After four years on the diamond for Texas softball, Karina Scott had a hard time leaving. However, she soon found out she didn’t have to.
After appearing in 38 games as a freshman, Scott started in 41 games the following year. Scott ranked highly on the team in numerous batting categories and achieved a perfect fielding percentage as a sophomore.
The coaches soon saw potential for Scott — not for a career at first base, but in the dugout. At the end of Scott’s second season, the coaches offered her a spot on the coaching squad upon graduation.
“I was shocked, and I was like, ‘Are you guys talking to me? Are you serious?’ ” Scott said.
Despite the surprise, it took little convincing to sway Scott.
“I jumped on it,” Scott said. “I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew it would be a great way to build my résumé and get started.”
When she was offered the job of volunteer assistant, Scott had only recently begun considering coaching because she had begun to support many of her teammates. Scott said she always played the role of “the big sister” and stepped up when the teammates needed help.
After months of offseason training, the Longhorns took the field for their first game of the year in early February in Tempe, Arizona. No longer sporting a player’s jersey, Scott stepped out of play in a new wardrobe: a
“I think it was a great
moment for me,” Scott said. “The other seniors graduated, but I still get to do ‘The Eyes of Texas’ on the field, and I still get to do the other things, so it’s like I never left.”
Even with her new title, Scott’s characteristically friendly attitude toward her former teammates
“She’s still playful with us. She still interacts with us,” junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens said. “She’s still that friend, that teammate we had last year.”
Scott even offers a special
perspective that some of the other coaches can’t give their players.
“She’s struggled, just like we all have, and she’s succeeded, just like we all have,” Stephens said. “It’s a little more recent [than the other coaches], and that’s really helpful and comfortable for
us as players.”
A California native, Scott did not personally adopt softball until her teen years, although she grew up surrounded by the sport. Scott used to spend most of her time on the baseball or softball field because her uncle and older
brother played often.
Just before high school, Scott picked up softball at the age of 13 with an ulterior motive separate from the competition and
“I realized I needed a way to get to college, and I wanted a scholarship, so I told my parents I wanted to start playing softball,” she said.
Scott thrived instantly. A four-year letter winner in high school, a recipient of All-California recognition and various other accolades, Scott finished her senior year of high school batting over .400, slugging over .600 and with a spot on the Texas softball team.
While she strives to complete her goal of becoming a head coach, Scott plans to return to school soon to pursue a degree in education or sports management. Currently in a one-year position, Scott hopes her time doesn’t stop anytime soon.
“I would love to be the head softball coach at Texas,” she said. “[Connie] knows I want her job, and she said I could have it."
Senior first baseman Karina Scott has played only 18 games this season, but she provides leadership from the bench.
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.
Last year, Texas had to watch another team celebrate on their home turf. Blaire Luna made sure that wouldn’t happen this year.
The senior All-American tossed her eighth career no-hitter – her fourth this season and the first she’s ever thrown in the postseason – as Texas beat Florida State, 4-0, Sunday afternoon at McCombs Field to clinch a berth in the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2006.
The Longhorns, a year removed from a heartbreaking loss to Oregon in last season’s Super Regional series, will be going to the WCWS for the fifth time in program history.
“It’s a whole lot better feeling than the last couple years,” head coach Connie Clark said. “Certainly there is a sense of relief to get that monkey back being so darn close the last couple years, feeling that the talent was there but coming up short. It’s been a while since we’ve taken a team to the World Series. We’re going to enjoy every single moment.”
Luna was not at her best in Saturday night’s win over the Seminoles, the first game of the best-of-three series, striking out 10 but walking five in a 3-2 come-from-behind victory. But she was sharp Sunday, striking out 13 and walking only one over seven innings, holding Florida State (44-19) hitless the whole way.
“It’s weird because in my warm-up, I didn’t feel that good,” Luna said. “They really take their hacks. The majority of them just swing for the fence. I was just trying to get them to keep it in the park. I was a little bit nervous about keeping them off balance. They didn’t see a lot of rise balls yesterday and that’s what I went with. They saw a lot more drop [balls] yesterday.”
Luna (30-5) fanned seven Seminoles in her first time through the lineup and allowed her first baserunner when she issued a leadoff walk to Kelly Hensley in the fourth. But Morgan Bullock, who reached on a fielder’s choice later in the inning, was caught stealing by Texas catcher Mandy Ogle. That ensured that Luna, who retired the first nine and the last nine batters she faced, would face the minimum 21 batters in Sunday’s win.
Florida State’s Lacey Waldrop held Texas scoreless through the first four innings before getting lit up in the fifth. Karina Scott, who doubled home the winning run in Game 1 on Friday night, led the inning off with a towering home run over the left field wall to give the Longhorns a 1-0 lead.
Texas (49-8) wasn’t done, though. Freshman Lindsay Stephens, making her first career postseason appearance, pinch-hit for Stephanie Ceo in the fifth. She hit the first pitch she saw off the fence in right field and scored when Taylor Hoagland lined a ball off the glove of a diving Courtney Senas.
The ball trickled into left field as Stephens came around to give the Longhorns a 2-0 lead. Hoagland would be the final batter Waldrop would face as she was replaced by Monica Perry with two outs in the fifth.
“We finally made it to OKC and we’re not done yet,” Hoagland said. “It was almost like we were running so fast that we couldn’t get our feet under us [last year]. I didn’t feel super solid like we are this year. This year, we’ve worked hard. We’ve done everything we could possibly do. I don’t have any regrets.”
Taylor Thom, who struck out in three of her first four Super Regional at-bats, lifted a high fly ball over the same left field wall Scott hit it over earlier in the frame. That two-run shot gave Texas a 4-0 lead and gave Luna more than enough run support to send to punch the Longhorns’ ticket to the Women’s College World Series.
“That game was just perfect,” Thom said. “It’s such a surreal feeling like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to the [Women’s] College World Series.’ That’s something we’ve dreamt about our whole lives. To say that we have the opportunity to go, it’s such an amazing feeling.”
Excluding that four-run fifth inning, Texas had a hard time hitting with runners in scoring position. They had a runner on second or third with less than two outs in the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings without scoring.
But the Longhorns gave Luna all the run support she would need by nearly batting around in that fifth inning. Luna threw 117 pitches, 76 for strikes, on her way to throwing the third no-hitter in Texas postseason history. The first two came in back-to-back games in 2005 by Cat Osterman, who led the Longhorns to their last WCWS appearance seven seasons ago.
Texas, the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, will face the winner of the Super Regional series between No. 5 seed Arizona State and No. 12 seed Kentucky on Thursday in Oklahoma City.
It took a while for Texas' Super Regional series against Florida State to start, but once it did, the Longhorns made it worth the wait.
Texas is one win away from earning a spot in the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2006 after taking down the Seminoles, 3-2, in dramatic fashion during the first game of a best-of-three Super Regional series Saturday. The Longhorns fell behind 2-0 in the third inning but pushed a run across in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to beat the Seminoles.
The comeback was capped off by an RBI double by Karina Scott to left-center field with one out in the sixth. After driving home the first Texas run with an infield single in the fourth, Scott crushed the first pitch she saw in her at-bat in the sixth as Torie Schmidt scored the go-ahead run.
“We knew it would be a matter of time if we could just stay where we needed to mentally,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I thought we slowed everything down exceptionally well tonight and really owned the moment. I think that’s very important when you’re in an atmosphere like this. I felt like that was the difference in the ballgame.”
Blaire Luna did not have her best stuff in Saturday’s victory, striking out 10 but walking five in the complete-game triumph. The first two of those walks came in the third inning before Florida State’s Victoria East lined a two-out, two-strike double over the head of right fielder Gabby Smith to bring home Kelly Hensley and Maddie O’Brien.
But Luna came through when it mattered most. With the game tied at 2 in the sixth, she surrendered a pair of singles and walked the bases loaded with one out. But she struck out Alex Kossoff and Hensley to end the inning and give Texas the momentum necessary to take the lead in the home half of the inning.
“We put on a great show,” Luna said. “All day we’ve been watching other games of other teams playing and a lot of them fought. I’m just really proud of our team.”
Pitching with the lead for the first time, Luna nearly coughed it up in the seventh. O’Brien lifted a ball to deep left field and, while it was in the air, even Luna admitted to being concerned that she had just hit a game-tying home run.
“I was a little bit [nervous],” Luna said. “I always get just a little bit nervous but I think that’s really good. Really, I was just trying to go right at them, get ahead in the count and spread the zone.”
Luna, after issuing a two-out walk, would get Celeste Gomez to fly out to right to end the game.
Despite not recording a 1-2-3 inning the entire night, Luna improved to 29-5 on the year and helped the Longhorns move to within one victory from reaching the WCWS for the first time since 2006. Game 2 of the Super Regional series is set to start Sunday at 2 p.m.
Game 1 was originally scheduled to begin Friday night at 8 p.m. before rain postponed it to Saturday at 2 p.m. and again to Saturday at 8 p.m.
“It was good to play finally,” Clark said. “I think our team did a great job of working through that. We talked about staying loose and when the bell rings, be ready for the call. I thought we came out and did a nice job tonight.”
After East’s two-run double in the previous inning, Kim Bruins drew a leadoff walk in the fourth and scored on Scott’s infield single. Scott weakly hit the ball just past Florida State pitcher Lacey Waldrop and out of the reach of East, the first baseman as Bruins raced around to score the Longhorns’ first run of the night.
Stephanie Ceo began the fifth with a perfectly placed drag bunt, her first and only hit of the game. Taylor Hoagland reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second base and scored when Brejae Washington drilled a 3-1 offering from Waldrop to center field, tying the game, 2-2.
“With the 3-1 count, I was waiting for my pitch and something small,” Washington said. “I just needed something on the ground to be able to punch it through the hole and score Taylor Hoagland.”
With the win, Texas finds itself in a familiar position. The Longhorns won their Super Regional series opener over Oregon, 4-2, on their home field last season before falling to the Ducks in the next two games and failing to earn a trip to Oklahoma City for the WCWS.
“Us juniors and seniors have been in this position before so it’s kind of not taking that first one for granted,” Washington said. “We have to go in and fight and keep the same mindset that we have today because [Florida State has] a common goal just like we do and they’re trying to get to the World Series just like we are. We can’t take that for granted.”
Sunday afternoon, Texas gets a chance to prove, once and for all, it truly is a different and better team than last year. Once again, the Longhorns are one win away from the WCWS.
One thing that this Texas team has rarely had a problem with this season is offensive production.
The Longhorns, who recently boosted their conference record to 12-2, have consistently had no trouble with their bats as they continue to power past opponents.
Senior Taylor Hoagland leads her team at the plate with a .443 batting average and an on-base percentage (.639) that is on track to break the single season record for UT and the Big 12.
In addition, junior Karina Scott has recently stepped up her offensive production to provide the power Texas needs nearing post-season play. In the month of April, Scott has a batting average of .500, which leads her team, and has tallied two home runs and nine RBIs.
“In this game, you need confidence,” Scott said. “Once I put some good at-bats together, I started to get that confidence. I am starting to do what I am capable of and what the team knows I am capable of, and know I just need to keep going.”
This strong play is one of the main keys that Texas will need in order to complete their goal of a Women’s College World Series appearance.
The team has missed a chance to play in the WCWS each year since 2006 and after being only a game away from that chance last season, motivation has set in.
The Longhorns have scored 16 runs in the past three games during their most recent sweep of Texas Tech this past weekend.
Veteran leadership established the momentum as two seniors were a main source of the offensive production for the Longhorns. Hoagland grabbed four hits and five runs in the series while senior Torie Schmidt tallied three hits in her four at bats on Sunday to help grab the final win.
“It’s really exciting seeing what this offense can do. It feels like every time the opponent scores, we come back with three more,” Hoagland said. “It’s just really great, and especially for the pitching staff so they know that they have the offense backing them up.”
The Longhorns only have four more games before they start their journey to the WCWS. These games will help determine the momentum that the team will have as it fights to be the best in the nation.
This offensive consistency, needless to say, is extremely important to the continued success the team has had. While the pitching staff and defense for the Longhorns has been extremely strong, many games have been decided by just a few runs and this power at the plate will help keep these wins pouring in for the Longhorns.
Catcher Mandy Ogle takes a swing at the plate during Sunday’s match up against the Hilltoppers.
Nobody’s perfect, but the Texas softball team keeps coming pretty close.
With two wins over Western Kentucky this weekend, No. 8 Texas rose to 35-4 as Blaire Luna’s Saturday showing featured six innings of perfection followed by a seventh-inning walk. She struck out 16 batters in the match including eight of her first nine opponents, marking only the third time Texas has tossed consecutive no-hitters.
“It was really close the last inning. I was kind of nervous going out there so I maybe just overthought it a little bit too much,” Luna said. “Overall I’m glad we did get the win. That’s the most important thing and Mandy [Ogle] did a really good job of mixing it up back there.”
As Ogle helped keep the defense in check, Karina Scott showed the Lady Toppers what power looks like. Five scoreless innings allowed pitcher Emily Rousseau to avoid a series of near runs, but with Kim Bruins, Rachel Scott and Ogle loading the bases, Karina Scott shattered a Rousseau throw for a grand slam. The Longhorns filled the bases once more but did not advance.
“This whole season for me has just been a little struggle but throughout this whole week, I felt good,” Karina Scott said. “I felt like my swing was coming back. That was just a big relief and getting the opportunity to show everyone what I’m capable of tonight was great.”
Confident with the 4-0 victory, Holly Kern took the mound Sunday to extend Texas’ consecutive hitless innings to a program record 20 and one-third innings. Even after Mallorie Sulaski connected to break the streak, Kern did not walk a batter and allowed just one unearned run in her fifth complete game of the season.
“She is moving in the right direction,” head coach Connie Clark said. “She has been making strides, getting stronger and has made some adjustments mechanically as well that have helped her accuracy and velocity. I love where she is at. She is a beast, and I mean that in a great way.”
The Longhorns scored all three runs necessary to win in the third, after Taylor Hoagland’s 51st walk of the season tied her for fourth on the Big 12 single-season record list. Stephanie Ceo and Brejae Washington both reached on walks.
The Longhorns’ line-up has been the same for much of the season, which is now in the middle of a grueling Big 12 stretch that includes three ranked opponents.
What you don’t always see are the five players on the outside of that line-up card, the same five players that could be the key to the third-ranked Longhorns’ season.
Texas has one of the smallest rosters in the country at only 15 players, but every single one is capable of stepping into the line-up and contributing like a starter or coming off the bench and pinch-hitting in a critical situation.
“We have 15 heroes, any one of them can be one at any given time,” said junior Lexy Bennett. “I think it’s just whoever called upon, and when someone’s stepping in they almost always come through.”
The depth of the team is evident at every spot on the field. It could be a backup like freshman Karina Scott coming into the line-up and playing in one of the middle infield positions when a starter is hurt or needs a rest. Or a flexible infielder like Bennett can play anywhere in the infield from her normal first base spot to second base or even shortstop.
The best example of the team’s depth is perhaps in the outfield, where junior Courtney Craig — a two-time all-Big 12 performer — is on the outside looking in at the rotation after coming back from an injury. The talented Craig has been kept sidelined by the stellar performances from all of the outfielders, especially Torie Schmidt in left field. Schmidt is hitting a blistering .396 at the plate and has a perfect fielding percentage.
“Our depth chart is huge for us right now. We have 15 players so we’re really small, but at any given time we can switch players in and out and you don’t have to worry about is she is as strong as the starter, and that’s been really nice,” said senior Amy Hooks.
The team’s depth shines shows in pressure situations, like the Texas A&M game last Wednesday. Freshman Mandy Ogle came in to pinch-run for Hooks and ended up scoring the winning run thanks to some heads-up base running on a wild pitch.
The capability of the bench also shows up in pinch-hitting situations, where senior Shelby Savony and Karina Scott often come off the bench and deliver a hit in pressure situations.
“You never know when your time’s going to be. It could be anyone 1-9 or whoever’s playing that game, and you might come off the bench and be a pinch hitter, and you could be the one to score that winning run,” Bennett said.
The depth is also apparent in the circle. Freshman Rachel Fox has shown she is able to come in behind All-American pitcher Blaire Luna when the normal starter needs rest or even relieve her out of the bullpen on a day when she is struggling. With a 14-1 record and 1.15 ERA, Fox has shown she is a solid option behind Luna, something that was sorely missing from last year’s squad.
“We have great depth in the circle,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “Although Luna is Luna and is very consistent and is one of the best in the country, Rachel Fox is having a great year for us and will continue to get the ball and she competes so well. And it’s just nice not to have to rely on one specific person.”
Texas fell in the regional round of the NCAA tournament last year; a disappointing end to a season for which expectations were high. Expectations are higher this season, with the Longhorns moving up to No. 3 in the country in the most recent coaches’ poll.
“I think that’s the difference between the ’11 club versus the ’10 club,” Clark said. “The ’10 club was talented, but this club has more depth, and we’re able to make some moves and get even better when we make those moves.”