In No. 8 Texas’ past two games against No. 2 Baylor, Higgs was assigned to Baylor senior guard Kristy Wallace on defense. It didn’t go well for Higgs.
Wallace used her turbocharged first step to blitz past the Longhorns’ defensive stopper nearly every other possession. Wallace put up 27 and 23 points, respectively, en route to a pair of Baylor victories.
“The two previous games that we’ve played, particularly the first one against Baylor, I thought we were not as competitive as we needed to be,” Texas head coach Karen Aston said.
But on Monday night in Oklahoma City, Wallace didn’t step on the floor in Texas’ 77-69 loss to the Bears in the Big 12 championship game. Wallace suffered a torn ACL in her right knee on Baylor’s senior night against West Virginia on Feb. 26 and was ruled out for the season.
With Wallace out, Higgs had less responsibility for Texas on the defensive end. She turned her attention to the opposite end of the floor.
Higgs had a penchant to score in threes. She kicked her evening off by draining a 3-pointer from the left corner. She followed it up by splitting a pair of Baylor defenders, drawing a foul from Baylor sophomore guard Juicy Landrum, scooping in a layup and converting the and-one free throw.
By the end of the first quarter, Higgs had 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Her offensive punch bookended multiple runs for Texas. The Longhorns hit a rough patch, making just 1-of-8 shots. Higgs zipped to the hoop late in the shot clock and rose for a layup, but she was met by Baylor junior center Kalani Brown.
The ball rimmed out, but Higgs secured the offensive rebound and went straight back up. She drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws to cut the Bears’ lead to three points.
Later in the fourth, Higgs swiped the ball from Landrum at half court and sprinted to the basket. Landrum recovered just in time to swat the ball away on the fast break. Higgs kept her cool. She recovered the offensive board and found senior guard Brooke McCarty on the right side of the lane for the easy finish.
Higgs’ assist was part of a 9-0 run for Texas that tied the game up at 55 points apiece with 7:13 remaining. Everything unraveled from there.
The Bears eventually took back the lead. Higgs drove down the baseline again with 1:42 left on the clock and the Longhorns down two. She floated the ball a step outside the lane, wary of Baylor sophomore forward Lauren Cox, who had seven blocks.
The ball ricocheted off the rim and into Cox’s hands. Sophomore forward Joyner Holmes tried swiping it back but was called for a loose ball foul, sending Baylor into the bonus. The call unnerved Aston. She let the officials know it and picked up a technical foul.
Cox hit all four of the ensuing free throws.
“I had a poorly, poorly, poorly timed technical that I take full responsibility for,” Aston said. “Definitely my fault on that one.”
“We still felt like we had a chance (to win),” senior guard Ariel Atkins said.
They didn’t. Though Texas fought hard until the end, Baylor closed the game out and won its eighth Big 12 championship in nine years. Higgs finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and three assists in a game that saw 14 lead changes.
Despite the loss, the Longhorns still believe they’re talented enough to beat any team in the country. The next loss will be the last in the NCAA Tournament.
“I mean, this loss is disappointing,” McCarty said. “But, we have a bigger picture to look forward to.”
The Longhorns (26–6, 15–3 Big 12) will find out their seeding and first opponent during the NCAA Selection Show on March 12 at 6 p.m.
The Texas Stars, Austin’s minor league hockey team, improved to 3-0-0 this weekend following wins against Oklahoma City and Utica.
Both games were close with the Stars winning by just a one goal margin each time, but the Dallas Stars' AHL affliliate was able to pull through each time.
The Stars started out the weekend with a road game against the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday. Texas, who won 3-2, had a combined a team effort as three different players registered in the scoring column.
Texas took an early 2-0 lead at the end of the first period but saw their lead evaporate midway in the second period with two goals by Oklahoma City. Though, the Stars powered through, scoring towards the end of the second period and taking the lead for good at 3-2.
Jack Campbell and Jyrki Jokipakka highlighted Texas'. Campbell, the Stars’ goalie, had 37 saves against the Barons, while Jokipakka scored the winning goal for the Stars.
The Stars also won their second game of the weekend against the Utica Comets in Austin. Compared to their game against the Barons, Texas’ contest against the Comets was much more of a defensive thriller as the Stars outlasted Utica 1-0.
The Stars used an early third period goal by Travis Morin to break away for the win after neither team could put the puck in the back of the net during the first two periods.
Goalie Jack Campbell also played well for the Stars, saving all 29 attempts that came his way.
Up next for the Texas Stars is a home-and-home series against the Oklahoma City Barons this weekend. The Stars will play at the Barons on Friday and will conclude the weekend with a home game against Oklahoma City on Saturday.
No. 22 Texas’ outing in Oklahoma City ended Saturday, after the Longhorns surrendered three runs in the eighth inning for a second consecutive game against No. 11 Oklahoma State, causing them to fall to the ’Pokes, 6-4.
The Longhorns fell behind 2-0 in the top of the second after a two-run home run by the Cowboys’ rightfielder Connor Costello. Texas struck back with a run in the bottom of the frame, thanks to a single by freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz scoring sophomore shortstop CJ Hinojosa.
The ’Pokes put up another run with a solo home run to lead off the third and ended Texas’ half of the inning without additional damage.
There was a weather delay of two and a half hours, in the top of the fourth inning, which appeared to give Texas some momentum, as the Longhorns evened the score in the bottom of the inning on a single by senior centerfielder Mark Payton. Payton extended his Big 12 record by reaching base safely for the 95th consecutive game.
Following Payton’s hit, the Longhorns loaded the bases again with one out, but senior designated hitter Madison Carter and Hinojosa both struck out to retire the side.
The Longhorns took the lead in the bottom of the sixth as Payton came through with another RBI, but they were unable to do anything more offensively.
In the eighth, Oklahoma State took the lead back using only one hit. The Pokes loaded the bases on a walk, being hit by a pitch, and a sacrifice bunt leading to another walk . They scored on a single and sacrifice fly.
Texas had an opportunity to answer, down 6-4 in the ninth but didn’t take advantage. Poor base running on a Cowboys error led to Texas’ first out of the inning, and the Longhorns ended up grounding out with the potential tying run in scoring position to end the game.
In total the Longhorns left 13 men on base as they struggled to get timely hits. The Longhorns will now be forced to wait to hear about their NCAA Tournament fate.
Texas' Zane Gurwitz bunts in the second inning of a first-round game against Texas Tech in the Big 12 NCAA college baseball tournament in Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Alonzo Adams.
The No. 22 Texas Longhorns got out to an early lead and never faltered on Wednesday night, easily beating the No. 23 Texas Tech Red Raiders, 8-3, in the opening round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City.
As has been the case much of the season for the Longhorns, senior outfielder Mark Payton lead the team to victory, registering two hits including a two-run double that blew the game open in the second inning.
Junior pitcher Lukas Shiraldi got the start for Texas and pitched very well, giving up just one run and four hits in five and a third innings of work.
The Longhorns will now take on Oklahoma St., the top seed in the conference tournament, tonight at 7:30 PM.
Thirty-two athletes will be competing for one of seventeen roster spots on the 2013 USA Softball Women’s National Team and two Texas Longhorns earned themselves an invitation.
Taylor Hoagland and Taylor Thom represented the University of Texas at the 2013 USA Softball Women’s Selection Camp, which was held June 10-12 at the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City.
During a three-day selection process, the invited athletes competed in simulated games and position drills. The selected athletes will then represent the US in three separate events in Canada, Puerto Rico and the United States
Hoagland earned her third career invitation after a very successful senior season. The National Fastpitch Coaches Association First-Team All-American ended the season with the second-most walks per game among Division 1 players at 1.2. Hoagland made Longhorn history with the highest on-base percentage of .610, earning her the top spot in the history of the program and a third place ranking nationally. Hoagland was also an NFCA All-Central Region and All-Big 12 First-Team Honoree.
Thom earned her invitation after a junior campaign that set the Texas record for runs batted in with 66. Thom earned spots on both the NFCA All-Central Region and All-Big 12 First teams, while also earning a spot as an NFCA Third-Team All-American. Her 15 home runs placed her second on the program’s single season chart while managing to climb to third on the program’s list of runs in a season with 55.
Both Hoagland and Thom join a list of Longhorns who have been invited to participate. Lexy Bennett earned an invitation in 2012, Blaire Luna received an invitation in both 2010 and 2011 and Kat Osterman after earning invitations in both 2009 and 2010.
Camp selections will be made June 14, and the events of the camp will be open to the public and will also stream live on www.usasoftball.com.
The selected players will compete with the women’s national team to defend their world cup title at the World Cup of Softball VIII, July 11-14, in Oklahoma City.
Like the last couple squads before them, Texas was expected to go to the Women’s College World Series. Unlike those previous teams, they did.
Once the Longhorns arrived in Oklahoma City, the expectations were not as well-defined. Two-and-out wouldn’t do but surely no one predicted, much less expected, Texas to win it all. Not with Oklahoma, one of the best teams to suit up in recent memory, on the same side of the bracket.
So Texas did something in between. The Longhorns advanced to the WCWS semis, where they fell to Tennessee, 2-1, on June 2. They began the WCWS the same way they started it in 2006, by beating Arizona State.
Then – after a brief tornado scare postponed it – came the loss to Oklahoma, as expected, before the Longhorns’ last day of the season, when they proved that they were the best team in the history of the program.
It started with a 3-0 win over Florida, marking the first time the Gators were blanked all year. Luna was brilliant in what would be Texas’ 51st and final win of the year, striking out 14 and allowing only one hit.
She was then asked to do something she hadn’t done all year – pitch two complete games in one day. Luna surrendered just two runs on three hits while striking out 12 but issued a season-high eight walks as the Longhorns’ season ended in a one-run loss to the Lady Vols.
It marked the third time Texas advanced to the semis in Oklahoma City, the other two times with Cat Osterman in the circle. While Osterman will go down as the best player in school history, none of her teams can match what the Longhorns did this season.
Each of the top three hitters in Texas’ lineup – Taylor Hoagland, Brejae Washington and Taylor Thom – struggled in the WCWS but hold multiple school records and spearheaded an offense that was much more productive than any of Osterman’s teams.
Luna’s performance on the final day of the season rivaled that of anything Osterman did. The numbers – 288 pitches, 26 strikeouts, four hits allowed over 14 innings – barely scratch the surface of what she accomplished two Sundays ago. She did it all with a tight forearm and a blood blister on her throwing hand. Still, she said she could have lasted at least a couple more innings.
“It is upsetting that we came up short,” Luna said. “I’ve grown so much as a person this year, and I’ve accomplished a lot. I just really couldn’t be any more proud of my team and of myself.”
The 2006 team won more games, the 2003 squad had a better winning percentage and the 2005 group went just as far in the WCWS. All three had the best player to ever put on a Texas uniform.
But the 2013 Longhorns softball team was the best in school history.
When the No. 4 Longhorns stepped onto the Women’s College World Series field in Oklahoma City, they didn’t expect anything, other than the weather, to be a breeze. Arizona State had shutout the squad 3-0 in March and a host of Sun Devils remained from the 2011 championship team. Each team was a “great ball club”, as head coach Connie Clark put it. But something among the burnt orange felt different en route to the Longhorns’ 6-3 victory.
“Coming off of yesterday’s practice, we were just a little bit nervous,” Clark said. “They kept assuring me today that they were ready to go and feeling good. They were loose and looked like the Texas team that I knew and did a tremendous job.”
Showcasing fierce pitching, starters Blaire Luna (31-5) and Sun Devil Dallas Escobedo (30-5) maintained four scoreless, hitless innings to open their series debut. As Luna allowed a leadoff walk before striking out eight in the four innings, Texas’ power hitters sought to pull ahead. In the second inning, Kim Bruins even smacked the ball over the fence and into the glove of left fielder Elizabeth Caporuscio, who reached above the fence to grab the almost home run.
“I hit it and I thought it was going to be a flyout, but the wind kept pushing and pushing it,” Bruins said. “Then I saw her reach over and just snag it.”
A Bruins popout in the third stranded Brejae Washington and Taylor Thom after walks to send the Longhorns into the fifth with the game still at 0-0.
When Caporuscio singled to right in the fifth, the first hit of the game released a contagion of offensive production. Alix Johnson’s two-run double bounced off the fence for the scoreboard’s first tallies, but the Longhorns didn’t waste any time.
Ready for a characteristic two-out explosion, Thom’s RBI double paired with a Sun Devil error to bring home Washington and Stephanie Ceo. Prior to this game, 36.9 percent of Texas’ season runs came with two outs. Bruins then reclaimed the homer Caporuscio robbed her of in the second as the ball tipped off the left fielder’s glove and out of the park, to finish the inning up 4-2.
“It was so intense,” Bruins said. “I was seeing [Escobedo] pretty well all night, so I was just hoping to go put something into play and it fell in my favor. [The softball gods] just evened it out for me, they threw me a bone.”
But the powers that be didn’t hand a victory to the Longhorns with ease. The sixth inning sent Texas on an emotional rollercoaster as Haley Steele smashed a homer, before Luna struck out her 10th batter of the game and 1400th of her career.
After Ceo and Hoagland connected to send home teammates for a 6 -4 lead, Clark made a big decision entering the seventh. Knowing Arizona State head coach Clint Myers was calling Luna’s pitches to give his batters a heads up, she rotated Bruins into the circle.
“If you’ve seen Luna and you know her, she is about as good as anybody in the country when the bases are loaded so it’s tough,” Clark said. “But Bruins has been ready. They were two of the most patient hitters, and the timing was right to make a move. [Bruins] brought a different look to them and did a great job.”
Bruins struck out the first two batters, but big hitter Amber Freeman singled down the right field line to advance Cheyenne Coyle to third. Steele stepped back up to the plate and connected on another pitch, but this time Hoagland caught it to secure the win.
“We came out and attacked,” Clark said. “But I like it more mentally than physically. We’ll be ready to play tomorrow night, take it one day and one pitch at a time.”
Texas will face No. 1 Oklahoma at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night on ESPN2.
Blaire Luna has been the Longhorns’ ace each of the last four seasons. The local product from Bowie High School has led Texas to its first trip to Oklahoma City since 2006 and is making her Women’s College World Series debut Thursday evening against Arizona State, the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the 2011 WCWS champs.
Luna threw her eighth career no-hitter, the fourth she’s thrown this season and her first in the postseason in the Super Regional clincher against Florida State last Sunday, a 2-0 victory over the Seminoles. She took the loss against the Sun Devils in a 3-0 loss in mid-March but is among the hottest pitchers coming into the WCWS.
Take a look at how she compares against the other aces in Oklahoma City (all statistics are from before the WCWS began):
Keliani Ricketts (Oklahoma) – 31-1, 1.22 ERA, 311 K, 49 BB, 207.1 IP, .155 BAA (4-0, 2.19 ERA this postseason)
Ivy Renfroe (Tennessee) – 21-4, 1.71 ERA, 140 K, 46 BB, 143.2 IP, .201 BAA (4-0, 0.47 ERA this postseason)
Sara Driesenga (Michigan) – 30-7, 1.25 ERA, 234 K, 71 BB, 243.1 IP, .223 BAA (4-1, 1.46 ERA this postseason)
Kaitlin Inglesby (Washington) – 22-7, 1.87 ERA, 130 K, 38 BB, 168.1 IP, .228 BAA (1-0, 0.60 ERA this postseason)
Tatum Edwards (Nebraska) – 30-9, 1.81 ERA, 214 K, 134 BB, 240 IP, .193 BAA (4-1, 1.62 ERA this postseason)
Hannah Rogers (Florida) – 33-5, 1.48 ERA, 238 K, 83 BB, 255.1 IP, .193 BAA (5-0, 2.22 ERA this postseason)
Blaire Luna (Texas) – 30-5, 1.16 ERA, 384 K, 105 BB, 229.2 IP, .130 BAA (4-0, 0.97 ERA this postseason)
Luna has the best ERA among WCWS aces (1.16) and the most strikeouts (384) and leads the country with 11.7 strikeouts per seven innings. Only Inglesby (0.60) and Renfroe (0.47) have lower postseason ERAs among the eight aces in Oklahoma City than Luna entering the WCWS.
But Inglesby and Renfroe have No. 2 pitchers behind them that eat up a significant amount of innings. Renfroe’s younger sister, Ellen, is 17-4 with a 1.83 ERA this season, striking out 183 and walking 63 in 168 2/3 innings for Tennessee while Bryana Walker is 19-7 with a 2.81 ERA this year and got the win in four of five Washington’s victories between the Regionals and Super Regionals.
One thing that Luna has over the other seven WCWS aces, though, is the fact the she is coming into the WCWS having thrown a no-hitter in her last start. She struck out 13 and walked just one in that 2-0 win over FSU last weekend, tossing the third postseason no-hitter in school history (Cat Osterman has the other two, throwing them in back-to-back postseason games in 2005).
Here’s what has been said about Luna over the last few days:
“She was up there with the top pitchers we’ve seen. I would say, speed-wise, maybe not, but the fact that she could pick apart hitters to get us to consistently chase her junk, the fact that she could no-hit us after already facing us [Saturday] is pretty outstanding. She’s definitely she’s one of the top pitchers we’ve seen and there’s a reason she’s going to the [Women’s College] World Series.”
-Florida State center fielder Morgan Bullock
“She picked our weaknesses. I know, with me, she hadn’t thrown me too many drop balls the [Saturday] and she attacked me with them [Sunday] and I was chasing them. Props to her for making her adjustments. “
-Florida State left fielder Kirstin Austin
“You try not to talk about it. Because if you talk about it, you feel like you’re going to jinx it. Blaire strikes out a lot of betters so we try to stay in the moment and stay behid her. If we do get a ball, we just try to be ready for it.”
-Texas shortstop Taylor Tom
“Every opportunity we get to alleviate the pitch count for Luna is a good one. But Blaire gets better when she throws more and, to be real honest, we didn’t have her going as much so to me it was really impressive that she went Saturday night and came back Sunday and was sharper Sunday. We haven’t had that opportunity as of late. I think she’ll stay hot for us.”
-Texas head coach Connie Clark
“Her mental toughness, it’s not even comparable to what it was freshman year. She definitely has done a great job of growing mentally and physically.”
-Texas senior Kim Bruins
Watch Texas face Arizona State in its WCWS opener Thursday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.
Nobody on this year’s Texas team has any experience playing at the Women’s College World Series. It’s been seven years since the Longhorns made the trip to Oklahoma City.
But they have experience against several of the teams also making that trip this year. Texas beat Washington earlier this season and fell to Arizona State, who it will face Thursday at 6 p.m. at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
But there’s one team in Oklahoma City that the Longhorns can’t wait to get another crack at – top-seeded Oklahoma. The Sooners have four All-Americans on their squad, including two-time national player of the year Keilani Ricketts, who is 31-1 with a 1.22 ERA while hitting .375 with 13 home runs and 54 RBIs this season.
Oklahoma came to Austin and won two of three against Texas last month but the Longhorns would love to see them again in Oklahoma City.
“I want to play them again,” senior Kim Bruins said. “They beat us in conference but we know we were so close to beating [Ricketts] that when, I think, it really counts, we’ll get her."
In eight career games against Texas, Ricketts is 4-2 with a 4.06 ERA, striking out 56 and walking eight in 37 2/3 innings while holding the Longhorns to a .224 batting average. She has batted .300 with a two home runs and nine RBIs in those games, drawing 11 walks and boasting a 1.198 OPS in those contests.
If Texas, the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, beats fifth-seeded Arizona State, they would face Oklahoma on Friday night if the Sooners beat No. 8 seed Michigan on Thursday night.
“We took a game from Oklahoma. It’s not like those teams ran all over us,” senior Taylor Hoagland said. “This team is fearless. We’re not worried about any team on our side or the other side. We’re indifferent. If they weren’t great, they wouldn’t be there. That’s kind of how I feel about us, too.”
The Women’s College World Series may be an unfamiliar place for Texas, but Arizona State is not an unfamiliar opponent.
The Longhorns played the Sun Devils once this year, falling to ASU, 3-0, in their first game at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif. back in March. Junior Dallas Escobedo, who led Arizona State to a national title as a freshman in 2011, tossed a three-hit shutout in that game.
“Dallas Escobedo, she has a great rise ball. She’s a great pitcher,” senior Taylor Hoagland said. “She’s been there before. That’s one thing they have on us is experience but that doesn’t matter. It could be anybody’s game at any point in time so we’re really excited.”
Hoagland is one of four seniors – the others being pitcher Blaire Luna, outfielder Torie Schmidt and utility player Kim Bruins – on this Longhorns squad, which is making its first trip to Oklahoma City since 2006. Texas was bounced out of the Regionals in 2010 and 2011 before falling to Oregon in the Super Regionals last year in heartbreaking fashion.
But the Longhorns, the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, are back at the WCWS for the first time since Cat Osterman toed the rubber for them. They will face the Sun Devils, the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City on Thursday at 6 p.m. The winner will play either top-seeded Oklahoma or No. 8 seed Michigan on Friday night.
Just because they haven’t been there in a while doesn’t mean they didn’t expect to be there this season.
“Every single year,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I don’t really think it’s ego. I think you should have that expectation every year as a coach. Anything less is a disappointment for us. When we hit the recruiting trail, we sell that and we talk about it. It’s not lip service. We need to get the type of student-athletes that can take us there every year.”
Luna has been very sharp this postseason, going 4-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 29 innings. She capped off Texas’ Super Regional series win over Florida State by throwing her eighth career no-hitter – the first during the postseason – while striking out 13 and walking only one. Luna goes into the WCWS as arguably the hottest pitcher in the eight-team field.
“It’s definitely our time,” Luna said. “We’ve played some of those teams and we’ve kept up with them. We took one from Oklahoma, we beat Washington and the Arizona State game was a close one. I definitely think we have all the key factors.”
Luna was one of three Texas players who were named AFCA All-Americans this week. Luna and Hoagland were named first-team All-Americans while shortstop Taylor Thom, who hit a two-run home run in Sunday’s 4-0 win over the Seminoles, was named a third-team All-American.
“We’re peaking right now,” Thom said. “The World Series is a totally different atmosphere. It’s just going to be an amazing feeling.”
Texas is making its fifth trip to the WCWS. Its last WCWS win was a 2-0 victory in its 2006 opener at Oklahoma City – against Arizona State.