Taylor Ellsworth

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Few things in sports provide a sense of pride and accomplishment to an athlete the way winning on home turf does. But through the first two days of the Texas Invitational, the Longhorns have struggled to do that.

Texas beat a ranked team in No. 20 Michigan and added a win versus Virginia Tech this weekend. But the Longhorns also lost to No. 21 Ohio State and Wichita State.

Texas finally recorded a win against a top-25 team on the opening day of the tournament, but its second such win failed to come the next day. Texas has a record of 2–2 in the tournament heading into the final day of play, where the team will face Michigan once again.

“Our communication and our chemistry are really big strengths,” sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth said. “All of us get along, and we all hang out off the field. We’re never alone — we’re always together. I think just having the chemistry is a strength that brings you together as a team. You have that trust in the person, on and off the field.”

In Saturday’s first game of the doubleheader, Texas had to rely on a rally to defeat the Hokies, trailing by two runs until the fourth inning. Freshman Chloe Romero started for the Longhorns and got rocked for three runs in just a third of an inning. Romero was relieved by junior Paige von Sprecken.

Von Sprecken continued her strong start to the season, bringing her record to 3–1, after recording two shutouts earlier this season. Texas defeated Virginia Tech, 3-2.

“Paige von Sprecken is doing a lot of things for us this year,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “She’s one of our top hitters and needs to be in the lineup whether she’s in the circle or not. Working at first, working in the outfield — she’s doing really well.”

In the second game, senior Kristen Clark started for Texas and pitched four strong innings of two earned-run ball. Junior Brooke Bolinger came into the game to collect the last couple of innings. She gave up a grand slam in the top of the seventh to give the Buckeyes an 8-5 lead. The Longhorns weren’t able to recover.

The depth of the Texas pitching staff was on full display in both games — when one pitcher grew tired or was being out-played, another came in. Having so many pitchers pitch in one game can be challenging, but with time, could be a weapon for the team.

“It takes some getting used to, just knowing what pitches each pitcher throws,” senior captain Randel Leahy said. “We’ve been working on that a lot in practice.”

Texas plays No. 20 Michigan at 1:30 p.m. Sunday to close out the Texas Invitational at McCombs Field.

Junior catcher Randel Leahy attempts to hit an incoming pitch. Leahy has been impressed with Taylor Ellsworth’s quick development at the same position.
Photo Credit: Mary Pistorius | Daily Texan Staff

Two steps forward, one step back.

That’s been the mantra for the Texas softball team so far in 2018.

On a Friday where the Longhorns showed promise in a 3-0 victory against No. 20 Michigan, they followed it up with an even more disappointing 7-5 loss to Wichita State.

“It’s such a game of momentum, and I felt we gave them a little bit of momentum tonight,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “We had the opportunity to put our ace in the game, and we have the firepower to put more runs up, but we just didn’t get that done.”

All started well for the Longhorns (5–6) at the beginning of the nightcap against the Shockers, as the Texas lineup saw a quick revival of life against Wichita State.

An offensive onslaught began in the second inning when sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack and freshman third baseman MK Tedder combined for back-to-back singles. On the next at-bat, Wichita State’s Bailey Lange fired a wild pitch, scoring Tedder from third and giving the Longhorns a 1-0 lead.

After junior catcher Randel Leahy was hit by a pitch, sophomore outfielder Tuesday DerMargosian looped a single to left field, preparing a bases-loaded situation for a pinch-hitting Ciera Schick.

On the first pitch she saw, the junior infielder lined a ball to right field to score two more Texas runners, improving the Longhorns’ lead to 3-0. Texas added one more run shortly after thanks to another Shockers wild pitch.

But Wichita State didn’t go away quietly.

With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the third, the Shockers’ Laurie Derrico slapped a line drive off the centerfield wall in order to cut the Longhorns’ lead in half.

Texas responded with another run of their own in the bottom of the third. With a runner on third, Tedder roped a RBI double down the left-field line for her second hit of the night, putting Texas up 5-2.

But Wichita State erased the Longhorns’ lead in the blink of an eye in the following frame. With the bases loaded again, sophomore first baseman Ryleigh Buck doubled to left-center field, clearing the bases and tying the game at five a piece.

Unable to respond in the bottom half of the inning, Texas opened the door for Wichita State to seize control of the game in the top of the fifth.

After opening with a lead-off triple, junior catcher Madison Perrigan scored on a RBI single from junior right fielder Asea Webber to make the score 6-5. Senior left fielder Morgan Palmer added another run to Wichita State’s lead with a RBI single of her own, driving Weber in with a looping single just over second base.

The Longhorns were unable to respond from there, leaving runners on base in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings, losing 7-5.

“I thought we had a little bit of lull (in terms of playing with energy),” Clark said. “I know it’s late, but we have to keep the energy going and keep the pedal down.”

The problems that plagued the Longhorns against Wichita State were mostly absent in their earlier game against Michigan.

Junior starting pitcher Brooke Bolinger was sensational in working around Michigan hitters, accounting for a complete-game shutout, seven strikeouts and only five hits.

The Texas bats finally came to life in the bottom of the third.

Following singles by sophomore first baseman Malory Schattle and freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson that gave Texas its first two hits of the game, sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth uncorked a hanging pitch for a three-run homer over the left-field wall to put Texas up 3-0.

“I knew my team was down and we needed something to get going,” Ellsworth said. “I was just looking for a hard hit, and my hard hit ended up going over.”

The Wolverines loaded the bases in the top of the fifth — their second time on the night. But Bolinger was able to work out of the frame without any damage, and Texas cruised the rest of the way to the shutout win.

Texas returns to action on Saturday for another doubleheader in the Texas Invitational, with games against Virginia Tech and No. 21 Ohio State.

“Our energy can’t get down,” Ellsworth said. “We have to continue to work hard and take stuff from each game and just build on top of it.”

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

The day started in a blaze, then quickly cooled to embers. The Longhorn softball team shut out an opponent to open play in Mexico at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge, but then was shut out in the ensuing game.

The Longhorns first played Rutgers. Senior Paige von Sprecken pitched a complete-game shutout, her second of the season, as the Longhorns won 2-0. Von Sprecken also hit a solo home run during the game.

Freshman infielder MK Tedder notched her second RBI of the season — scoring sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth, who hustled for a triple to start the fourth inning.

“Having that depth will be good because if someone is struggling, somebody else can come in and hopefully get the job done,” redshirt junior pitcher Erica Wright said. “I’m hoping that we can all stay on the attack.”

But the second game of the day did not go so well for the Longhorns. Facing No. 15 Ole Miss, Wright gave up five runs in the first three innings of play, while the Texas offense did not put up a run until the bottom of the fifth. The Longhorns lost 8-2.

The offense this season has struggled so far, as the team has scored three runs or less in every game except for one.

The Longhorns continue play in Mexico on Friday against No. 3 Oregon. First pitch is 8 p.m.

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

From the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team to the 2005 Texas Longhorns football national championship team to the 2017 Houston Astros — what did all of these teams have in common? Undeniable chemistry.

The Longhorn softball team looks to bounce back from last weekend’s pedestrian start to the season by heading to Mexico in hopes of displaying the kind of chemistry that championship teams need.

“We’re ready,” sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth said. “We’ve been practicing hard to come out everyday ready to work. Our chemistry this year is unbelievable. We’re just ready to come out and play.”

During last week’s games, the youth of the team, especially in the infield, got its first taste of regular season action. Freshman Janae Jefferson got off to a hot start, recording a total of five RBIs over her first four games. Fellow freshman MK Tedder flashed the glove at third base.

The team chemistry has been a process to build this year. In the fall season, Texas’ freshmen got their first taste of collegiate competition. But it wasn’t the only way the team bonded together.

“The main thing that we did this fall that was kind of special was a triathlon,” Erica Wright, a redshirt junior pitcher, said. “And at first we thought this is insane, we play softball, why do we have to do this? But honestly, it brought us together as a team, and it helped build us mentally as well as physically.”

The players were not the only ones involved in the triathlon. The coaching staff also played a role.

“I was doing music and holding up signs and following them around,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “But what a special experience that was for the athletes. Working through the triathlon was special for us because they got uncomfortable and learned they could get through tough things together.”

The fall season and the experience already on the roster has the team looking forward to the rest of the season. The upperclassmen feel inspired to lead the youth of the team.

“I am excited to have fun on the field,” senior captain Randel Leahy said. “I’m excited because our team chemistry has been so amazing and the fall was awesome.”

This upcoming weekend, the Longhorns will play Rutgers, Houston, No. 15 Ole Miss and No. 3 Oregon in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. Last year, Texas struggled to notch a signature win early in the season en route to an early NCAA
Tournament exit.

Texas has a chance to not only exceed expectations this year, but also do something the 2017 Longhorns were unable to accomplish early last season, with two top-15 teams on the schedule this weekend in Mexico for potential
signature victories.

“I think that we’re young, and I think people are underestimating us a lot,” Ellsworth said. “That being said, I think that we have more room to grow. We’re very coachable and come out everyday ready to play. The bar is real high, and we are ready to reach it.”