Stephanie Wong

Freshman third baseman Randel Leahy had a career game Wednesday against UT-Arlington. Leahy blasted a grand slam in the first inning of play and clinched the Texas victory with a walk-off, solo home run in the fifth.
Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

It didn’t take long for Texas to come out victorious over UT-Arlington on Wednesday night.

Behind freshman third baseman Randel Leahy’s two-home-run night, the Longhorns run-ruled the Mavericks, 8–0. 

Texas (28–12) pounced on UT-Arlington (26–20) from the start. 

Sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis took the mound for the Longhorns and held the Mavericks scoreless. In the bottom of the first, the Longhorns launched an offensive strike. They started off quickly with a walk and a single from sophomore shortstop Devon Tunning and sophomore outfielder Stephanie Wong, respectively, but a setback occurred as the Mavericks retired the next two batters.

Then, with two outs and the bases loaded, junior catcher Erin Shireman sparked a rally with a single to right field, knocking in the first two runs of the game. The next two hitters connected for two more singles to load the bases as Leahy stepped up to the plate. As the ball traveled from the mound to the plate, Leahy held her stance, connected on the pitch and launched the ball over the left-field wall for her first career grand slam to extend Texas’ lead to 6–0.

“Great at-bats for Randel tonight,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “She’s really come along, and we’ve talked about it this season that she’s somebody we wanted to try to get in the lineup every single day.” 

After Davis retired three in the second, Tunning and Wong struck again. Tunning led off the second inning with a single but was put out on a fielder’s choice off Wong’s bat. To complete the frame, Wong stole second, advanced to third on a ground out and crossed the plate on a passed ball to make the score 7–0.

The next two innings were scoreless, thanks to Texas senior pitcher Gabby Smith’s six strikeouts.

Freshman Erica Wright came into the game in the fifth inning to pitch a perfect inning.

“Tonight was really about getting our pitchers work in a midweek, nonconference game,” Clark said. “All three of our pitchers did a great job of throwing to all zones and mixing speeds efficiently. That’s what we need is for those three to get stronger and stronger as we go on this season.”

In the bottom of the fifth, the Mavericks sent two Longhorns back to the dugout and needed just one more out for another offensive opportunity to get back in the game. But Leahy hit her second home run of the game, to the same wall as before, to clinch the victory.

“[The softball I saw] was pretty big,” Leahy said. “It was nice to come out tonight and redeem ourselves.”

Clark recognized Leahy’s success on a holistic level.

“Obviously, the grand slam was sweet, but to get the walk-off was tremendous,” Clark said.

The Mavericks were the last nonconference opponent on Texas’ schedule. Four Big 12 series are all that remain in the regular season for
the Longhorns. 

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.

The Longhorns struggled all weekend to figure out the Jaywhawk pitching staff.

In the first two games of the series, Texas only managed to score four runs on eight hits and through four innings in the rubber match on Sunday, it was more of the same from the Longhorns.

But then the fifth inning rolled around and after the first three batters of the inning reached on singles, the floodgates finally opened for the Longhorns. Seven runs crossed the plate for Texas in the inning, including a walk-off three-run triple from freshman left fielder Stephanie Wong as the Longhorns won 8-0 to take a 2-1 series victory.

“We were looking for one pitch,” Wong said.

The Longhorns struggled Friday and Saturday to figure out Kansas ace Kelsey Kessler, who despite not throwing fast, kept Texas off balance with movement. Texas helped her out in those games swinging early in the count.

On Sunday, however, the Longhorns made Kessler work, forcing 10 full-counts against the sophomore. While it didn’t have an immediate effect as Texas scored only one run through the first four innings, the strategy did force her to throw 62 pitches through the first two innings.

Head coach Connie Clark said they were trying to avoid the “junk” from Kessler.

“We were just trying to be more patient in general and get pitches that we can hit and handle better,” Clark said.

Then came the fifth inning. Wong, who had come into the game in a slump, led off the inning with a single to center, which was followed by back-to-back bunt base hits by sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo and senior center fielder Brejae Washington. A ground out, squeeze bunt and two singles upped the Texas lead to 5-0 before Wong stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning.

With the bases loaded, Wong took a 1-2 pitch to left which Kansas left fielder Taylor Hatfield misplayed, leading to a three-run triple to give Texas the run-rule win.

“It felt great to finally drive the ball,” Wong said. “I’ve been working through some things and it all came together on that pitch.”

The offensive burst came just in time for freshman ace Tiarra Davis, who had to bounce back from a rough Saturday start. In that game, Davis only pitched an inning, while giving up three runs in a 5-2 loss.

But in the game Sunday, Davis pitched with confidence, allowing only one hit in the first three innings. In the fourth, Kansas loaded the bases with one out. But, like she’s done all season, Davis managed to get out of the jam with a foul out to the catcher and a pop out to short.

“I had a talk with Mandy [Ogle] and Coach Clark right before I went out there and they just really calmed me down,” Davis said.

Texas will play Baylor twice in the span of six days, traveling up to Waco to make up the game that was rained out on March 23 and then hosting the Bears next Sunday. In the first meeting, Texas opened conference play behind a dominant performance from Davis and solid hitting for a 4-1 win.

While the offense has been up and down over the past three series, Davis said that the big last inning gives them momentum going into the final two games.

“It’s about finishing out strong and we’ve got two more opportunities to do that,” Clark said.

Freshman Stephanie Wong has always dreamed of taking Red and Charline McCombs Field as a Longhorn. She'll get a chance to realize her dream in Texas' home opener on Jan. 12. 

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Stephanie Wong has been preparing for this moment her whole life.  

When the No. 10 Texas Longhorns take the field for their home opener on Feb. 12, it will be Wong’s first time wearing the burnt orange.  

“It is really fun and really intense,” Wong said of the transition to college ball. “It is a lot different than what I am used to in high school, a lot faster paced but really exciting.”

Growing up in the Central Texas area, where she spent four years as the starting shortstop at Westlake High School, Wong attended many Longhorn softball games throughout her youth. Watching three-time National Player of the Year Cat Osterman pitch the Longhorns all the way to the College World Series is one of her many memories.

One of seven freshmen on this year’s roster, Wong figures to be a key contributor on a squad without ace pitcher Blaire Luna or standout third baseman Taylor Hoagland, who both graduated last spring. 

A slap hitter of slight build, Wong brings a mix of quickness and athleticism to a lineup already dotted with speedsters in Taylor Thom and Brejae Washington. Wong likens her style of play to a 2008 U.S. Olympian’s.

“I watched Caitlin Lowe a lot,” Wong said. “She is fast and a slap hitter, so I tried to emulate her.”

Following a storied career at Westlake, where she was a three-time All-State selection and earned a spot in the TGCA area All-Star game as a senior, Wong joins Texas teammate, Thom, as the hometown favorites. But the two share more than local roots. Both Thom and Wong previously played for the Texas Blaze Gold select team, along with Luna, and both pose a threat on the base paths. 

Compared to last year’s team that was anchored by dominant pitching and experience, the 2014 crop of Longhorns are a notably youthful bunch, with only six upperclassmen on the roster.

“It is really fun having all the freshmen along with me,” Wong said. “The upperclassmen do a good job of telling us what to do and how things go.” 

Despite a relative lack of collective experience, the Longhorns expect to defend their preseason No. 10 ranking and compete well into the postseason. 

“My personal goal is to get as much playing time on the field as possible,” Wong said. “As a team, we want to make it back to the College World Series.”