Connie

Sophomore pinch hitter Mickenzi Krpec has been effective coming off the bench for the Longhorns, hitting .286.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

It’s a stressful situation, stepping into the batter’s box with fans and teammates shouting your name.

When it’s the bottom of the seventh, your team is trailing and you’ve been on the bench the entire game, the pressure multiplies. It’s not easy stepping into that situation and doing exactly what half the stadium expects and the other half hopes you won’t achieve.

That’s why sophomore Mickenzi Krpec is an asset to the Texas softball team, head coach Connie Clark said.

“It takes a special person to be able to come in and pinch hit,” Clark said. “It’s very much a different role than being a starting [player] or being on defense and offense at the same time, and I really think she’s a tremendous pinch hitter.”

Krpec has appeared in 26 games this season, and she came off the bench as a pinch hitter in all but seven games. With a .286 batting average and a .468 on-base percentage, Krpec has developed into Texas’ go-to pinch hitter when someone in the lineup is struggling.

Krpec notched her first career home run in late February against Lamar. A few weeks after, she blasted a pinch-hit, three-run home run against Arkansas to spark a comeback that resulted in an 8–6, eight-inning Texas victory. Shortly after, she came off the bench once again to produce a walk-off, two-RBI single against UTSA.

“I’m just going out there and getting my job done,” Krpec said. “It’s nice that my team has faith in me in those kinds of situations, and it makes it a lot easier because they have all the confidence in the world in me.”

The consistency of Krpec’s production earned her a spot in the starting lineup as a designated player in two of Texas’ Big 12 conference series match-ups. She started in two games against Kansas and in the final game of the series against Oklahoma.

Krpec approaches her at-bats the same way whether she’s in the starting lineup or coming off the bench. Although she doesn’t see the pinch-hitter role as an ideal one to have, she looks at her job with an open mind.

“I guess there are pros and cons,” Krpec said. “Pros are that you get to watch everyone else and see how they do, and you get your chance to go up there with all of the information they’ve given. And when you’re in the starting lineup, you’re the one that has to give the information to other people and learn to adjust. Both roles are difficult, I think.”

Texas will take on UT-Arlington on Wednesday in a game Krpec has dubbed a confidence booster after Texas’ tough series
against Oklahoma.

The Longhorns (27–12) have had success following defeats, boasting a 7–4 record in games following a loss. The Mavericks (26–19) will use their .335 team batting average to try and defeat Texas, who holds a 22–2 record in games between the two programs.

First pitch will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Red & Charline McCombs Field, and the game will be aired on
Longhorn Network.

Seniors Taylor Hoagland and Kim Bruins share a laugh during a home game last year. Hoagland hit 18 home run and scored 59 runs last seasons, both school records, while her 44 career home runs and .674 career slugging percentage are also school records. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

“Taylor!”

A yell rings through UT’s Red and Charline McCombs Field, as the breeze sweeps through the hair of women’s softball players during practice.

Lined up in pairs to warm up arms, no team member flinches.

“Tay!”

Finally, a response: “Yes?” Taylor Hoagland asks.

Although she shares a name with fellow Taylors — Thom and King — Hoagland, a senior, has no trouble distinguishing herself when she steps up to the plate. Hoagland smacked 18 home runs last season, bringing her career total to 44, a school record and 12 shy of the Big 12 record. Her .674 career slugging percentage stands at eighth all-time in the Big 12. Her 59 runs scored ranked second last season in the Big 12 and 12th in the league. It’s a career just about any player would be satisfied with, but Hoagland didn’t stop there come summer.

Claiming she “took a break,” Hoagland’s few months off organized softball helped her train in atypical ways: physically, by way of preparing for a triathlon and mentally, by coaching 18-year-old select players on Dallas’ Mizzuno Impulse softball team. 

“I’ve been coaching for four years and each year I come back to [head coach Connie] Clark and say, ‘Oh, so this is how you feel when you say this and this is why you do those things,’” Hoagland said. “Coaching has helped make me a better communicator and notice the small details to be able to help other people.”

Clark seized Hoagland’s rounded experience to appoint her team captain this year. She also intends to adjust her role in the lineup, as Hoagland’s college outfield experience followed a high school career as an infielder.

“You’ll see Taylor playing a lot of third base this year so that’s a different look for us,” Clark said. “She’s our emotional leader and plays with a lot of passion. We have a lot of young ones and a philosophy. We want them ready in two positions. We are putting the puzzle pieces together.”

Clark looks to seniors like Hoagland to set the tone for the team’s younger players, believing the upperclassmen have “sold” the newcomers on their philosophy to “go out, play hard and leave it all on the field.” Hoagland works to set that tone, fueling the fire with the sting of last year’s loss to Oregon in regionals. Yet she sees the efforts as twofold. 

“As seniors, we’re all hungry and it’s our last go-around — we really want to make it to the World Series,” Hoagland said. “We’ve been working all fall and we are a young team but the young ones are ready to go. They’re really mature for a freshman class, they’ve picked up what we do really fast and they’re just as eager to learn as we are to teach.”

Although Hoagland said she pays little attention to preseason polls, she feels the team has much to give. Touting freshmen Holly Kern and Erin Shireman as strong hitters, she also mentioned Stephanie Ceo’s speed advantage.

“We have speed, we have depth, small ball, long ball, power hitters, versatility hitters,” Hoagland said. “Everyone can do a lot of different things so you never know.”

As the season approaches, Hoagland looks forward to twelve Top 25 opponents, especially OU, with a new approach.

“I changed my hitting style a little bit so hopefully it will come around,” Hoagland said. “Seeing the ball better, loading different — no big physical changes but a whole different mental outlook. I was ready to play another game as soon as the last one ended, so I’m ready to get another start.”