LAFAYETTE, La. – In the week leading up to the Lafayette Regional, freshman pitcher Tiarra Davis tried to keep her nerves down knowing that she would be making her first career postseason start on Friday.
But as she warmed up before the game, the nerves started to creep back.
“The more I warmed up, the more nervous I got,” Davis said.
Once the game started, though, Davis was able to conquer her nerves and settle down. She ended up striking out seven batters and kept Mississippi State off the board in a 1-0 win for Texas in the opening game of the regional tournament.
“She was really able to keep them off balance,” head coach Connie Clark said.
Davis' nerves showed early in the game as she allowed a leadoff double to right-center field. But she came back to get the next two batters to pop out and she got a strikeout to get through the first inning.
Through the next six innings, Davis would send the Bulldogs down in order only one time, but as she’s done all season, she worked out of big jams. In the fourth inning, senior first baseman Logan Foulks hit a one-out double for Mississippi State. Davis struck out the next batter and got the third out on a fly out to right.
In the top of the seventh, Davis allowed a leadoff single to put the tying run on base. But after a sacrifice bunt to move the runner to second, Davis struck out the last two batters to end the game.
Davis credited senior catcher Mandy Ogle for helping her get through the tough innings.
“She just reminds me to take a deep breath and relax and to put my trust in my defense,” Davis said.
Davis' strong control of her off-speed pitch helped her. The Bulldogs were able to only get one hit off of the changeup — the double in the fourth — and a majority of their strikeouts came on that pitch.
Clark said that the pitch has been something Davis has worked hard on the past couple of weeks.
“Obviously to be able to throw that in any count was significant for us,” Clark said.
At the plate, the Longhorns had a hard time figuring out Bulldogs senior ace Alison Owen. Through two-and-two-thirds innings, Texas only managed two hits, one of which was a bunt by senior centerfielder Brejae Washington to start the game.
But with two outs in the third inning and down 0-2 in the count, Washington surprised everyone in the stadium, blasting a solo home run to deepest part of the ballpark in centerfield to put the Longhorns ahead 1-0.
Washington said she knew it was a solid hit when she made contact, but didn’t quite know if it had the distance.
“It’s one of those things were you look up and you’re like 'get out, get out,'” Washington said.
With the win, the Longhorns move into the winner’s bracket in the double elimination tournament. Texas will face Louisianna at Lafayette Saturday at noon. The winner of that game will advance to the regional final on Sunday, while the loser will have to play Saturday evening.
The Longhorns beat the Ragin' Cajuns twice in Lafayette earlier this season by scores of 10-7 and 7-3.
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In the first two games of the series, the battle between Texas and Baylor was focused mainly on the pitchers. But in the final home game of her career and the last game of the season, senior shortstop Taylor Thom placed the spotlight on herself.
With the game tied at two in the bottom of the seventh and senior centerfielder Brejae Washington at first, Thom lined a doubled to right-center field to score Washington and give the Longhorns a 3-2 win over the Bears on Senior Day.
“It couldn’t have been scripted any better,” head coach Connie Clark said.
The game, as it has been any time Texas and Baylor play each other in softball, was a pitcher’s duel between the Longhorns’ freshman ace Tiarra Davis and the Bears’ senior ace Whitney Canion. After giving up runs in each of the last two innings in a loss against the Bears Tuesday night, Davis allowed only one run through the first four innings, mainly thanks to her control of the change up.
“Every day that we had from Tuesday to now, we spent working on [the change up],” Davis said. “It felt great to have it.”
Meanwhile, it was Canion who blinked first in the duel. In the second inning, the first two batters reached base and senior catcher Mandy Ogle laced a double to right-center field to score a run. Freshman left fielder Stephanie Wong then hit a sacrifice fly to up the Texas lead to 2-0.
But the Bears would chip away at that lead, scoring a run in the third on an RBI single by senior first baseman Holly Holl. Then in the fifth with a runner on base, Washington misplayed a single by freshman second baseman Ari Hawkins to center, which allowed a run to score to tie the game and Hawkins to reach third base. The Bears almost took the lead on a sacrifice fly from the next batter, but Hawkins was caught leaving third early to end the inning.
After a scoreless sixth, Baylor again threatened with two runners reaching base with two outs, including a single that bounced off the face of freshman third baseman Devon Tunning. Despite being down for multiple minutes and a bevy of trainers and coaches around her, Tunning stayed in the game.
“That was a shot,” Clark said. “Devon was tough through all of that and I’m proud of her tenacity and mental toughness.”
After a pop out ended the top half of the inning, the bottom of the seventh inning was set up perfectly for the Longhorns. Washington, sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens and Thom were due up. Then Washington reached on a signature bunt base hit to lead off the inning and after Stephens popped out, Thom took to the plate.
“You have to want that moment and I want that moment just as much as anybody else,” Thom said.
Thom took hold of that moment, lining a ball in a gap that Baylor had given her in right-center field which Washington scored easily on to give Texas the walk off win in the seniors’ last game at McCombs Field.
“I’m sad to say that that’s my last game here, but it was a great way to end [the game],” Thom said.
The four seniors on the team—Thom, Washington, Ogle and first baseman Karina Scott—leave the program with a record of 177-54 and a Women’s College World Series appearance, though those aren’t quite final numbers yet for the class.
Six hours after the game ended, the Longhorns learned that they are headed for a tenth-straight NCAA tournament. Texas will join Mississippi State, Louisiana at Lafayette and Texas Southern in the Lafayette Regional. Earlier this season, the Longhorns beat both ULL and Texas Southern twice in tournament play.
That, along with the momentum from the walk off win over Baylor, gives Thom hope that this team can make a run in the postseason.
“We have to keep pitching like Tiarra did today and we have to score runs and have great defense and I think we’re going to be great,” Thom said.
Texas returns to Big 12 competition Friday when it plays host to unranked Oklahoma State. Both teams enter the series above .500 on the season, with the Longhorns boasting a better conference record (7-3) than the Cowgirls (4-9).
OSU looks to end a three-game skid after dropping consecutive games to Baylor and then Tulsa at home. Texas is coming off a 15-6 win over Texas State on Wednesday evening and hopes to continue its aggression at the plate against a vulnerable OSU pitching staff that has surrendered 18 runs in the past three games combined.
Meanwhile, Texas batters are hitting a combined .345 against Big 12 opponents with seven of the nine regular starters hitting above .300. Offensive production figures to be key in a series where both pitching staffs have proven susceptible to late game collapses. The Longhorns are an impressive 21-0 when scoring at least six runs and 19-5 when recording 10 hits or more.
Senior catcher Mandy Ogle has been on a hot streak as of late, hitting .500 over her last nine games. Most recently against Texas State, Ogle went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs while extending her hitting streak to nine games. Sophomore outfielder Stephanie Ceo is also coming off a big night at the plate where she went 1-for-3 with an RBI to add to her 19 for the season.
Texas currently sits in second place in the Big 12, trailing Oklahoma by four games. Baylor and Texas Tech are close behind with six wins apiece, while OSU ranks second-to-last just above Iowa State. Butn Texas leads the league in team batting average and ranks fifth in pitching with a combined ERA of 2.98 through 10 games.
Freshman pitcher Tiarra Davis is likely to get the start for the Longhorns, continuing her impressive rookie campaign. Head coach Connie Clark remarked prior to opening Big 12 competition against Baylor that Davis was the team’s ace and would be relied on as the primary pitcher. Davis has delivered so far, pitching the Longhorns to a winning record and within reach of the conference title. Davis has recorded 145 strikeouts over 147.1 innings pitched to lead the team.
With only Kansas and Baylor remaining for the Longhorns following this weekend’s action, Clark’s squad could very easily move into first place if Oklahoma falters down the stretch.
A three-game series against conference bottom dweller Iowa State was just what the Texas offense, which has struggled at times to score with runners on base, needed.
The Longhorns pounded 38 hits — eight of which left the park — and scored 38 runs in an easy sweep of the Cyclones on Friday and Saturday.
Texas (26-16, 6-1 Big 12) got off to a fast start in the first game of a doubleheader Friday, scoring in every inning of the contest. The Longhorns broke the game open in the second inning. After the first three batters reached base, sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens singled to right to score a run, and senior shortstop Taylor Thom cleared the bases with a grand slam over the center field wall to put Texas up 6-0.
Texas capped off an eight-run second to take a commanding 9-0 lead. After the Cyclones (18-21, 1-8 Big 12) cut the Longhorns’ lead to eight in the bottom of the fourth, Stephens belted a three-run homer — her second of the game — to put Texas up 17-6 en route to a 19-6 win in game one.
The second game of the doubleheader would be a much different story. Texas’ freshman pitcher Tiarra Davis and Iowa State’s junior pitcher Paris Imholz kept the bats silenced for much of the game. Davis, who pitched only in the first inning of the first game, allowed just three hits and got out of a tight jam in the sixth with a runner at third to preserve the scoreless tie.
Senior catcher Mandy Ogle became the hero of the game, hitting a two-run home run to center, which proved to be the game-winner.
With their second Big 12 series of the season clinched, the Longhorns returned to their first-game form in the series finale Saturday. After the first two batters of the game reached base, Thom lined a triple to right field and then scored on a Davis ground out to give Texas an early 3-0 lead.
The long ball continued to fly for the Longhorns as sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo hit a two-run shot in the second inning, and then, in the fourth, Thom hit her second of the series followed by a three-run blast from senior first baseman Karina Scott.
Meanwhile, Davis continued from where she left off, limiting Iowa State to only four hits in the game and allowing only one run as the Longhorns finished the sweep with a 17-1 win.
The series sweep was the ninth straight time the Longhorns have swept the Cyclones.
With the three wins, Texas sits in second place in the Big 12 standings, three games behind Oklahoma, which won two out of three against Baylor this weekend. The Sooners and Longhorns face off in a three-game series beginning Thursday that could decide the Big 12 champion.
The bats came alive Wednesday night against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Texas tallied 11 hits and benefitted from a five-run third inning to take an 8-0 run-rule win.
With a break from conference play this weekend, head coach Connie Clark said she was pleased with the way the team came out against the Islanders.
“We need to make sure that, on these two nonconference games, as well as our practices, that we’re very intense and we have a sense of urgency, so we can finish out conference [play] strong,” Clark said.
The Longhorn offense, which at times has started slow, got off to a quick start with senior centerfielder Brejae Washington getting on base with a bunt and then stealing second on the next pitch. Sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens put the Longhorns ahead with an
Freshman pitcher Tiarra Davis and sophomore first baseman Holly Kern each added an RBI hit to extend the Texas lead to 3-0 after
Clark said although Texas can’t score every time in the first inning, the team has talked about winning every inning.
“I like their approach,” Clark said. “That’s taking them to a heightened sense of awareness that they need to push every inning like it’s the seventh inning.”
In the third inning, the Longhorns would break the game wide open. Like the first inning, senior shortstop Taylor Thom led off with a single and a stolen base and would score on a single by Davis. Senior catcher Mandy Ogle blasted a two-run home run to left field to put Texas up 6-0. Sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo and Washington then had RBI hits to push the lead to 8-0.
Ogle, who has hit a home run in back-to-back games, said she thinks the game is finally paying her back after a rough start to the season.
“In the first half of the season, I was hitting it, but I wasn’t getting the gap shots, so I’m glad it’s finally coming through when it matters,” Ogle said.
The three Longhorn pitchers combined to allow only two hits and no base runners past second base. Davis picked up the win, striking out four and allowing only one hit in three innings pitched. Junior Gabby Smith and freshman Lauren Slatten each pitched a scoreless inning.
Clark, who planned on getting all of the pitchers at least an inning in the circle, said it was good to see her pitchers be able to pitch well against opposing batters.
“When they’re facing our hitters in practice, it’s different because they know each other so well,” Clark said. “This gives us an opportunity to see how they’re going to attack other hitters.”
Texas will get the weekend off and then host Texas State next Wednesday before restarting conference play next weekend against Texas Tech.
The championship game of the Texas Classic summed up the weekend for the Longhorns.
Behind a three-run home run from senior catcher Mandy Ogle, No. 15 Texas battled back to tie No. 7 Kentucky in the fourth inning after falling behind 5-1 early on.
But the Wildcats scored on an error by senior shortstop Taylor Thom with the bases loaded, winning 6-5 to take first place in the tournament. The Longhorns (6-6) finished the weekend with a 2-3 record.
Kentucky took the early lead off of a Ginny Carroll solo home run and an RBI single by Emily Jolly in the second, until Texas cut the deficit in the bottom of the inning to 2-1 after a solo home run from sophomore right fielder Lindsey Stephens.
The Wildcats pulled ahead again in the top half of the third on a three-run home run by Lauren Cumbess only for the Longhorns to return the favor. With Ogle’s home run and a hit batter with the bases loaded, Texas battled back an inning later and tied the game.
Freshman pitcher Tiarra Davis, who struck out eight but gave up four walks in the losing effort, said the comeback tells a lot about the
team’s potential to learn.
“I think we’re pretty young, but I think we’re figuring some things out,” Davis said.
The Longhorns’ tournament got off to a slow start Friday, scoring only six runs against Kentucky and IPFW. Kentucky pitcher Kelsey Nunley held Texas to only four runs and struck out five while the Wildcats capitalized on two errors and a two-run home run to take a 6-4 win.
In the night game, IPFW pitcher Miranda Kramer found similar success against Texas, striking out 12 Longhorn batters and stranding nine runners on base. With the game tied at 1-1, the Mastodons scored twice in the top of the eighth and held the Longhorns to only one run in the bottom of the inning to secure a 3-2 win.
Texas came out firing on Saturday, with five straight hits en route to a five-run first inning against Louisiana Tech. Freshman pitchers Lauren Slatten and Davis combined to give up only two runs while striking out seven batters in the 7-2 win.
The hit parade continued for Texas in the second game of the day against IPFW. The Longhorns scored in every inning to take a 10-2 run-rule win in the semifinal matchup. Junior pitcher Gabby Smith had a complete game two-hitter with no earned runs.
Newly minted senior Mandy Ogle was named to the Women’s International All-Star Team at last week’s Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship. It was the San Antonio native’s second summer in a row playing in the tournament for the California A’s. She was the only member of the A’s chosen for the elite squad.
The All-Star team was chosen after round-robin play of the tournament, with Ogle hitting .444 for that particular part of the event. She contributed to the A’s record 2-3 in pool play, highlighted with an 8-1 win over Japan (who eventually went on to win the tournament). Ogle was 1-for-1 against Japan, and was hit by a pitch, driving in three runs. She also had two hits against Canada and a hit against Team USA.
During Ogle's junior year at Texas, she started 60 of 61 games for the Longhorns as catcher, recorded new career highs in runs batted (41) and home runs (four), and matched her previous personal bests with 43 hits and 22 runs scored. She was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Central Region Second Team.
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.
Blaire Luna is dominating. Hitters are hitting just .121 off her. Teams are scoring just 1.25 runs a game off her. And most impressively, she is striking out a nation-leading 12.5 a game.
But she has a weakness — the long ball.
When Shelby Pendley went deep twice against Luna last Sunday, she hit the ninth and 10th home runs Luna has allowed on the year. But they were also the 14th and 15th runs off home runs that Luna allowed.
While just allowing 37 runs all year, the long ball makes up 40.5% of them — higher than the national average.
Despite her tendency to give up a blast here and there, she still is one of the top pitchers in the nation, with a 22-3 record.
But that third loss stings the most as it was against Oklahoma with a chance to win it in the seventh.
“I don’t think we should forget about this series,” catcher Mandy Ogle said after the Oklahoma finale. “Losing this hits us all pretty hard, but I think it’s going to light a fire underneath us and we’re going to come out next weekend and work hard.”
And that’s the sort of motivation Texas needs after pretty much coasting through the first part of its schedule.
This weekend, the No. 7 Longhorns (39-6, 9-2 Big 12) will travel up to Lubbock for a three-game set with Texas Tech (29-21, 3-9 Big 12).
Texas, one game behind Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings, most likely needs to win out, meaning three-game sweeps against both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and then winning the finale against Baylor, if it wants a shot at its first Big 12 championship since 2010.
And this weekend’s matchup against Texas Tech shouldn’t be much of a challenge.
The Red Raiders sit at the bottom of the Big 12 standings, and most of that can be attributed to the team’s .228 batting average in conference.
That average, coupled by a 5.40 team ERA, is not a recipe for success.
Put those offensive numbers against Blaire Luna, who should take the circle at least twice this weekend, and the Red Raiders may have a difficult time reaching first base.
As for Texas, Taylor Thom is a player to watch this weekend.
Thom, the hottest-hitting Longhorn, finished the Oklahoma series with a .500 batting average, including a homer off the scoreboard in the finale. The two RBIs she collected in the finale put her season total at 50, good for second in program history and just seven off Lexy Bennett’s mark.
Bounce it off the chest, pass it on, use an arm instead of a hand, keep it going.
Those are Mandy Ogle’s tips for hacky sack, the latest pastime in No. 6 Texas’ pregame routine. Pair that with cheers — Ogle’s favorite is “Ain’t no party like a Texas party” — and the squad drives the energy that fuels its 35-4 season, currently on a 12-game winning streak.
“We have the drive, the skill and the talent,” Ogle said. “We want [to win the National Championship] and if you want it, you can make it happen. People forget you need to make it fun and worthwhile to be out here.”
But amidst cheers, hacky-sack rivalries and the jokes, Ogle remains focused and successful behind the plate. Her perfect fielding percentage speaks for itself, and the confidence she gives pitchers helps the team even further.
“Anytime you can have a veteran behind the plate who can help the pitching staff out, it allows our pitchers to focus on pounding the mitt,” head Coach Connie Clark said. “[Ogle] helps us tremendously and does a great job keeping pitchers emotionally where they need to be.”
Behind the plate, Ogle has a lot to remember. She analyzes the angle of the ball, noticing up-close differences for a drop ball, how the ball moves and at which angle. Game-deciding collisions are her favorite opportunities, but it’s her eye contact and nonverbal understandings that help in games most.
“I constantly talk to my family and other teammates to see what I need to improve on but in the moment, you just go for it and can’t think about anything,” Ogle said. “When you do think about it, it messes you up.”
As Ogle’s catching eye stays sharp, she also boasts a .500 (eight-for-16) during her last six games, including a game-winning bases-loaded walk to break a third inning 0-0 against Western Kentucky on Sunday. Her 31 RBIs this season nearly total those of her first two seasons (33) and eight doubles off 32 hits this season keep the offense strong.
“I’m grateful that I’m actually having the results show in the statistics,” Ogle said. “Being behind the plate is very normal for me and I feel very comfortable so I just try to get a hit and help the team.”
Ogle is always learning from her teammates.
“[Taylor Hoagland] took me in as a freshman and we became really close,” Ogle said. “She’s a role model and wants everyone to have passion for the game because that’s why we’re all out here. Being a leadoff, she picks up on something and tells us what the pitcher’s throwing so we can look for it.”
Ogle echoes this mentorship in helping the new freshmen. Excited about their talent and the team chemistry, Ogle looks out for pitcher Holly Kern.
“I just try to get laughs out of her,” Ogle said. “I try to get her to stay calm, take deep breaths and realize that she’s been doing this her whole life.”
Sharing tips in the diamond is nothing new for Ogle. She’s been learning from a family of athletes for years. Brother Tyler Ogle was a three-year starter for the Oklahoma baseball team, and was drafted in 2011 to the minor leagues. He now catches for the Great Lakes Loons.
“Everything my brother learns new, he tells me,” Ogle said. “He says, ‘Oh if I knew this in college, that would’ve helped me,’ so he shares it with me and it’s bettering me.”
And Clark thinks it is.
“Mandy is tremendous,” Clark said. “As a junior, she has worked into this role in the last couple of years, and I am really proud of her. Oftentimes, catchers don’t get enough credit, but she is tremendous. She is one of the best.”