Lindsey Stephens

Freshman pitcher Erica Wright pitched a one-hit shutout in Texas’ 11-0 win on Friday.
Photo Credit: Charlotte Carpenter | Daily Texan Staff

After dropping two of three to Texas Tech last weekend, Texas bounced back to sweep Oklahoma State this past weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Freshman Erica Wright pitched a one-hit shutout to start the series off for Texas (35–14, 10–5 Big 12) to grab an 11–0 victory over Oklahoma State (21–31, 3–13 Big 12) on Friday.

“[Wright] was really just beginning to get into a groove,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I thought her velocity was exceptional tonight, and with her movement, she was locating the ball well.”

On the offensive end, Texas continued to display a solid hitting performance this weekend. Coming into the weekend, Texas had outhit its opponents, .342 to .251, and the team continued to do so against Oklahoma State, outhitting the Cowgirls, .413 to .164.

The Longhorns complemented Wright’s pitching efforts in the first game, connecting on 11 hits, including three home runs.

After junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens and freshman third baseman Randel Leahy hit back-to-back home runs in the first, junior second baseman Stephanie Ceo eagerly joined in on the fun. With bases loaded in the top of the fifth, Ceo blasted a grand slam to left-center, Texas’ sixth of the season, to put the Longhorns in position for another run-rule victory.

“We were ready to hit the field from pitch one, and we were ready to fight,” Ceo said. “All of the preparation at-bat happens in the dugout and once you get out there, you just keep your eye on the ball.”

Sophomore Tiarra Davis took the mound in the second game. Despite battling injury all season, she struck out four and brought her record up to 5–4.

“For Tiarra to get in five innings today from the circle was really exciting,” Clark said. “I don’t know if she had her best stuff physically today, but mentally, that’s as good as I’ve seen her.”

From the plate, Ceo homered again while Stephens and sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning each went 2-for-4 to lead the Longhorns to victory over the Cowgirls, 9–0.

“Man, [Ceo] just saw the ball all weekend and was one of our strongest hitters,” Clark said. “Really happy to get that production from the bottom of the order.”

The third game wasn’t much different. Wright kicked it off with five strikeouts, one hit and two walks in four innings to improve to 16–6. Before the end of the game, senior Gabby Smith and sophomore Lauren Slatten also saw the mound and earned two strikeouts apiece to lead Texas to a 7–2 victory.

“It was a goal today going in to get Gabby and Lauren a little work, and that was accomplished,” Clark said.

Junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens, front, and her teammates celebrate senior right fielder Marlee Gabaldon’s walk-off RBI single.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas softball rolled past Texas State this weekend, improving its season record to 26-9 and maintaining a number of ongoing streaks.

The team has now won eight games in a row, its longest streak since 2013. The Longhorns’ 10–2 victory over the Bobcats in five innings Friday  was also their ninth-consecutive road victory. They followed with their third-straight home walk-off win Saturday.

In both games, Texas got on the board in the first inning, stretching that streak to seven games.

“From the first inning, we were just on them,” junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens said. “When [teams] come back, it’s always a little stressful, but not one time do we ever doubt that we can pull off the win.”

The long ball anchored Texas’ offense during game one, which took place in San Marcos in front of the second-largest crowd Bobcat Softball Stadium has ever seen.

Stephens went 2-for-2 with one walk in the game and hit her 11th home run of the season. Sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning blasted two home runs and went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks to extend her career-best on-base streak, which now sits at 20 games as she also reached base safely in game two.

Freshman pitcher Erica Wright struck out four and gave up just one hit to improve her season record to 11–4. Wright’s performances have been increasingly consistent, and she said she hopes to continue turning in strong performances as the team prepares for a tough Big 12 schedule.

“The biggest thing is just to continue attacking the strike zone and focus on taking deep breaths, not getting caught up in the moment and working on hitting my spots and producing what we want to happen,” Wright said.

Stephens came up big again in game two, notching her team-high 12th home run of the season in the top of the seventh to spark a Texas comeback. Senior right fielder Marlee Gabaldon followed Stephens’ solo shot and sophomore first baseman Kelli Hanzel’s game-tying RBI with a decisive, walk-off RBI single.

Sophomore Lauren Slatten attained the win from the mound, improving to 2-0 on the season. She threw six innings, gave up seven hits and struck out a career-high seven batters.

The come-from-behind victory, Texas’ 10th of the season, once again exemplified the Longhorns’ competitive side.

“Any day, any given team can be beat,” Stephens said. “It’s good to know that even against good teams, we can continue to fight, rally up runs and get things going on our side.”

With eight home games ahead for the Longhorns, including two conference series, head coach Connie Clark said she wants her team to stay focused on themselves.

“It’s really about what we do — are we throwing strikes, having quality at-bats, putting bunts down when we need to, playing defense when we need to, all those things,” Clark said. “We’re getting to the next pitch as good as we ever have, and that’s really what we’re focused on right now.”

Texas’ next action takes place Tuesday afternoon at Red and Charline McCombs Field against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Freshman pitcher Erika Wright might get the chance to square off against her sister, Ashley, this weekend.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Texas faces off against Texas State this weekend in a two-game, home-and-home series stitched together by heartstrings.

The matchup will bring together former teammates and place siblings against each other. Cat Osterman, Texas softball legend, will return in her new role as Texas State assistant coach.

For freshman pitcher Erica Wright, who will don her No. 20 uniform proudly, another Wright bearing the same number in the visitor’s dugout will tug at her emotions.

Texas State’s junior pitcher Ashley Wright is Erica’s older sister. They grew up supporting each other and continue to do so despite playing each other at the collegiate level.

“People always ask us, ‘Are y’all really competitive towards each other?’ but, honestly, we’re the exact opposite,” Erica said. “We both want each other to do super well. It’s so great playing her; she’s my best friend.”

With Texas State’s ace, freshman Randi Rupp, throwing so well in recent games, it’s unclear whether the Wright sisters will have a pitcher’s duel this weekend. But that might be helpful for Erica, who said it was tricky to play against her sister in
the fall.  

“I was so nervous — not for me, even though it was my first start,” Erica said. “I was nervous for her, but I wanted us to do well, too, so it was kind of a struggle in that way.”

Other players on the team said they appreciate seeing familiar faces.

Junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens said she enjoys going up against Osterman.

“It’s always fun because when you walk past her, you’re like, ‘What about that hit?’ or, ‘Why’d you throw that pitch at me, Cat?’” Stephens said. “She’s watched us, and she knows our weaknesses and our strengths, so it’s always fun to have that familiar face to kind of pick on.” 

Erica has been one of the team’s strongest players. She earned Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Week honors for her performance in the sweep of Kansas last weekend, has the best record on the staff at 10–4 and her 2.43 ERA is second best on
the team. 

Texas has dominated the series between the two, winning the last ten meetings. But Stephens said they know they need to keep up their “never quit” attitude.

“Even when we’re down, we have the offense; we have the athletes; we have the depth to keep fighting, to keep competing,” Stephens said. “We’re never out of the game.”

Head coach Connie Clark said she doesn’t think the familiar faces on the other team will be a distraction.

“You have fun before the game,” Clark said. “You hug them up and wish them well, and then you go about your business.”

First pitch of the series will take place Friday night in San Marcos. The second game will take place at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin on Saturday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas started its Big 12 campaign with a three-game sweep against No. 22 Kansas this weekend.

A solid offensive performance in Lawrence, Kansas, anchored the Longhorns’ (23–9, 3–0 Big 12) success, as Texas’ bats got started early in each game, accumulating nine first-inning runs. Longhorn hitters shook Kansas’ ace, senior Alicia Pille, early and often to hand Pille her first two losses of the season.

“We came in wanting to attack immediately, and I think we did a great job of that,” junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens said. “We saw [Pille] last year, and so we knew what kind of stuff she was going to bring, and we were able to make adjustments and see the ball well.”

Stephens notched seven RBIs and two home runs in the series. Junior catcher Erin Shireman and junior right fielder Holly Kern both hit home runs as well, garnering eight RBIs in total.

As a team, the Longhorns scored 24 runs and attained 35 hits against a talented Kansas (29-5, 0-3 Big 12) pitching staff.

With six players boasting batting averages above .300, the Jayhawks offense has had success this season. But the Longhorn hurlers battled pitch to pitch and managed to give up just 22 hits throughout the series.

“It’s really good as a defensive player to see your pitchers work hard every day like ours do,” Stephens said. “We just let them know we have their back and help them stay motivated and pitching a good game.”

Freshman pitcher Erica Wright improved to 10–4 after earning wins in the first and third games of the series. Freshman hurler Kristen Clark earned a win in game two and her first collegiate save in game three.

“They came in with a good mentality, made adjustments and continued to do what’s needed to be competitive,” head coach Connie Clark said.

Being able to make adjustments is something Connie Clark thinks is vital, especially now that conference play has started. Adjustments and focus helped Texas claim the final game of the series.

A leadoff home run by Kansas junior shortstop Chaley Brickey in the bottom of the seventh cut Texas’ lead to 7–5. Kristen Clark entered the game in relief with one out and the bases empty, but a single and two walks put the freshman in a difficult position.

With two down and the bases loaded, Kristen Clark got Kansas junior center fielder Briana Evans to strike out swinging to lock up the victory.

“I’m really pleased with the weekend,” Connie Clark said. “We were able to keep being competitive and our ability to make needed adjustments has been tremendous.”

The Longhorns return to action Wednesday to face Houston on the road.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

After a nonconference schedule that brought 20 wins for Texas, the Texas softball team will play their first conference matchup against the Jayhawks this weekend in Lawrence, Kansas.

Despite dropping nine games this season, Texas (20–9) has won six of the last seven, including sweeping Arkansas in a three-game stint. This weekend’s matchup against No. 22 Kansas will be Texas’ second three-game series this year, but those will happen often in upcoming play.

Kansas (29–2) is 8–0 at home this season and sits atop the Big 12. However, the Longhorns have had historical success against the Jayhawks. When the two teams met last year, the Longhorns took two of the three with a combined run advantage of 12–5. They even shut down the Jayhawks in each of their victories.

Both teams have made some changes on both ends. With seniors graduating on both sides, Kansas has picked up seven freshmen while Texas has four of its own, none of whom have ever played in conference play before.

“We’ve tried to teach them to make adjustments and how we need to make adjustments earlier in the game, rather than two games later when the series is almost over,” junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens said. “If you strike out, it’s how you approach the next at bat. For our freshmen, let it roll off your back.”

As a team, Texas has found success against high-ranked opponents, including No. 12 UCLA, No. 13 Arizona State and No. 19 Georgia. But the team has also been plagued by inconsistency, losing to teams of lower caliber by as many as eight runs.

Despite the Longhorns’ shaky record, Stephens said he remains optimistic.

“We keep learning new things about ourselves, and it’s good right now,” Stephens said. “We learn our weaknesses, and we are trying to figure out how to make those things our strengths.”

The Longhorns’ strengths this season include 25 home runs, six players batting over .300, 180 combined strikeouts from the mound and a 2.74 team ERA from the plate.

With the Longhorns over halfway through the season, the upcoming contest takes on additional significance.

“Yeah, it’s conference, and things mean a little more now than they did before, but we should play it like we’ve been playing,” Stephens said.

Despite a strong showing against UTSA this week, one of the Longhorns’ main priorities is minimizing mistakes as they head into conference play. 

“At the end of the day, it’s always about you, and it’s about the adjustments you make, the approach you take,” head coach Connie Clark said. “Consistent approaches help as best they can get the results you want.”

Friday’s game will air on ESPN3 at 5p.m.

The No. 25 Longhorns started strong during its trip to California this weekend but struggled in their final games to end the weekend with a 2–3 record and a season mark of 9–6.  

On Thursday, Texas compiled upsets against No. 8 Georgia and No. 12 UCLA. The Longhorns handed the Bulldogs its first loss of the season behind a three-hit, complete-game shutout from freshman pitcher Erica Wright.

The game was scoreless until senior right fielder Marlee Gabaldon knocked a double into the right-center field gap to clear the loaded bases in the top of the seventh. Junior third baseman Stephanie Ceo then hit an inside-the-park home run that dropped between Georgia’s right and center fielders to add two more runs.

Two huge defensive plays from junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens kept the Bulldogs off the board late in the game. She fired a bullet in the bottom of the fifth to throw out Georgia senior pinch runner Adele Harrison at home and then made a tough catch in the sixth to strand two Georgia runners.

Against UCLA, sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis threw four innings and gave up just one earned run on three hits while striking out two. Senior pitcher Gabby Smith earned her first save of the season, allowing two earned runs on five hits and striking out two in the final three frames of Texas’ 5–3 win.

Junior catcher Erin Shireman, who went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs, led the Longhorns while Stephens went 1-for-2 and scored a pair of runs.

Defensively, Shireman and sophomore left fielder Stephanie Wong made big plays to help preserve the Texas victory. In the bottom of the fifth, Wong made a difficult, back-handed running catch, and Shireman fired a shot from behind the plate to throw out a UCLA runner, keeping the game in Texas’ hands.

However, Friday didn’t go as well for Texas, as a seventh-inning Longhorn rally came up short in an 8–7 loss to Fresno State. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Slatten threw the first four frames, giving up three earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts. Freshman pitcher Kristen Clark came on in relief and took the loss, giving up the first of four runs in a big fifth inning for the Bulldogs.

Junior first baseman Holly Kern led the Longhorn on offense, going 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs. Stephens knocked a home run as well and Smith, in the game as a designated player, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

On Friday night, Texas lost to No. 18 Missouri, 4–3. Wright pitched the entire game, allowing all four unearned runs and notching just one strikeout. Wong, Stephens and sophomore second baseman Kelli Hanzel each had an RBI. The Longhorns stranded the tying run on third in both games.

Texas closed out its weekend by losing to No. 24 Notre Dame, 5–1, on Saturday. Davis gave up four earned runs on four hits in 3.2 innings and took the loss before handing the game over to Slatten.

Smith accounted for the lone Texas score with an RBI single that scored Hanzel in the bottom of the sixth.

The Longhorns return to action this weekend at McCombs Field for the Texas Invitational.

Junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens eyes a pitch headed her way. Stephens hit a grand slam in win over UC-Santa Barbara.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Texas started off its season strong with three wins in five games at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, this weekend, including a final win against No. 16 Arizona State.

In the season opener, Texas kick-started the year with a 15–0 win over UC-Santa Barbara, including 13 fifth-inning runs to boost the Longhorns to their first win. Texas connected on nine hits, while junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens went 2-for-3, including her third career grand slam. Freshman pitcher Erica Wright took the mound and recorded a shutout with five strikeouts in her first collegiate victory.

Texas didn’t fare as well against No. 2 Oregon. With just two hits, the Ducks shut out the Longhorns on their way to a 9-0 win. Sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis struggled through three innings, allowing five earned runs on eight hits.

In its third game of the tournament, Texas powered through to beat Northwestern 5—4 in a matchup that came down to the final swing. In the bottom of the seventh, with Texas down 4-3, Davis stepped up to the plate as a designated player. In a role reversal from her usual spot on the mound, Davis drew a lead-off walk and became the tying run on first. She then advanced on a sacrifice fly by sophomore second baseman Kelli Hanzel and waited on second, ready to run. With two outs and a full count, junior catcher Erin Shireman connected on a pitch from Northwestern starter Amy Letourneau, sending it over the left field wall for a walk-off, two-run homer. 

Sophomore Lauren Slatten started the game in the circle for the Longhorns, allowing three earned runs while striking out four in four innings, but it was freshman Kristen Clark who completed the game. Letting up just one hit and walking two in the final inning, Clark earned her first collegiate win.

Despite a hard fought game full of lead changes and 10 hits for Texas, the Longhorns fell to Stanford, 10-9, Saturday. Texas battled back late in the game down 10–7 but could only cut the lead to one. With two outs and one runner on base in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning sent a long ball to left center that looked like it might clear the fence, only to fall into the glove of Stanford left fielder Tylyn Wells just short of the wall. Wright recorded her first loss, letting in three unearned runs on four hits and walking one in two and two thirds innings.

To round out the weekend, Texas faced its second ranked opponent of the tournament in No. 16 Arizona State. After starting out 2–2 on the weekend, the Longhorns scored six runs in the first inning to contribute to the win. On 11 hits, Texas concluded their time in the Kajikawa Classic with a 9–4 victory over the Sun Devils. Stephens went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and a home run, and, throughout the weekend, she hit a team-best .471. Wright earned her second win with seven strikeouts, walking three and allowing just four earned runs and eight hits in seven complete innings.

Texas plays Friday against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne in Austin.

Junior Stephanie Ceo is ready to step into a leadership role this season after posting a .348 batting average and 34 RBIs so far in her career at Texas.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

When Texas’ softball season ended at the NCAA Lafayette Regional final last May, its offense was struggling.

The Longhorns only managed four hits against Louisiana-Lafayette, with the lone score coming off a solo home run by senior Gabby Smith. 

But as the team heads into a new season, it has two veteran juniors returning in place to lead this season’s offense in the right direction.

Junior right fielder Lindsey Stephens and junior second baseman Stephanie Ceo are the only two players on the current roster who played in all 58 games last season.

Stephens, who is one of 50 players on the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year watch list, had one of the most dominant offensive seasons in Texas softball history in 2014 with a .371 batting average for the year. She led the team in six offensive categories and ranked in the top 10 in nine offensive categories in the Big 12.

“She’s one of our captains,” Clark said. “She’s really going to step up and do some things really well. She definitely will help us offensively.”

Despite last season’s postseason struggles, Stephens said she believes her team has the confidence to succeed this season.

“We have such a strong foundation,” she said. “Everyone on this team is ready to learn, ready to make adjustments and ready to take that next step.”

Ceo is also expected to capitalize on her leadershipskills in the upcoming season. The junior hit .362 last season and recorded 10 multi-hit games. Ceo’s biggest talents were often on display at the plate in the postseason, where she notched team-high postseason batting averages as a sophomore in 2014 (.375) and as a freshman (.400) during the Women’s College World Series (WCWS).

In June, Ceo watched as her older sister, Courtney, competed for Oregon in the WCWS. This season, Ceo hopes to have that same experience.

“Last year had a lot of learning moments that we went through,” Ceo said. “Now we get to build off of that.”

But before the Longhorns start thinking about the postseason, they will have to focus on their tough non-conference schedule.

Texas will face several ranked opponents early, including No. 2 Oregon on Friday night at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona. Sunday afternoon, it faces No. 16 Arizona State.

The Longhorns will start their season by playing 11 teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in the preseason ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings. Eight of those games will occur throughout the month of February and serve as challenges the Longhorns must face if they want to reach their ultimate goal.

“Not only do we want to get to the World Series, but we want to win the World Series,” Stephens said.

Junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens was named one of the softball team’s three captains and hopes to help the team bounce back after a relatively down year.

Photo Credit: Cristina Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Texas’ softball campaign came to an end last season at the hands of Louisiana-Lafayette in a 10-1 routing during Regionals.

This season, the Longhorns are looking to bounce back.

“Losing that game — it was heartbreaking,” junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens said. “It was actually hard for me to watch the [College] World Series and the Super Regionals after that because I wasn’t ready to finish the season.”

Because Texas lost four seniors last year and only has two seniors this year, leadership may be a challenge early on. However, Stephens said others on the team will not shy away from the challenge.

“The team as a whole—we all are great leaders at some point, and we also learn how to follow,” Stephens said. “So I think that’s what is really good about us.”

The three captains this year — outfielder Rachel Scott, second baseman Stephanie Ceo and Stephens — are juniors who went to the College World Series two years ago.

“We have some captains on the team, and I just think that we’re going to try to guide us all back to the World Series,” Stephens said.

Their experience and leadership will be key if the Longhorns want to return to Oklahoma City.

“I thought the team and the staff did a great job of being on the same page on who we would have wanted as captains,” head coach Connie Clark said. “Those are three young women that are ready to take on the reign.”

Clark said this year’s group is ready to get another shot at the Worlds Series. 

“I think this group is motivated to make to the top eight. We want to be at the Women’s College World Series, and that’s all we’re talking about,” Clark said. “It’s more realistic that we can talk about that this year.”

The players agree that this team feels more motivated.

“Our goal every year is to get back to the World Series and win the World Series,” Ceo said. “So, no matter what, it’s always going to be that motivation. We came up short in Regionals last year, and it’s just an extra push to get even further this year.”

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana – Down 3-1 to Mississippi State with two outs in the top of the seventh in an elimination game, the Longhorns weren’t quite ready to go home.

“We weren’t ready for this to end yet,” senior shortstop Taylor Thom said.

Sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo blooped in a single, followed by a single by senior Brejae Washington, bringing sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens to the plate. Up 3-1 in the count, Stephens, who entered the tournament in an 0-for-15 slump, blasted a home run to give Texas a lead they would hold on to in a 4-3 win.

“I wasn’t ready for the 2014 season to end,” Stephens said. “I wasn’t ready for anything to stop yet.”

Through the first six innings of the game, Mississippi State’s senior pitcher Alison Owens kept the Longhorn offense at bay, allowing three hits and only one run. The Bulldogs offense, meanwhile, took advantage of a Texas error in the first, a home run in the fourth and a double in the sixth to build the 3-1 lead going into the final inning.

Mississippi State appeared to be on its way to a showdown with UL-Lafayette on Sunday after the first two Texas hitters were sent down to start the seventh. But after Ceo’s bloop single fell in-between the second baseman and right fielder, an emotional exchange between Washington and Thom and Washington’s single up the middle, things were looking much better for the Longhorns.

That’s when Stephens stepped in, knowing the entire inning that she would get the chance to bat. Stephens turned on the fifth pitch of the at bat and hit a three-run shot that turned around the game and the season for Texas.

“We’re very capable and we can all hit,” Stephens said. “The game’s not over until the umpire says, ‘Ballgame,’ when that third out is made.”

Texas was put in the position to have to win the game against Mississippi State after a tough 2-1 loss to ULL earlier in the day.

The Longhorns entered the bottom of the seventh up 2-1 on the Ragin’ Cajuns thanks in part to a solo home run by Thom in the fourth inning. But freshman pitcher Tiarra Davis allowed the first four batters to reach base, allowing Louisiana to tie the game and two batters later walked in the winning run with the bases loaded.

Despite the tough loss, Stephens said they regrouped after the game, put on new jerseys and went out to keep playing in the postseason.

“It was like a new day and a new game and we just went after it,” Stephens said.

With the win, the Longhorns advanced to play the Ragin’ Cajuns again on Sunday at noon. Texas will have to win two games to advance to the Super Regionals for the third-straight season, while Louisiana would only need to win one of a possible two games Sunday to advance.

Even though the loss Saturday afternoon was difficult, Thom said they can take some momentum from that game and a lot of momentum from the seventh inning comeback to their advantage.

“We’ve already beat [Louisiana] twice this season,” Thom said. “We have all the confidence in the world that we can beat them.”