the Hilton Houston Plaza Invitational

Junior short stop Taylor Thom completed four home runs against Houston, including two grand slams.  Thom was awarded Big 12 Conference Player of the Week after capping off a week of shining performances.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

After traveling to Houston for the Hilton Houston Plaza Invitational last weekend, the No. 6 Longhorns now welcome their southern neighbors at home. Facing Houston Baptist (4-0) on Wednesday, Texas hopes to notch another W for its 11-0 opening streak, tied for second best in program history. Texas has never played Houston Baptist before, but it holds a 51-7 record against current Southland Conference members and a .800 winning percentage against Texas foes since 1997.

Entering game 12, Texas posts a .350 batting average with 90 runs (8.2 per game). The offense has also collected 13 home runs and 34 stolen bases, as seasoned hitters like shortstop Taylor Thom fuel the energy. Thom was named Big 12 Conference Player of the Week on Tuesday, after performances including Saturday’s win against Houston, when she finished with four home runs, two grand slams and 13 RBI. Thom broke the Texas RBI record, previously at eight per contest, and became the fourth player in NCAA history to hit two grand slams in a game.

“What a great night — [Taylor Thom] has really been working on some things and she saw the ball exceptionally well tonight,” head coach Connie Clark said Saturday. “We were very patient and we were able to draw some walks and get the table set for her. Taylor came up big and I’m very excited to see her
get results.”

Third baseman Taylor Hoagland, who scored her own three-run homer in the game, attributed Thom’s performance to a table set even earlier.

“Everyone was making jokes about what she had for lunch,” Hoagland said. “We needed some of that, too. It was amazing.”

Freshman second baseman Stephanie Ceo rounds out the offensive threat from the newcomers, currently leading the Big 12 Conference with a .591 batting average (13-for-22). She also set the Texas record for consecutive games with a hit to open a career with seven.

Pitching staff Blaire Luna, Kim Bruins, Gabby Smith and Holly Kern continue to stump opponents combining for just 33 hits, seven runs and 19 walks this season. Texas’s 0.79 ERA is the best in the conference.

Wednesday’s game begins at 4:30 p.m. on the Red & Charline McCombs Field.

Published on February 20, 2013 as "High hopes for perfect-record Horns". 

No. 6 Texas improved to 11-0 for the third time in program history this weekend with five wins at the Hilton Houston Plaza Invitational. Led by junior Taylor Thom’s hot bat, the Longhorns powered by DePaul, Illinois twice and Houston once.

Thom hit two grand slams Saturday against Houston (7-3) and followed that up with a two-homer performance Sunday against DePaul (4-6) to highlight the potent Texas offense this weekend. Thom became only the fourth player in NCAA history to hit two grand slams in a game.

“I had been struggling lately so I was just trying to get good swings on the ball and pick good pitches,” Thom said. “Tonight I was seeing it well, and the ball just went.”

But Thom wasn’t the only Longhorn crushing the ball this weekend as the Longhorns hit .357 and slugged .612. Karina Scott, Taylor Hoagland, Kim Bruins and Holly Kern all went deep this weekend.

“We got to swing the bat a lot,” head coach Connie Clark said. “It’s something about getting the repetitions. We got some hitters that have really been working through some things in the last week, and we saw some vast improvements in some of the things they were keying on. And that’s exciting. It’s good to see the hard work paying off.”

The Longhorns collected four shutouts and four run-rule wins this weekend as they outscored opponents 52-5. The Longhorns have now outscored their opponents 90-7 this year, as they continue to run through the competition. Kern, Blaire Luna and Bruins all threw shutouts.

On Friday, the Longhorns beat DePaul, 13-0, and Illinois, 3-0. The first game of the weekend saw Texas steal eight bases, tying a team-record.

On Saturday, the Longhorns began the day with a thrilling 12-2 victory over Illinois (4-5). After trailing 2-0 after five innings, the Longhorns put up a 12 spot — the school record for runs in a single inning — en route to yet another shutout. The next game against Houston went a lot smoother in a 15-0 victory.

Sunday’s 9-0 win over DePaul capped off the festivities.

The Longhorns are now tied with the 2010 squad for the second-best record to start the season. The 2003 team won 16 straight to begin its year.

The Longhorns return home Wednesday looking to improve to 12-0 when they take on Houston Baptist at Red and Charline McCombs field at 4:30 p.m.

Texas’ lucky number is six these days. 

Sixth in the national polls. Six wins in six games this year. Six runs in its last win. And Taylor Hoagland, who wears No. 6 on her jersey, is six runs away from the Texas career runs record Lexy Bennett currently holds. But now the Longhorns are looking beyond their comfort zone for game seven, competing in their first away games of the season at the Hilton Houston Plaza Invitational.

“We’re working forward going into another tournament this weekend and I plan to give all four pitchers looks this weekend,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I’d love to see all four be able to contribute. Especially in tournaments of five games in three days, it’s nice to have a solid staff.”

The Longhorns play DePaul and Illinois on Friday, Illinois and Houston on Saturday and DePaul again on Sunday for the tournament. The Longhorns are 6-0 all-time against the Blue Demons and won 11-3 in a five-inning victory March 17, 2011 in their last meeting. Texas has never faced the Fighting Illini, but it holds a 38-35 record against current Big Ten conference teams.      

Defensively, the team’s .964 fielding percentage hurts opposing batters, as freshman pitcher Holly Kern (2-0) attributes her confidence and success to teammates who “make a great play to keep the ball infield or a diving catch in the outfield.”          

Offensively, Texas has won 91 percent of games since 2010 when scoring a run in the first inning. Freshman Stephanie Ceo threatens pitchers with a .667 batting average to dominate the team’s .345 for the season. The team’s batting average reaches .373 when up to the plate with two outs, coming in 20 of 38 season runs from those plays.

“I think that tells you we’re in a great warrior kind of mindset,” Clark said of the two-out runs. “They continue to play and that’s what we ask our athletes to do — to get to the next pitch — and we’re scoring with it.” 

Published on February 15, 2013 as "Horns head to Houston, face tough tourney tests".