Brejae Washington

With her 246th career base hit, senior center fielder Brejae Washington broke Texas' school record Sunday against Oklahoma State. The Longhorns stole the series with a 3-0 win Sunday.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

It took almost the entire weekend, but senior center fielder Brejae Washington finally broke the Texas career hits record Sunday against Oklahoma State.

Washington reached on her signature bunt base hit for her 246th career base hit, passing Lexi Bennett for first on the Texas all-time hit list.

“It felt good to finally get it over with,” Washington said, after her teammates pied her in the face to celebrate.

Washington added a second-inning RBI to help Texas come back from a tough Friday loss to secure a series victory with a 3-0 win over Oklahoma State on Sunday.

“No team is going to lay down, so to come back after that and pull off the series win — we couldn’t ask for more,” Washington said.

Washington, who had a hit in each of the first two games of the series to tie the record, used her speed and the perfectly placed bunt to get to first base without a throw in the first inning. Head coach Connie Clark said she was excited for Washington, who also holds the program record for stolen bases as well when the hit came.

“She’s … just processing and continuing to not get too anxious up there,” Clark said. “I’m sure it was in the back of her head, but she didn’t play like it.”

In the first game of the series, Texas held a 3-1 lead going into the top of the seventh, but Oklahoma State rallied with four runs in the inning to triumph 5-3. Saturday, the Longhorns shut down any chance of a repeat, scorching the Cowgirl’s pitching staff for 12 runs across two innings for a 12-1 run-rule win.

Sunday’s game looked eerily similar to Friday’s. The Longhorns scored all of their runs in the second inning, thanks to two walks and three big hits. The Cowgirls continued to threaten, loading the bases once, getting runners at the corners twice, but junior pitcher Gabby Smith kept them off the board. Smith said she just focused on competing whenever she got into a jam.

“I really just needed to compete out there and take it slow,” Smith said. “I got the outcome because of that.”

All hands were on deck this weekend for Texas. Sophomore first baseman Holly Kern injured her arm in a collision at first base Saturday, forcing freshman second baseman Kelli Hanzel to start her first career game on Sunday. Freshman ace pitcher Tiarra Davis threw 187 pitches in the first two games, and Smith came in to give her the day off.

Clark said the team’s depth has been a key part of its success this season.

“We don’t even call our bench players ‘bench players’; we actually call them ‘difference makers,’” Clark said. “There’s going to be a time when we have to tap into a difference maker or two or three, and that worked out well for us.”

Texas continues conference play Friday, hosting Kansas at 7 p.m.

Taylor Hoagland is congratulated by head coach Connie Clark during the Longhorns’ win against Houston.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

When junior catcher Mandy Ogle threw out her tenth base-stealer this season against Oklahoma last weekend, she was on a roll. No. 7 Texas had topped its first No. 1 team since 2006, and as the seventh inning came around, it looked to steal the series. Taylor Hoagland and Brejae Washington strikeouts left Texas runs away from the goal. But Ogle wasn’t going to focus on the past.

“Losing this hits us all pretty hard,” Ogle said. “But I think it’s going to light a fire underneath us and we’re going to come out next weekend and work hard.”

The Longhorns (42-6, 12-2) did just that in a three-game sweep against Texas Tech (29-24, 3-12) this weekend. Ogle’s fire propelled her to go 4-for-9 with a team-high five RBIs against the Red Raiders. She also caught two more stealing this weekend, totaling four tags in the last five contests.

Taylor Thom and Hoagland powered the offense Friday, accounting for five runs, five stolen bases and four hits. In the circle, ace pitcher Blaire Luna allowed only one hit in the first five innings. Paired with a four-run fifth inning, Texas led 8-0 when Holly Kern took the mound for Luna. But Kern nearly allowed the Red Raiders to tie the game, allowing six runs on five hits in the bottom of the sixth inning. Luna reentered in the seventh to retire the Red Raiders in order.

Saturday went more smoothly, as Kim Bruins allowed just one run off four hits for a complete game. A three-tiered Texas Tech staff couldn’t keep the Longhorns at bay — most notably Hoagland homers in the first and third innings. En route to a 4-1 victory, Washington scored as well on a two-for-three day to keep the top of the lineup strong.

Closing out Sunday, the Longhorns combined their weekend efforts for many repeats. Luna again struck out 10 as the Longhorns capitalized in the fifth for another 4-1 victory. But beyond the numbers, Texas reasserted itself as a Big 12 powerhouse after a tough weekend. Hoagland extended her on-base streak to 56-straight games with a .639 on-base percentage this season, while Luna joined Cat Osterman as the only Texas pitchers to fan 300 a season in three seasons.

Game Breakdown:

Innings 1-3: After Kim Bruins struck out two batters and another fouled out, Texas quickly found its way to the plate in the first inning. Taylor Hoagland and Brejae Washington both stole bases en route to the Longhorns’ first scores of the evening. The second inning saw little action as the Longhorns preserved their two-run lead. To start the bottom half of the third, Hoagland sent a changeup out left field. The Bruins added an RBI to bring Washington in to extend the lead to four. 

Innings 4-7: Bruins struck out two more in the fourth as she continued her dominance in the circle. Stephanie Ceo scored on a wild pitch in the fourth to cap off the scoring before three scoreless innings. Bruins and HBU’s Sarah Shotton both dominated in the circle through the last three innings as both teams saw little offense.  

By the numbers:

2: Illegal pitches by Houston Baptist starter Keely Shuler. 

10: Hoagland’s stolen base count as she added another one Wednesday night. She is the team’s leader in stolen bases on the season, two ahead of Washington and three ahead of Taylor Thom. 

19: Bruins’ consecutive scoreless innings to start the season. This is the longest consecutive scoreless streak in her career. Bruins has appeared in three games this season. 

38: Team stolen bases for the season, as Washington (8/8 for the season), Hoagland and freshman Taylor King outsmarted the Houston Baptist infield Wednesday. 

.583: Batting average for Ceo. Washington also boasts an average of .471 while Hoagland boasts a .419 average.

Senior Taylor Hoagland rounds the bases after launching a ball over the left-field fence. The solo homer in the bottom of the third was her third on the season. 

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

Kim Bruins recorded her third shutout of the season as the No. 6 Longhorns defeated Houston Baptist 5-0 for win number 12 in as many tries. This is the second-longest winning streak to open the season since the 2003 squad, led by recent Texas Sports Hall of Fame inductee Cat Osterman.

Bruins, who went the full seven while allowing seven hits and striking out seven, now has recorded 19 consecutive scoreless innings, the longest in her career, and is looking like the clear number two in the circle behind Blaire Luna.

“I am feeling pretty good,” Bruins said. “I’ve been working really hard this past year. I’m trying to focus on hitting my sports and letting my defense work for me.”

The Longhorns (12-0) opened the scoring in the first as Taylor Hoagland and Brejae Washington each singled, stole a base and scored on defensive miscues. Hoagland scored on an error as the Huskies tried to get Washington out on a bunt single. Washington came around and scored on an illegal pitch. 

Then in the third, after whiffing on a change-up earlier in the at-bat, Hoagland crushed another one off a blue Volvo in the left field parking lot for her third home run on the year.

“It’s just a Volvo, it will be OK,” Hoagland joked about after the game. “I recognized the change-up and missed it the first time and was looking for that pitch again. I got on top of it and drove it.”

Washington finished her day 2-for-2 with two runs scored as the top of the order did its usual damage. As a team the Longhorns recorded seven hits, stole four bases and made the most of opportunities while capitalizing on Houston Baptist’s two errors.

“We look pretty great,” Bruins said. “We’ve surprised ourselves, actually. We are all staying positive, trying to keep things under our control and trying to stay up every inning. I’d say it’s working out for us.”

The Longhorns have now out scored their opponents 41-0 over the last 19 innings.

The Longhorns will look to push the win streak to a program-best 17 this weekend in the Texas Invitational, sponsored by Time Warner Cable. Tulsa, Lamar and Utah State will be at Red & Charline McCombs Field for five games apiece. 

Sophomore Brejae Washington has been a key piece of TexasÂ’ lineup hitting .388 this season. Her speed is the key to her game as she set the single season record for steals last year as a freshman, and already has an inside-the-park homerun this year as well.

Photo Credit: Zen Ren | Daily Texan Staff

If you blink, you might miss her. She can turn a single into a triple and can easily beat the throw to first.

Sophomore Brejae Washington is a powerful force at the plate for the No. 6 Longhorns, but it is her speed on the field that sets her apart.

Tonight, Washington will get another chance to show off that speed as the Longhorns face the Sam Houston State Bearkats.

Last season as a freshman, Washington set the Texas record for stolen bases in a single season with 38. She also set the record for most triples in a game, at two, in the Longhorn’s win against Wisconsin last season. Washington also excelled at the conference level, sitting at first in the Big 12 with five season triples.

Washington excelled in both track and softball in high school, attracting many colleges. Even before she stepped foot on the 40 Acres, her quick feet excited the Texas coaching staff.

“[She] runs at a whole different level,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark after Washington signed her letter of intent to play at Texas. “She has tremendous speed. She is the fastest Longhorn we have ever had, and she will put serious pressure on the defense.”

Her speed has already been a blessing this season. In mid-February, the Longhorns were down 2-1 against No. 10 Tennessee in the bottom of the ninth inning when Washington stepped up to the plate. Washington laid down a solid shot right inside the fence at Red & Charline McCombs Field. What should have been a base hit turned into an in-the-park home run for the sophomore — a rare feat.

“I’ve only ever hit a home run like that in rec ball,” Washington said after the win. “The outfielders had been playing very close up to the infield, so I figured any gap I could hit into would be a triple. I was not expecting an inside-the-park home run though. I was looking for something down that I could drive.”

The Longhorns hope that they can use Washington’s speed to their advantage as they host Sam Houston State this weekend. The Bearkats, who are 1-10 for the season, have already given up 12 stolen bases. Washington leads the team in stolen bases with 10, and Texas has stolen a total of 36 bases this season.

The first game is slated for 5 p.m. tonight and will be aired on the Longhorn Network.

The Longhorns came out fast against UT-Arlington, putting up six runs in the first inning on their way to another run rule-shortened game.

Freshman Brejae Washington got the fireworks started for Texas on a solo home run to center that just snuck over the wall. The homer was the first of her collegiate career and was a different side of Washington, who is usually just a speedster for the team.

“Her riseball got up there just flat enough for me to get my hands up and pop it out. I was just looking for a base hit,” Washington said. “I didn’t even know it was going out until I had rounded first and was on my way to second. At best, I figured I might get a triple out of it. When I finally saw that it was going over, I was so excited.”

Following the Washington power display and a Taylor Thom walk, senior Amy Hooks stepped up to the plate and delivered a two-run dinger of her own.

The Longhorns weren’t done for the inning. After a pair of walks from Nadia Taylor and Torie Schmidt, junior Courtney Craig came to the plate and capped the inning off with a three-run shot of her own.

“For us to come out strong in the first inning like that got us some excitement and put us on our toes, and from there we didn’t want to get to content with that,” Washington said. “We just want to put the bat on the ball, and that’s what we were doing tonight.”

Craig had an excellent game in addition to that home run, going 3-3 at the plate with a pair of home runs and four RBIs. The second of the home runs came by the closest of margins, just sneaking over the left field foul pole.
“I kind of hesitated at the beginning, but it was fun to watch it sneak over,” Craig said.

The offense completed the onslaught in the sixth when Taylor hit a line drive single into right field that scored Washington, ending the game on the run rule and sending the Mavericks back to Arlington early.

Not to be forgotten in the wake of the offensive explosion was another complete game shutout from all-American pitcher Blaire Luna, who gave up only two hits while striking out 10 on the night, lowering her ERA to a microscopic 0.88.

“She had a good outing tonight, I think she had to work through some things, and I think it’s tough sometimes when your offense puts up six runs in the first it’s tough to stay focused,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “I thought in [the] fourth inning her focus waned a little bit, but she came right back in the fifth and sixth and put up a great performance.”

The Longhorns look to continue their offensive momentum gained from the win today against Texas Woman’s University tonight.

There are only 15 people on the Texas roster this season, making it one of the smallest teams in the country.

Of those 15, five are freshmen and four are sophomores, which makes it a very young team. Despite having few upperclassmen, the Longhorns have surged to a top-three national ranking and a 37-4 record. This success is in large part because of several key freshmen who have proven their value.

“Once they get underway we don’t call them freshmen anymore because we expect them to contribute right away,” said head coach Connie Clark.

This group has several members who have won starting positions. Shortstop Taylor Thom and center fielder Brejae Washington have each started most of the games this season while pitcher Rachel Fox rotates with sophomore Blaire Luna for the starting job
inside the circle.

“They’re put into the mix,” Clark said. “If a freshman beats out a senior for a position then so be it. I think that keeps the work ethic going and keeps the competitive fire going.”

Mandy Ogle has been learning from senior Amy Hooks and is preparing to start behind the plate once Hooks graduates this semester.

“They do a great job,” Clark said. “They are absolutely ready when called upon to play.”
The various differences between high school and college ball do not seem to faze this group.

“Being in college is a little different than it was in high school,” Fox said. “We play five games in a day and you have to be more mental and the hitters are a lot better.”

Fox came in as a two-time Gatorade player of the year to help Luna with pitching duties. She’s 16-1 with a 1.01 ERA, slightly lower than Luna’s stats. She has thrown 13 complete games and fanned 94 batters so far this season.

Thom and Washington have both led the offense on multiple occasions this season with a .336 and .374 batting average respectively. Thom ranks second on the team in RBIs. After starting out a little sluggish behind the plate, Thom quickly stepped up and her nine home runs and 38 hits have helped the Longhorns win some key games.

“To just play is amazing,” Thom said. “But to score runs and contribute to this team is really amazing.”

Washington is the fastest player recruited in the 15 years of Texas Softball. She can turn singles and doubles into triples and in the game against Wisconsin, Washington became the first person to record two triples in a single game in UT history. She leads the Big 12 in triples and ranks second in stolen bases with 30.

“It always feels good to play jackrabbit,” said Washington. “My role on the team is to run so it feels good to get the ball in play and be able to fill that role.”

Texas takes the field twice this week against non-conference opponents. Texas will host UT-Arlington on Tuesday and Texas Woman’s University, both at 6:30 p.m., before heading to Lubbock to face the Raiders on Friday.

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.”

Playing in front of one of the loudest crowds of the year, the 12th-ranked Longhorns were able to squeeze out one run victory in a game that was dominated by the pitchers.

This is the second-straight game that the team has played with a final score of 2-1; the difference being that Texas was able to come out on top in this contest.

“I love that it was tight. We had a tight game with LSU last Sunday, and we didn’t get the outcome,” said head coach Connie Clark. “You need a big atmosphere, and we had it again tonight. The crowd was great. We had some big moments when our back was against the wall, and I thought we managed the moments.”

Texas started out quickly taking advantage of its speed on the base paths, scoring a run early in the first, when sophomore Taylor Hoagland reached base with a bunt hit and quickly stole second. She advanced to third on an interference ruling, in a rundown situation, and then sped home when junior Nadia Taylor grounded into a fielder’s choice.

The next inning and a half went quietly with neither team managing a hit, but in the third, Texas was once again able to take advantage of its speed and generate a run. Freshman Brejae Washington led off the inning and was able to jump on a pitch driving a double into left. On the next pitch, she broke for third and easily stole the base, but the third baseman was not able to pick the throw, and Washington was able to score.

“Coach Clark had given me a steal sign on the first pitch, so my objective was to steal third, and they tell me I’m fast enough on a pass ball like that to just get up and continue on to the next base,” Washington said.

Washington’s run proved crucial in the game, as it went down as the winning run. Texas State was able to threaten a few times later in the game but only managed to push across one run, and left seven runners on base. Including in the fourth inning when they had the bases loaded with one out, but were shut down by freshman Rachel Fox, who forced a harmless pop fly and struck out the next batter to end the threat.

Fox’s ability to handle pressure was evident in the game, as she worked through multiple instances when Texas State was threatening with runners in scoring position, but was not able to take advantage of the opportunities.

“I love pressure situations. I think having the pressure situations that we do is great for us to grow as a team, and for [Amy] Hooks and I to grow as a battery,” Fox said.

Fox finished the game with her seventh complete game of the year and improved her record to 7-1 and is only going to keep getting better as she continues to see pressure situations like these.

“I loved it, especially as a freshman. The more that we can throw her under pressure like that and stay with her, the better. Obviously, her back was against the wall, and she came up big for us,” Clark said.

Softball

The Longhorns will face upward of 35 opponents, each with their own style this season. Oftentimes, they have less than a week to prepare for a game, which can be tricky, especially if they don’t play the opposing team regularly. Texas has developed an effective method for preparing for a game that has already proven effective for the undefeated Longhorns.

Step 1: They have to figure out their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. During the week prior to a game, the Longhorns watch video of their next opponent. They figure out how the other team bats — Are they conservative or risky? Are they right- or left-handed?  

“We’ll look at video and look at the hitter’s strengths and weaknesses,” said freshman pitcher Rachel Fox. “[We then pick] certain pitches to get the effects that we want.”

The Longhorns also learn about the pitchers they are facing. For example, Wisconsin’s starter Meghan Mcintosh is left-handed. That knowledge affects a right-handed and a left-handed batter differently.

“I think about what a lefty would normally throw to me on a daily basis,” said left-handed freshman Brejae Washington. “Probably an inside curve or something else inside.”

For a right-handed batter, it’s the opposite analysis.

Pitchers have a favorite set of pitches that they rely on. An experienced batter can use this knowledge to predict what pitch might be coming if the count is full or if the pitcher is desperate.

The coaches also have their own notes that come from additional videos or from experience playing the other team.
“Coach Clark has been here 15 years, so she has faced a bunch of the teams that we play,” Fox said. “She knows their weaknesses, and we try to focus on that and go right at them.”

Step 2: They put it into practice. To be able to perform in a game, Texas takes what it’s analyzed and applies it. Sophomore Taylor Hoagland stresses that using these notes and improving on past performances is crucial in practice.

Hitters also have the opportunity to prepare for a pitcher. Batters practice against a pitching machine that can imitate the opposing pitcher.

Pitchers and hitters are not the only positions analyzed. A poor infield can motivate a hitter to hit short ground balls to get a batter to first, while a great defensive team can lead to power hitting.

Step 3: The Longhorns apply what they have practiced to game-time situations. Game day ignites nerves in players regardless of experience level and can lead to mistakes.

“Mentally, you have [to] really be prepared so you don’t think as much and just play the game,” Washington said. “[You need to] react to different situations and be able to adjust.”

The proper mental outlook can come in different forms for different positions. A pitcher who is frazzled needs to remember to take each pitch as it comes. If she gives up a hit, she needs to be able to see that a new batter is a fresh opportunity to get an out.

For a hitter, analyzing past at-bats can help deal with future ones.

“Our coach gives us a batting book, and you take notes on your at-bat,” Washington said. “That way, if you mess up on your last at-bat, you can go back when you’re in the dugout waiting and look at those notes.”

A hitter has an advantage knowing what a pitcher is likely to throw and what she is not. Through this practice, a missed opportunity in one inning can turn into something much better next time.

Step 4: All of the preparation in the world may become useless when on the field. Games are as unpredictable as the weather in Austin, and what really matters is getting out there and dealing with the unexpected.

“Obviously, if they have a lot of slappers or a good catcher, we will try to work a little better on base running,” Hoagland said. “But really, it just comes down to playing the game.”