remain potent on offense, hitting .330 as a team and scoring 6.1 runs per game - the second-most in school history, behind only the 6.2 runs per game they scored last season.
"It's inevitable," Taylor Hoagland, who has a team-best .444 batting average and .626 on-base percentage, said. "People are going to talk about the past. Just to bring it up and know we were so close, just one game away, is going to be the fuel to our fire. I don't think any of us seniors want to feel like that again."