Holly Kern

Junior designated right fielder Holly Kern hit a grand slam in Wednesday’s 13-12 victory over Houston. Texas trailed by as many as seven runs, but four home runs helped extend its win streak to six games. Texas has won seven straight road games.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Longhorns fight from seven down to edge out Cougars. After a combined 26 hits and 25 runs, Texas defeated Houston, 13–12, Wednesday night to extend its win streak to a season-best six games and bring its record to 24–9.

The game was an old-fashioned Texas shootout from the get-go. In the top of the first, junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens, last week’s Big 12 Conference Player of the Week, sent one into the stands for a two-run home run to put the Longhorns on the board early. 

In the bottom of the inning, Houston senior shortstop Selena Hernandez countered with a two-run home run of her own to tie the game up heading into the second.

The second inning, which saw no runs scored by either team, was the calm before the storm.

In the top of the third, sophomore left fielder Stephanie Wong hit her second home run of the season to give the Longhorns a one-run advantage. The Cougars reacted quickly, scoring three runs of their own. 

Halfway through the game, the Cougars picked up their play, scoring five runs in the fourth. Down 10–3 heading into the fifth, the Longhorns began to fight back, swinging for the fences. With a couple quick hits and a generous error from the opposing team, Texas loaded the bases for junior right fielder Holly Kern. The pressure of trailing didn’t faze Kern as she hit a grand slam to cut the lead to 10–7 and put Texas back in the game.

Texas produced another strong inning at a crucial point in the game. Following a run by Wong, her third of the game, junior catcher Erin Shireman followed in her teammate’s footsteps and hit a home run of her own. Shireman’s three-run home run helped the Longhorns reclaim the lead for the first time since the third inning. 

But Hernandez hit her second home run of the night to tie up the game and send the Longhorns and Cougars into the seventh inning at 11 apiece.

A single by freshman third baseman Randel Leahy ignited the final flame for Texas in the top of the seventh. Off a pair of singles and a pair of bunts, Texas scored two quick runs to give the Cougars just three outs to make up the deficit in the final frame.

Freshman pitcher Kristen Clark and the rest of the Longhorns wasted no time stepping up on defense, forcing the first two batters to ground out. But Houston junior outfielder Katie St. Pierre pushed one last time. St. Pierre, who is hitting a team-best .367 on the year, doubled to left and scored on the next play to finish 2-for-4 with three runs and a walk.

Down one with one out left, Hernandez hit a single to put two on, but sophomore third baseman Shelby Miller grounded out to second to end the game and give the Longhorns the victory.

The Longhorns will seek their 25th win this Friday against Texas State in San Marcos.  

Junior first baseman Holly Kern played well at the Texas Classic. Kern had 15 RBIs and is batting .367 on the year.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Throwing out the first pitch Thursday night in Cathedral City, California, No. 25 Texas softball kicks off its five-game stint in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic against No. 8 Georgia. This marks the third of five straight tournaments in which the Longhorns will compete.

After a 7–3 record to start the year, Texas cracked the USA Today/NFCA polls at No. 25, joining two other Big 12 schools — No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor.

With the success so far, Texas hopes to keep progressing in the upcoming games.

“We’ll just keep rolling into next week,” junior first baseman Holly Kern said after the Longhorns’ 11–4 victory over Colorado State on Sunday. “We are going to see some good teams out in California, so it will be a good challenge.”

Kern posted a stellar performance in the Texas Classic. She recorded 15 RBIs, scored four runs, hit three doubles and added a home run to bring her batting average up to .367.

Swinging strong for the Longhorns, sophomore infielder Kelli Hanzel has hit .545 over the past five games with three RBIs, three runs and two doubles. Sophomore outfielder Stephanie Wong and junior catcher Erin Shireman lead the team with .414 batting averages each. Wong has also already stolen five bases, while Shireman has hit three over the fence.

Delivering all around offensively as a team, the Longhorns bat .338 and have outscored their opponents, 79–42. Texas is tied for the third-best start in program history for the number of home runs hit in the first 10 games of a season, as they have already launched 10.

From the circle, sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis continues to establish a dominant presence as the primary pitcher. Davis went 3–0 with 15 strikeouts last weekend with a couple of starts, as well as a relief showing. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Slatten has the lowest ERA of the four pitchers, and freshman pitchers Erica Wright and Kristen Clark have each shown sparks of greatness in their early performances. As a team, Texas maintains a 3.17 ERA and has recorded 59 strikeouts, 26 of which Wright has recorded.

After its match against No. 8 Georgia, Texas will play No. 12 UCLA, and, before the tournament ends, it will play two more ranked teams — No. 18 Missouri and No. 24 Notre Dame.

Freshman outfielder Stephanie Wong contributed to an 11-run sixth inning Wednesday night in San Marcos, scoring the second run of the inning. Texas won the game 15-6.

 

 

Photo Credit: Helen Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Texas trailed 6-4 in the sixth inning of Wednesday night’s game against Texas State in San Marcos. 

But then the offense delivered. Then delivered again. Then delivered some more. 

The Longhorns poured in 11 runs in the inning to take a commanding 15-6 lead, leading to a six-inning run rule.

Texas, in its seventh straight road game, improved to 28-18 on the season following the win. With the loss, Texas State fell to 22-27 on the season, having lost five of its last six matchups.

Texas jumped out to an early lead with three runs in the second inning off two hits and one Bobcat error. Texas State responded with five runs of its own in the following frame to take the lead, 5-3. Each team added a run in the fourth inning before Texas broke it open in the top of the sixth with 11 runs on eight hits to secure the victory.

Senior catcher Mandy Ogle doubled to right field to score freshman outfielder Stephanie Wong and even the game at six apiece. Freshman shortstop Devon Tunning followed up with a single to score sophomore first baseman Holly Kern before senior outfielder Brejae Washington tripled down the right field line to put the game out of reach. She would later come around to score on an illegal pitch — one of several unearned runs for the Longhorns.

Kern had a stellar performance at the plate, going 3-for-5 with three runs scored and one RBI. She led the Longhorns offensively. Washington continued what has been an impressive season thus far, adding two more RBIs and two more runs scored to stay atop the team leaderboard in both categories.    

Head coach Connie Clark elected to go to the bullpen early with freshman Tiarra Davis struggling. She gave up four earned runs in 2.1 innings. Junior Gabby Smith came in and picked up her 12th win of the season, allowing just one earned run on two hits while striking out five over 3.2 innings of work. Texas State’s senior pitcher Rayn House took the loss after surrendering 10 hits and five earned runs and fanning only two. 

Texas improved its record in road games this season to 11-2 and hopes to carry the momentum into Friday’s matchup against conference opponent Oklahoma State.

Senior first baseman Karina Scott has played only 18 games this season, but she provides leadership from the bench.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Karina Scott is a senior, but she doesn’t play nearly as often as her fellow classmates. Scott has started only 18 games in 2014, sharing the first base duties with sophomore Holly Kern.

But when she’s not on the field, Scott doesn’t lose focus on the game at hand. Instead, she watches and prepares for her intended career path as a softball coach.

“I don’t have any aspirations to continue playing, but my passion is behind the game and coaching,” Scott said.

In her three-plus years with the Longhorns, Scott holds a .276 batting average with 65 RBIs and 17 home runs. Scott, a Los Angeles native, is nearly flawless, covering first base with only five errors and a .990 career fielding percentage.

Scott’s biggest moment came in the Super Regional last year when Texas hosted Florida State. With the game tied 1-1 in the sixth inning of game one, Scott came through with an RBI double to give the Longhorns a 3-2 win. The next day, she opened the scoring with a solo home run in the fifth, part of a four-run inning that helped Texas return to the College World Series.

“[My favorite moment] was definitely getting the last out in the Super Regionals and making it to the World Series,” Scott said.

Scott continues to help the team with tips and encouragement, and she’s been especially helpful with the mental aspects of the sport, according to her teammates.

“She’s really helpful when it comes to my mental game and just believing in everybody,” senior outfielder Brejae Washington said.

Throughout her career, Scott has always helped the team behind the scenes. A month ago, Scott helped her competition, sophomore first baseman Holly Kern, with her footwork at first base.

“That just tells you that she’s an unselfish player,” head coach Connie Clark said.

Although her four years of eligibility will be up after the last out of the season, Scott still needs to finish her degree in youth and community studies. This will give her an opportunity to stay with the team in a different capacity.

“One of the amazing things that came out of these four years is that I will get to student coach here next year,” Scott said.

The Longhorn season is almost at a close. Texas will play its last nonconference game against Texas State tonight in San Marcos before finishing up Big 12 play against Oklahoma State, Kansas and Baylor.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Compared to past seasons, the start of the 2014 campaign has been bumpy.

Texas has, at times, looked like the team that ended a seven-year Women’s College World Series drought last season while, at other times, struggled to take advantage with runners in scoring position. The Longhorns have had winning streaks of four and six games and losing streaks of four and five games.

But, with conference play beginning this weekend, there’s a chance for the Longhorns to start anew with their the goal of winning their first Big 12 title since 2010. 

They’ll have one last chance to tune up for the conference schedule tonight against Houston.

This season hitting has generally not been an issue for the Longhorns. After this weekend, Texas ranked first in the Big 12 in batting average and second in on-base percentage. Sophomore right-fielder Lindsey Stephens leads the conference in home runs and total bases.

But the Achilles’ heel for the Longhorn offense is taking advantage of run-scoring opportunities. In 32 games, Texas has left 251 runners on base. On Feb. 12, against UTSA, the Longhorns loaded the bases in five innings but only managed to score two runs — both coming on an error and hit batter.

While it has improved in recent games — the Longhorns are averaging six runners left on base in the past five games — sophomore first baseman Holly Kern said it’s something the team continues to work on.

“I feel like we’re finally stringing things together and [getting] a little momentum on our side,” Kern said.

The struggles on offense haven’t helped out a pitching staff that’s been a concern for Texas after the departure of Blaire Luna and Kim Bruins.

Tiarra Davis, freshman pitcher and first-baseman, is the top candidate for the ace spot. She leads the team with a 2.36 ERA, 10 complete games and 91 strikeouts. Junior pitcher and utility Gabby Smith has also been solid this season with a 9-3 record and a 2.85 ERA in 73.2 innings.

While pitching is still a concern for head coach Connie Clark, she said that she has seen improvement in both Davis and fellow freshman Lauren Slatten.

“I think we’re seeing some very, very good things in [Davis], and we’ll bring Lauren along as well,” Clark said.

Texas will face Houston for the second time this season. The two teams met on March 6 in the Judi Garman Classic when Davis shutdown the Cougars in a 5-1 Longhorn win.

With Baylor approaching this weekend, Kern said the team is looking forward to conference play.

“We’re ready for the games to start counting and start playing those three-game series,” Kern said.

Senior outfielder Brejae Washington ranks second on the team with a .375 batting average and first in hits with 21.

Photo Credit: Jenna Von Hofe | Daily Texan Staff

At the beginning of the season, the offense was supposed to carry the Longhorns while a young pitching squad figured out how to replace the holes left by Blair Luna and Holly Kern.

But through 17 games this season, the offense has been inconsistent. After averaging 7.5 runs per game in their first four games — all wins — Texas has only scored seven or more runs in three of the last 13 games. The Longhorns have left 135 runners on base and have had at least the tying run at the plate in the last inning in seven of their nine losses.

The team will have a chance to improve its consistency this weekend at the Texas Invitational — its only tournament without a ranked opponent. Texas will host Texas Southern, Louisiana-Monroe and Southern Mississippi.

Louisiana-Monroe comes in with the best record of the four teams at 12-4, but has yet to beat a ranked opponent. Offensively, the Warhawks are led by freshman infielder Vanessa Garcia, who’s batting .439 with three home runs and 16 RBIs, while redshirt senior Samantha Hamby has dominated in the circle with a 7-1 record and a 1.75 ERA in 48 innings pitched.

Texas opened up the season in a fashion similar to the past couple of years, winning their first four games of the year — including three against ranked opponents — while averaging seven runs a game.

But the Longhorns’ last three games have been the opposite of their first four games. While pitching has kept them in the game, the offense has sputtered, failing to score five runs in each of the three games — all of which were losses.

Now 4-3, the Longhorns will host the Texas Classic and have the chance to end their recent skid.

The common denominator in Texas’ three straight losses has been the lack of offense, especially with scoring opportunities. In the three losses, Texas has left 31 runners on base, including 16 in the loss to UTSA on Wednesday. Against the Roadrunners, the Longhorns loaded the bases in five innings, but were only able to score two runs in one of those innings, both of which came from a hit batter and a fielding error.

“We need to attack our pitches early and not getting us deep into the count,” said sophomore pitcher and first baseman Holly Kern.

The inability to score has put Texas in a tough spot while the pitching staff works to find an ace. Considered a weak spot on the team coming into the season, the Longhorn pitchers have fared well so far giving up an average of  just four runs through seven games.

Head coach Connie Clark was impressed with how her pitchers approached the UTSA game.

“They were better on the things we were looking to be better at, which was attacking the strike zone and working ahead in the count,” Clark said.

Texas will have an opportunity this weekend to get back on a win streak, but it will be against stiff competition. Kentucky comes into the tournament undefeated — alongside IPFW — and ranked seventh in the NFCA poll.

Kern said the team knows the tournament will be a challenge, especially after the last couple of games, but it will also show how tough they are.

“It will definitely be a test to the character of this team to see how we do this weekend,” Kern said.

With sophomore outfielder Erin Shireman on deck, sophomore first baseman Holly Kern and the Longhorns whiffed in the home opener Wednesday night 4-2 to UTSA. After averaging six runs a game in its first sex games, No. 15 Texas struggled to score. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Getting runners on base was easy for the No. 15 Longhorns. Getting those runners across was another story.

Texas left 16 runners on base, while UTSA capitalized on its scoring opportunities as the Longhorns fell 4-2 for their first home-opening loss since 2007 Wednesday night. 

“We were getting runners on and we were making things happen, but we weren’t getting them in,” sophomore first baseman Holly Kern said.

After averaging six runs in its first six games, Texas (4-3) struggled to score with runners on base. The Longhorns loaded the bases in five innings, but only scored in one, leaving 16 runners on base. 

Kern said UTSA freshma starting pitcher Nicole Merril threw a number of off-speed pitches, which the Longhorns had trouble hitting in those key spots.

“We kind of needed to slow it down and look for that pitch and square it up,” Kern said. “And I don’t think we did a good job of that.”

UTSA (4-0) played a big part in contributing to Texas’ only two runs of the game, committing three errors in the second while Texas had just one hit in the inning.

The Roadrunners, on the other hand, took advantage of their opportunities. After trailing for most of the game, UTSA pulled within one in the fourth on a bloop RBI single and then seized a 3-2 lead on a two-run home run by junior catcher Megan Low.

“[Low] jumped on the first pitch and put a pretty good bat on it,” Smith said. “I kind of left it over the plate, and she hit it over.”

In the sixth, UTSA tacked on an insurance run with a triple followed by a sacrficial flyball.

Texas had a chance to tie the game in the seventh when freshman shortstop Devon Tunning and junior Marlee Gabaldon got to second and third, respectively, with one out, but senior outfielder Brejae Washington grounded out and sophomore Lindsey Stephens flied out to center field.

Junior pitcher Gabby Smith had a solid outing until the fifth inning. Smith had four strikeouts in five innings pitched.

Kern led what offense Texas had, going 2-for-4 and scoring the game’s first run of the game.

The loss is the third-straight defeat for the Longhorns, who began the year with four wins, including three victories against ranked opponents. Texas will be back in action this weekend, taking on Kentucky, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and Louisiana Tech in the Texas Classic.

Going forward, Smith said the team can’t look back at these past few losses.

“We just have to stay positive,” Smith said.

In the first ever meeting with the Hilltoppers, No. 8 Texas flexed its muscles with a 4-0 win. Ace Blaire Luna (19-1) carried the Longhorns taking a perfect game into the seventh inning. But after a walk to begin the inning, Luna struck out the next three hitters to secure her second no-hitter of the season.

This was the third time in program history that no-hitters were recorded in back-to-back games as the Longhorns combined for a four-pitcher perfect game Thursday against Texas Southern.

Luna was also struck out 16, one short of her career high.

On offense, the Longhorns were able to get runners on all day, but couldn’t push any of them home until the sixth inning.

In the sixth, Kim Bruins and Mandy Ogle combined for consecutive hits to start the inning. After an error on Torie Schmidt’s ball, the bases were loaded for Karina Scott. On a 2-0 count, Scott broke the tie with a grand slam.

 

Sunday:

Freshman Holly Kern pitched a beauty Sunday against Western Kentucky as the Longhorns took the second game of the series 3-1. Kern allowed just three hits and not a single earned run.

Kern worked her magic by making the Hilltoppers put the ball in play and letting her defense work. Despite two errors, the Longhorns were able to make all 21 outs in the field as Kern didn’t strike out a single batter.

The Longhorns struggled to get hits, collecting just five on the day, but were able to jump out to a 3-0 lead in the third on two, two-out bases loaded walks and an error on Western Kentucky.

That was all Kern needed.

After getting out of a jam in the fifth caused by two Texas errors, Kern cruised the rest of the way to help Texas get to 31 games over .500 and a 35-4 record.

 

By the numbers:

1,242: Strikeouts by Blaire Luna giving her sole possession of third place on the all-time Big 12 list.

6: Career no-hitters for Blaire Luna, tied with Christa Williams for the second-most in school history.

4: straight wins for freshman Holly Kern after starting the season 3-3. Since her last loss to Fordham on March 3, Kern has lowered her ERA from 2.88 to 1.72.

.648: On-base percentage for Taylor Hoagland this season. The Texas single-season record is .510 and the Big 12 mark is .594. 

Innings 1-3: Texas opened strong in the first, sending Texas Southern back to the dugout after three batters. Starting strong, Taylor Hoagland stole second to position herself for a Taylor Thom double RBI. Thom scored as well before the inning’s end. After Kim Bruins kept Texas Southern baseless through the second, Gabby Smith pitched a perfect third inning to keep the Lady Tigers from gaining momentum. Bruins connected on a three-RBI double in the second as she posed a formidable threat from both sides of the game.

Innings 4-5: Inning four featured a series of lineup changes, including the freshman duo of Holly Kern in the circle and Erin Shireman at catcher. Offensively, freshmen Lindsey Stephens and Kern came home to ensure a run-rule. Blaire Luna struck out three straight batters to finish the game. The 8-0 victory marked Texas’ second over Texas Southern, as the squad also trumped the Lady Tigers in five innings in the teams’ only other matchup March 4, 2010. Texas is now 33-4 in the 2013 season.

By the numbers:

11: Number of perfect games in school history with Thursday’s matchup 

17: Season shutouts, already passing the 2012 staff’s entire season. Thursday’s shutout featured four Longhorn pitchers combining for seven strikeouts. Every pitcher struck out at least one batter.

37: Number of games in which Hoagland has reached base safely this season — namely, all of them.

20: Holly Kern’s career strikeouts reached this total with Thursday’s two additions.

Stock Up: Underclassmen

As every member of Texas’ squad played Thursday night, Texas’ underclassmen had a strong showing. The younger members of the team combined for four runs off four hits, two RBIs, three walks and nine putouts. Kern complemented her strong pitching with a run. As the second half of the season unfolds, the young talent shows promise for next year.

What’s next:

Texas hosts Western Kentucky Saturday and Sunday, finishing its regular-season, non-conference schedule. Saturday’s game begins at 5 p.m., Sunday’s at 11:30 a.m.