Amy Hooks

Softball: Texas draws 3rd seed in NCAA tournament

Texas draws 3rd seed, hosts regional

Texas has received a number three seed in the NCAA tournament, and will host a regional from May 20-22 at Red and Charline McCombs Field.  The field is made up of 64 teams, and splits them into 16 regional pods that play in a double elimination bracket style tournament to advance to the next round.

The other teams in the Austin regional are Texas State (33-23), Houston (40-16), and Louisiana Lafayette (49-9). This is a favorable draw for Texas as they have already beaten Houston and Texas State on the year, and they will be playing in front of their home crowd, a place where they have only lost 3 times on the year. 

However Texas should not overlook these teams, as this is the exact round the Longhorns lost in last year, in the same situation as well hosting their own regional in Austin. Though after falling short of the Big 12 title look for the Longhorns to come out hungry and motivated to move into the next round.

 

Texas wins 9 All Big 12 awards

Texas received nine All-Big 12 selections’ yesterday the most in the Big 12, including seven All-Big 12 team honors, and Big 12 Player of the Year, and Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

Senior Amy Hooks was the recipient of the Big 12 player of the Year award, the first ever Longhorn to win in that category. Hooks was a definition of a team leader on the year hitting .338 with 12 home runs and 35 RBI’s, on top of playing near perfect defense behind the plate.

Taylor Thom was the selection for the freshman of the year award, and is the sixth winner of the award in Texas history, following Blaire Luna from the previous year. Thom hit .356 on the season with 11 home run and 41 RBI’s.

Hooks, Luna, Thom, and sophomore Taylor Hoagland were selected to the All-Big 12 first team. While freshman Brejae Washington, junior Lexy Bennett and junior Nadia Taylor were chosen for second team accolades.   

Taylor Hoagland, 6, congratulates Mandy Ogle, 5, in a recent game for Texas. Hoagland set the Longhorns’ career record for home runs with her 37th homer in Saturday’s 13-6 win over Kansas.

Photo Credit: Raveena Bhalara | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns found their way back to the win column this weekend. After struggling for a few games, Texas swept their three game series against Kansas.

The Texas offense proved too tough for the Jayhawks as they scored 32 runs over the three games. The Longhorns tallied a total of 24 hits in the series and gave up 23. With 12 games left in their 2012 season, the team, led by senior Lexy Bennett, bumped their record to 35-5 and 9-3 in conference play.

The Longhorns were obviously ready to get back on their feet after a disappointing series against Missouri and Texas Tech this past week.

Friday consisted of a doubleheader between the Longhorns and the Jayhawks due to impending bad weather. In the first game, the Longhorns, led by Nadia Taylor, took the lead early and kept it. After two innings, Texas was up 3-1 where it stayed until the later innings when the team scored nine more to bring up the total to 12 runs. Taylor, a senior out of Humble, went 2-3 with two home runs and four RBI’s to help lead the team to their first victory in over a week.

The second game on Friday proved just as promising for the team. While Texas started strong, scoring three in the first two innings, the Jayhawks held their ground, tying the game up after two. At one point Kansas even took the lead where they held it until the Longhorns recovered it in the top of the sixth.

Saturday was a record breaking day for the Longhorns. As they finished the series with a 13-6 win, junior Taylor Hoagland set a new Texas career record for home runs. The Flower Mound native came into the game tied for the record but hit her 10th and eleventh home runs of the season Saturday, passing Amy Hooks, who held it before her.

“It feels great,” Hoagland said. “I was just working through some things today. I just applied those adjustments in the two games yesterday and came out and achieved my goal.”

The third baseman also showed satisfaction with her team over the weekend as they tallied three more wins. While the three game losing streak was a learning experience for the team, she’s happy it’s over.

“I think our team hit the ball in fantastic fashion throughout the series,” Hoagland said. “We really hit well across the board this weekend. [The losing streak] was a humbling experience and a wake-up call for us. It was an eye-opener for us and made us realize there is a lot to be done. It’s a good starting point for us.”

With the true Longhorns back and ready to go, the team looks to continue putting up these wins. The team will travel to Waco for a one-game stand against conference rival Baylor on Wednesday. Texas looks forward to the road ahead as they battle for a top spot, not only in the conference, but in the national rankings.

Printed on Monday, April 16th, 2012 as: Hoagland, Taylor leads barrage at KU

Amy Hooks, left, has been a calming presence for sophomore pitcher Blaire Luna this year.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Amy Hooks has had four great years at Texas. In her time here, she has grown as a hitter and a catcher and become a force in the Longhorn lineup, becoming the all-time home run leader in Texas history last Saturday at Texas Tech.

Oddly enough, she didn’t even start out as a catcher. Hooks was a shortstop before donning the catching gear for her select team.

She decided to try catching after her coach suggested it after practice one day, and thanks to her love for a famous Texas Ranger, she gave it a shot. The rest has gone down in Longhorn softball history.

“Growing up I loved Pudge Rodríguez, and I was like ‘Anything to be like him,’ so I put on the gear and started catching,” Hooks said.

Getting the hang of the position was difficult for Hooks at first, especially blocking balls in the dirt. With practice, she has molded herself into the catcher she is today; one that has maintained a .997
fielding percentage.

“I can’t say that I’ve always had that fielding percentage because I know I used to have problems with blocking,” Hooks said. “I really give the credit to [Texas assistant coach] Megan Willis who took the time out to work with me. We’ve done drill after drill to get better at blocking, so all the credit goes to her.”

Hooks has also shown the same growth at bat, going from hitting a paltry .193 with three home runs her freshman year to batting .370 up to this point in her senior year, with 12 bombs.

So how did she go from batting below the Mendoza Line to being the all-time home run leader in Texas history? Hard work.

“Having a couple of years under your belt and knowing the level of the pitchers and the desire of wanting to have a great season, too, and to go out with a bang my senior year, I’ve just been putting in more effort and wanting to strengthen that part of my game,” Hooks said.

Perhaps the most important part of Hooks’ job description is being the field general for the defense and working with the pitchers to call the games.

“She does calm me down. She definitely helps my confidence and helps me to get through the situation, and I know she has a lot of faith in me, like I have in her,” said pitcher Blaire Luna.

Hooks excels at all parts of the game, and part of that all-around excellence comes from the fact that she thinks like a coach. That’s not surprising, considering she has aspirations to be one in the future.

“She’s going to be a great coach at some point,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “She’s always thinking of the next step, thinking big picture, and she has fun doing it.”

Despite all there is to praise about her game on the field, it doesn’t manage to fully describe what she means to the program, her teammates and her coaches. But Clark sums it up best when she talks about Hooks’ career in Austin.

“Amy Hooks is absolutely amazing, and I’ve thought a lot about it over the last few weeks, and I’m going to miss the heck out of that kid,” she said. 

Texas freshman Rachel Fox swings during Texas’ 3-0 win over Texas Women’s University last week.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Sophomore all-American pitcher Blaire Luna tied for the lead in the NCAA for complete game shutouts. Luna fired her 14th shutout of the season and 25th of her career in the Longhorns’ 3-0 victory against the 17th-ranked Baylor Bears. Luna lowered her ERA to .91 on the season while striking out 10 and walking three.

Luna’s ERA ranks second best in the Big 12. The Texas defense gave up three hits on the night but was able to prevent a Baylor score without an error. This victory brought Luna to a record of 25-2 on the season and is the 55th victory of her career. The third-ranked Longhorns are now 43-4 on the season and remain undefeated at 12-0 in conference play.

“I felt good with my performance,” Luna said. “I definitely was just trying to stay focused and get ready in the bull pen and come out and be effective.”

The Texas offense started off the night slow but ended the game strong, with three runs off of nine hits. The scoring seal was not broken until the top of the fourth inning, when an RBI single by the sophomore first baseman Kim Bruins brought home senior Amy Hooks. After breaking the Texas career home run record against Texas Tech last weekend, Hooks took it one step further by firing a solo home run during the top of the fifth inning. This home run marks the 12th of the season for Hooks and the 35th of her career. Hooks led the offense against the Bears with a 2-for-4 performance Wednesday while scoring a total of two runs and was responsible for one RBI, raising her batting average to .370 on the season.

Bruins also had a productive night on offense with two hits and an RBI. She extended her current hitting streak to five games, which is the best streak of her career.

“Our offense is just amazing because once somebody starts hitting, it spreads to everybody else,” said freshman shortstop Taylor Thom. “If you do not get the at-bat you want, the person behind you will. It is all about heart and drive, and we want to win ball games.”

Up next for the Longhorn’s is the 15th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners this weekend in Austin. Tickets are almost sold out for one of the most anticipated games of the season.

“I am really looking forward to the OU game,” said freshman outfielder Brejae Washington. “The Big 12 is actually better than it has ever been, and I cannot wait for that game.”

UTSA at No. 5 Texas

Senior Raygan Feight bats against Texas Woman’s University on Wednesday. Feight has started 40 games this year and has become one of the Longhorns’ leaders both on and off the field.

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

When Raygan Feight steps up to the plate, the crowd takes notice. Instead of the traditional stadium chant of “Texas Fight,” the crowd shows its support for the senior with an enthusiastic cheer of “Raygan Fight!”

For a young Texas team, the coaches value the leadership and experience of the senior class. At the beginning of the season, head coach Connie Clark talked about the importance of conveying last year’s disappointing finish to the freshmen, and left the task up to the three seniors on the roster. Clark’s warnings have worked so far, as the Longhorns have cruised to a 41-4 record and remain undefeated in Big 12 play 11 games in.

Feight took that message to heart. This year, she and catcher Amy Hooks are the only two senior regular starters.
Freshman shortstop Taylor Thom said Feight has been like a big sister to her both on the field and off.

“I take pride in trying to be a leader to these girls since I have been here for three years,” Feight said. “I want to be that communicator on the field and that leader that everyone can look up to — a role model.”

Feight’s .207 average may not be the best on the team, but she has contributed plenty to the offense. This past weekend, Feight went 3-3 in game one against Texas Tech. It was her first multi-hit game of the season and she also scored two runs. She makes up on defense what she lacks in offense.

“I think she is one of the best defensive players we have had come through the program,” Clark said.

Going into the weekend, Feight had a .991 fielding percentage, which is second best on a team that leads the Big 12 and the country in fielding. As a junior, she started every game in the infield and has started in 40 games this season while only committing one error so far. According to Clark, Feight has the ability to take command and can effectively communicate on the field while building confidence among her teammates. Feight is filling the leadership role left vacant by Lauren Johnson, who graduated last year.

“It was a big part for me to come here and follow Lauren Johnson’s lead,” Feight said. “I told the coaches that is what I wanted to do — take over that spot and be that role model.”

Feight is also becoming a role model for children.

After a series against Iowa State, Feight took control of the infield during a clinic hosted by the Longhorns for youth in the Austin area. The young softball players were able to learn how to properly field ground balls and how to improve their throwing technique. No one on the staff was surprised to see Feight leading that portion of the clinic.

Feight and the No. 5 Longhorns host UTSA tonight before heading to Waco for a mid-week conference game against Baylor on Wednesday. 

Team explodes for 36 hits over two-day stretch, keeps them undefeated in Big 12

Texas senior Amy Hooks watches the ball fly toward the outfield earlier in the season. Hooks made history for Texas, becoming the team’s all time home run leader with a pair of homers in Friday’s game

Photo Credit: Trent Lesikar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas just keeps rolling in Big 12 play, and it doesn’t seem that anything can stop them, even a 5-1 deficit against the best hitting team in the country.

The Longhorns found themselves down quickly against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Saturday, as freshman Rachel Fox was chased from the mound in her shortest outing of the year, after allowing four runs in one inning.

However, the Longhorns had one of the best pitchers in the country in relief, All-American Blaire Luna, and she shut down the Red Raiders the rest of the game, only allowing one run in six innings of work.

From there, the Longhorn offense took over the game, going off for 18 hits and nine runs on the day. 

The key inning for the team was the fourth. They came into the inning down 5-3, but they would leave the inning leading for good.

Freshman Brejae Washington started it off for the team with a one-out bunt single and was later driven in by senior Amy Hooks. Hooks was immediately followed by junior Nadia Taylor, who finished the rally in the inning with a two-run home run to put the team up 6-5.

Freshman Taylor Thom led the attack for the Longhorn order, recording a Longhorn single-game record of five hits on the day, along with two runs scored and one RBI to round out her stat line. Washington and Taylor also were spark plugs for the team, adding three hits each to the team’s 18-hit total.

Texas did not have to come back in such tough fashion on Friday against the Raiders, as the team dominated throughout. The team set a new Texas record, with seven home runs on the day, which helped Texas jump all over Tech 15-2.

The Longhorns quickly put the throttle down on the game, coming out in the first with three runs, thanks to a two-run homer from Thom and a solo shot from Hooks.

From there, Texas would never relinquish the lead, thanks to another stellar performance from Luna, who posted her 22nd complete game of the year, holding the potent Red Raider offense to two runs.

Hooks was the headliner for the Longhorns offense, going 3-for-4 on the day with a pair of home runs. The two home runs she blasted in Lubbock made her the all-time leader in homers in Longhorn history, with the 34th dinger of Hooks’ career passing Desiree Williams.

Senior Raygan Feight also had an excellent day at the plate, with a season-best three hits, and sophomore Taylor Hoagland propelled the lineup as well, with a career-high five RBI at the plate. The weekend wins push the Longhorns to 41-4 on the season and 11-0 in Big 12 play. The win on Friday made Texas the second team in the country to reach 40 wins on the season.  

The Longhorns rewrote several pieces of the school record book in their two-game sweep of Iowa State during the weekend. First, Texas senior Amy Hooks moved up to third in career homers, with a two-run blast on Saturday, and all-American pitcher Blaire Luna threw a complete-game shutout to give the team a 3-0 victory. Also in the weekend’s first game, junior Lexy Bennett moved into first in the single-season runs-scored list when she plated her 49th run of the 2011 campaign.

Then, on Sunday, freshman pitcher Rachel Fox earned the 6-1 win for Texas as freshman Brejae Washington hit a triple in the second inning, tying a record for the most in a single season by Texas.

The wins pushed the third-ranked Longhorns to a record of 37-4 on the season and 9-0 in the Big 12.

In game one, Hooks shined on offense as she went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and one run scored. Hooks is now third in UT record books, with 31 career homers.

Luna gave up only two hits while striking out 11. Her performance lowered her season ERA to 0.88, second best in the Big 12. Although Luna gave up two hits in the game, she remained perfect going into the fourth inning. Luna is now tied for first in the Texas book, with 51 career victories.

“That was one of Luna’s best games of the year,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “I think that and against Washington are the two best we’ve seen just in regards to movement and command with every pitch in her arsenal.”

In the weekend’s second game, Fox gave up three hits and one run late in the game, but her performance was enough to chip away at opposing batters and to keep the Cyclones at bay through seven innings. Despite the victory, Clark was a little less satisfied with her team’s performance Sunday.

“I do not think the score indicates that we had to work through some things,” Clark said. “I thought our energy waned a little bit, but it is good to get the win. We talked about that. You got to be ready to go and keep the energy throughout the game.”

The defense behind Fox made several key plays, including a diving catch by center fielder Washington that flattened any momentum created by Iowa State. However, the Texas defense was not without error.

“There were phenomenal defensive plays, especially early in the game,” Clark said. “But there were a couple of routine plays that we didn’t make later in the game. You don’t ever want to extend innings for your opponents — It’s just something about energy and focus.”

After a disappointing midweek loss to Stephen F. Austin, the Longhorns were eager to get back into conference play and extend their current conference win streak.

“That’s always important because we are looking to win the Big 12 this year,” Washington said. “Staying undefeated [in the Big 12] and not being content with a loss like that and being able to battle with Iowa State was a great win for us today.”

The fifth-ranked Longhorns traveled to Lincoln to play at Nebraska for the last time as a conference opponent, as the Huskers exit the Big 12 to head to the Big Ten after this season. Texas provided a rude going-away gift in the form of two late-inning, one-run victories over the weekend, including Sunday’s exciting 4-3 win in which senior catcher Amy Hooks scored the go-ahead run by stealing home.

Texas went into the seventh inning of Sunday’s game down two runs to the 12th-ranked Cornhuskers but was able to battle back and tie the score at 3-3, thanks to a two-run homer off the bat of sophomore Taylor Hoagland.

After Nebraska failed to finish off the Longhorns in the bottom of the seventh, the game went into extra innings.

Hooks started off the top of the eighth with a double into the left-field corner, then junior Nadia Taylor drew a walk. Torie Schmidt was called out after that, but then freshman Mandy Ogle was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

With her teammates at first, second and third and one out, senior Raygan Feight came up to the plate and was given the sign for a suicide squeeze, an offensive play where the batter bunts toward first base expecting to be thrown out and the player on third leaves the base early trying to score.

Feight botched the squeeze, missing the pitch, but Hooks was still headed for home on the play, and thanks to some crafty base running, she was able to score and put Texas ahead by one.

Then Blaire Luna was able to sew up the victory for Texas with a scoreless bottom of the eighth inning. Luna threw 5.2 innings of no-run relief after freshman Rachel Fox struggled early, allowing four runs in 2.1 innings of work.

In the first game of the weekend series on Saturday, the Longhorns were locked in a 0-0 pitcher’s duel as they headed into the seventh inning. Texas had only mustered one hit up to that point in the game, in the form of a Hooks single, and it was Hooks who once again stepped up in the seventh, this time in the form of a solo home run over the center-field wall.

The homer was more than enough support for Luna, Saturday’s starter, who went out in the seventh inning and shut Nebraska down. Luna delivered the one-run victory in her 11th shutout of the season, only surrendering two hits and three walks and striking out eight.

The pair of victories moves Texas to 34-3 on the season and 7-0 in Big 12 play, and it will look to continue its 18-game win streak on Wednesday against Stephen F. Austin.  

 

Amy Hooks is a solid player on a very talented Texas team. Hooks produced two hits and three RBIs and scored one run in the Longhorn’s 12-0 and 10-2 victories against Kansas. She just does what is needed offensively. 
 
During the fourth inning, her single to lead off the inning turned into a run, and a sacrifice bunt in the fifth placed junior Lexy Bennett in scoring position for the game-winning run. Her .342 batting average may not be the highest on a team of explosive hitters, but it’s her work behind the plate that sets her apart.
 
“I don’t think we could ever be in a better position than we are in to have somebody like Amy Hooks as a senior back there,” said head coach Connie Clark. “She’s tremendous. She’s certainly an important piece to our puzzle this year.”
 
Sophomore starting pitcher Blaire Luna began the Sunday afternoon game rusty. In the first inning, after giving up two runs, walking one and hitting a batter, it was Hooks that helped to turn her around.
 
“I just tell her to relax and stay focused,” Hooks said about her conversations with Luna. “One thing we say is to stay pitch to pitch. If I call a time, I’m just relaxing her and telling her to not get frustrated with the outcome and to keep staying with her game plan.”
 
Hooks also has good communication with her infield. During the top of the second inning, an attempt by the Jayhawks to steal second base was thwarted by a quick throw from Hooks to senior Raygan Feight at first base. Although the runner barely made it safely back to first and the out was not achieved, Hooks’s quick thinking and accurate communication with her infield kept the runner on first and prevented Kansas from scoring.
 
“I think this year is one of best years that we have had with communication, and it’s every player, even the outfield,” Hooks said. “Everybody is talking during every play, before every play and after every play. It’s great to hear everybody involved.”
 
Hooks’s performance this weekend was not an anomaly. Luna commented that Hook’s consistency and knowledge of the game was an important factor in the Longhorns’ win.
 
“We were on the same page throughout the entire game. She knew what I wanted to throw and knew when to give me time to let go.” Luna said. 

While most Texas students were enjoying their spring break, the Longhorns were hard at work winning another tournament title in California last week. Texas went 4-0, including a 12-0 drubbing of a previously undefeated Washington squad as the Longhorns won by virtue of the mercy rule.

“The Washington game was really fun, we thought we had a great chance of winning the game, but we came out and run ruled them and it was awesome,” said sophomore Torie Schmidt.

As impressive a win as it was for the Longhorns, an individual performance in that game managed to steal the show. Sophomore All-American Blaire Luna pitched the first perfect game of her career, shutting down a Washington team that entered the game hitting .406, and stamping her name into to the Texas record books.

“It was awesome, especially being my first one and to do it against such a great team, it was so cool to see how excited everyone was for me,” Luna said. “I think it’s awesome that I got it, but the majority of [the credit] goes to my offense, defense and [catcher] Amy [Hooks]. Just being on the same page with her really helps.”

Coming into the tournament, Luna was by no means struggling with a record of 10-2, but was working through quite a few aspects of her game on the mound. Luna employed a new pitch that she developed during the summer and focused on sharpening the mental aspects of her game to become a better all-around pitcher.

“I know that we had some athletes working through things — specifically Blaire,” said head coach Connie Clark. “I know that’s the main thing that we talked about when we were done; that you have to keep putting in the work and stay consistent. She’s done that over the last few weeks, but still hasn’t had back-to-back outing where she was feeling great.”

Out in California, Luna definitely seemed ready, going 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Those three games included 19 innings of work, 30 strikeouts and mostly empty base paths as she only allowed nine runners to reach base in those three outings.

Luna’s dominating performance earned her national player of the week awards from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and USA Softball.

“Being named national player of the week is a great honor and I am very proud to earn this award for the Texas softball program,” Luna said. “It would not be possible to win an award like this without our great offense, fantastic defense and the excellent pitch-calling and support of my catcher Amy Hooks. With such a great group of players around me it makes it easy to excel in
the circle.”

These weren’t the only two accolades that Luna received in the past week. She was one of 12 athletes that were invited to compete for a spot on the U.S. national team this summer, giving her the opportunity to represent her country on the international stage against the best competition in the world.

Despite how important all the awards are to Luna and her personal resume, Luna and her teammates will take away something much more important than trophies from the
week — confidence.

“I think it will help us more than anything confidence-wise,” the pitcher said.

Luna and the Longhorns will look to continue to roll forward brimming with newly found confidence today. The eighth-ranked Longhorns face Texas A&M Corpus Christi in a double header, with the first game starting at 5 p.m.