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.