Texas

Photo Credit: Elias Huerta

Late in Friday night’s game against West Virginia, the Longhorns were down but not out.

Heading into the seventh inning, Texas trailed 6-3 and needed a spark to get itself back into contention. A hit-by-pitch on Masen Hibbeler did just that.

The Longhorns went on to score six runs in the top of the inning and never looked back after capturing the lead. Texas then tacked on a few more runs to propel the team to an 11-6 victory over the Mountaineers in Morgantown.

The Texas offense had not only one of its better offensive nights on the road but one of its better nights of the entire season. The team recorded 11 runs on 15 hits and added four walks on the night.

Texas (30–15, 12–4 Big 12) was led by sophomore infielders David Hamilton and Ryan Reynolds, who went for seven combined hits and six RBIs. Junior catcher DJ Petrinsky also played a large role for the Texas offense, with two RBIs on two hits.

Texas starting pitcher junior Nolan Kingham struggled in his start on Friday night, letting up five runs over five innings of work. He was pulled in favor of sophomore reliever Bryce Elder. Elder, who was unable to record an out, allowed one run on one hit in two batters faced.

Freshman reliever Matt Whelan then took over for Elder and recorded an almost-flawless four innings, in what may have been the best performance of his young career. Whelan faced a total of 12 batters and did not allow a hit or run.

Whelan came into the game with only eight appearances and a 5.52 ERA. To whom much is given, much is expected. But nobody, not even Texas head coach David Pierce, could’ve expected Whelan’s dominance over the last four innings.

The Longhorns face West Virginia in the second game of the series 3 p.m. Saturday at Monongalia County Ballpark in Morgantown.

Photo Credit: Brooke Crim | Daily Texan Staff

Heading into this weekend’s series against No. 3 Oklahoma, Texas head coach Connie Clark predicted her team would need to be aggressive and take advantage of key opportunities in order to succeed.

But the Longhorns (28–19, 10–4 Big 12) failed to do just that in their opening game against the Sooners on Friday night in Norman. Texas left runners on base in crucial situations during the first and third innings to fall 6-0 to Oklahoma (42–3, 13–0 Big 12).

“It's about executing, and it doesn't matter who's on the other side,” Clark said. “We had a couple of big opportunities early, and we needed to strike.”

The first opportunity for Texas came in the top of the first after freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson and senior designated player Paige von Sprecken led the inning with consecutive singles off All-American Oklahoma pitcher Paige Parker.

But the Longhorns’ offense stalled there, as Parker forced a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by sophomore left fielder Kaitlyn Washington and then struck out the next two Texas hitters to escape the inning without any damage.

In the following frame, the Sooners found their first run of the game off the bat of Oklahoma freshman Jocelyn Alo, who homered off junior pitcher Brooke Bolinger for her 22nd home run of the season.

After a scoreless second inning, the top of the Texas lineup provided some life in the third when Jefferson and von Sprecken reached base again for the Longhorns. But the rally was short-lived, as Parker worked around the Texas hitters with a flyout and strikeout to end the frame.

While Boligner threw three excellent innings after a one-run first, the potent Oklahoma offense eventually got to the Texas lefty in the fifth inning. After the Sooners loaded the bases on a Longhorn error and a walk, junior Oklahoma first baseman Shay Knighten shifted the momentum with a grand slam for a 5-0 lead.

Following another scoreless inning by the Longhorns, Oklahoma padded its lead in the sixth inning when sophomore Oklahoma right fielder Nicole Mendes smacked an RBI single to make the score 6-0.

The Longhorns will play their second game of the series against Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.

“You have to execute, and I think that's about us and continues to be about us,” Clark said. “We've got to come back to work tomorrow.”

Photo Credit: Angela Wang | Daily Texan Staff

On a beautiful April night, the conditions were ripe for a competitive night of baseball between two talented Texas teams. But when Texas hosted Houston on Tuesday night, the game turned sloppy in a hurry. 

Texas beat Houston, 9-4, at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The score, however, did not tell the full story of the game. The two teams combined for a total of 10 pitchers, 10 walks, five hit batsmen and just 11 hits over the course of the night.

Texas head coach David Pierce acknowledged his team’s underwhelming performance, but had a gratifying attitude about the victory.

“Never had a bad win,” Pierce said. “It was ugly, but we’ll take it. We’ll move on and learn from it. We were just fortunate to win the game.”

The game, which began worse than it ended, started off on a sour note. Redshirt freshman starting pitcher Tristan Stevens, in his second start of the season, was pulled after recording only one out. After struggling with control and loading the bases, he was pulled in favor of freshman reliever Bryce Elder.

“The thing that concerned me (about Stevens) was not that he struggled early, but (that) I didn’t see the pitches we’ve been seeing,” Pierce said. “His breaking ball was really big, and he throws a tight slider. His change-up is always down, and his fastball has more life. So I just felt like, at that point, it’s a start that says ‘disaster.’ And so we had to make a move
right away.”

Elder limited the scoring, only allowing one run on the inning. He threw two more innings and allowed another earned run. His role in controlling the damage was vital for Texas, which maintained a close lead in the early part of the ballgame.

“I thought Bryce did a good job of settling it down,” Pierce said. “He kind of controlled it and avoided the big inning. And that’s what we needed right there.”

Elder was then pulled in favor of true freshman Nico O’Donnell, who at one time, was the unquestioned Tuesday starting pitcher. O’Donnell has been through his fair share of struggles, but seemed to get back into his rhythm Tuesday night as he recorded more innings (3.2, 1 ER) than any other member of the staff. Pierce acknowledged his young pitcher’s recent struggles and said that he’s trying to get them to believe in themselves more.

“Right now, we’re just going through some young guys going through some confidence issues, and continuing to get better,” Pierce said. “We’re trying to get them to pick up their rhythm, trying to pick up their arm speed. We’re trying to get them to trust, trust, trust their stuff in the strike zone.”

One of the more unusual occurrences from the game was not that Texas only recorded four hits as a team, but that all of the hits came from only two players. The Longhorns’ No. 7 and No. 8 batters, sophomore outfielder Duke Ellis and junior catcher DJ Petrinsky, each recorded a pair of hits Tuesday night and were the only players to make it to base on something other than a fielder’s choice, walk or being hit by a pitch.

“I think we had great discipline,” Petrinsky said. “Not a lot of strikes. We didn’t pitch at some of the pitches they wanted us to swing at. It was pretty good.”

Texas (29–15, 11–4 Big 12) will return to Big 12 play this weekend when it faces West Virginia in Morgantown at Monongalia County Ballpark. First pitch for Friday’s game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: Stephanie Martinez-Arndt | Daily Texan Staff

Texas started off strong on day one of the Big 12 Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, taking the early lead after the first round with a team score of 289. But the Longhorns’ second round of the first day was not as productive, knocking them back to fourth place with a score of 288.

Texas faced a daunting task after sitting eight strokes back heading into the third round on Tuesday. To make a push to claim its sixth straight title, Texas had some work to do.

In the third round, three different Longhorns shot even par or better, making for a solid outing and a much-needed improvement on their first two rounds. As a team, Texas finished with a score of 281 in the third round. The Longhorns sit at 18-over par in a tie with Oklahoma State for third place going into the final day of play.

“I thought the guys played really well today,” Texas head coach John Fields said. “A 281 on this golf course was a solid round for sure.”

As usual, the standout of the round for Texas was star senior Doug Ghim. Ghim followed up rounds of 71 and 69 with a third-round 70 to stay at even par for the tournament. That put Ghim in a tie for first with Oklahoma State’s Grant Hirschman going into the final round. 

Senior Scottie Scheffler also finished his third round with a solid performance. Scheffler shot a 1-under par 69 for the Longhorns’ best round of the day. That put Scheffler at 5-over par for the tournament and in a tie for 11th going into the
final round. 

Although Texas improved in its third round, the Longhorns still have a lot of ground to make up to catch the leader, Oklahoma, who sits at 12-over par for the tournament. With how the other competitors are playing in the tournament, the Longhorns will need to put up a much lower score than their third-round 281 to mount a comeback.

“Our goal was to have a chance with nine holes to play,” Fields said. “This is a great field, with great coaches and great players. So we don’t take it lightly, and we know we are going to be challenged tomorrow by the weather and the course.”

Texas tees off in the fourth and final round with Oklahoma State at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Timing is everything. The right time, the right place and the right people can equal success. The Longhorn softball team appears to be hitting its stride at the right time.

Texas (27–18, 10–3 Big 12) has series against No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 19 Baylor to close out the season. These series present a vital opportunity to prove that the Longhorns belong in the NCAA Tournament.

But first, the team has a midweek nonconference matchup against Texas Southern on Wednesday night at McCombs Field.

“We can’t take teams lightly just because they’re not in conference,” senior pitcher Paige von Sprecken said. “We need to make sure we’re playing Texas softball and not playing to levels of our opponent, especially if we want to win a Big 12 championship.”

Texas got off to a very slow start to the season. Through the first seven games, the Longhorns only scored more than three runs on one occasion, limping to a 3–4 record.

“There (are) ups and downs through a season, but we have to stay positive with this young group,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “We’ve got some things to continue to learn and (can) continue to grow in some areas.”

But the start of Big 12 play triggered a turnaround for the team.

Texas swept its first three series over Big 12 foes. In addition, the Longhorns also swept Samford in a nonconference series. Although they lost a home series to No. 24 Oklahoma State, the Longhorns were still able to snag a win over the Cowgirls.

“We’ve thought we’re one of the best Big 12 teams from the start,” sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth said. “We had a tough schedule in the beginning, and that just prepared us more for the Big 12, and we’re ready to take on any team that comes out here.”

While Wednesday night’s game against the small-conference Texas Southern Tigers is not as flashy as the Red River Rivalry, it is still important for the Longhorns to give this game its due. It’s a chance to sharpen fundamentals before trying to make some noise in the postseason.

“You can’t make any game too big of a game,” sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Slack said. “You have to make sure you have the little things going and perform like you know how to.”

The Longhorns are in a strong position to end the season in style, riding solid play as of late, thanks to a stifling pitching staff. In order to bring home a Big 12 title, the Longhorns will have to maintain their momentum.

“You’re seeing some lights come on in terms of what we want to see come out in a championship-minded club,” Clark said. “With some tough competition coming in, our confidence is right where it needs to be.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

The long-awaited dominance of junior starting pitcher Chase Shugart seems to finally have arrived.

On a gloomy Saturday afternoon, Texas fought hard to come away with a 3-1 victory. In contrast to the high scoring on Friday night, pitching was the theme Saturday. Shugart went for a season-high 7.2 innings pitched, allowing just one run on the day. It was arguably Shugart’s best outing of the season thus far.

Shugart, who was one of the team’s top relievers last year, finally looked at ease in the starting role.

“I feel like I’m getting a little more comfortable with (being a starting pitcher),” Shugart said. “Me and Coach (Phil Haig) have been working in our bullpens on executing the lower half. I’ve had a problem leaving balls up when my lower half isn’t working correctly. So working on my lower half has really helped me out.”

Texas head coach David Pierce said he has also noticed the improvement in Shugart lately. He noted the task asked of Shugart to move from the bullpen into a starting role is a lot tougher than most would believe.

“Changing roles isn’t as easy as it appears from sitting in the stands,” Pierce said. “It’s a different role. And he’s truly starting to get comfortable there. So I think that’s the difference. And then he’s learning something about himself, something about his preparation and how he prepares between innings on the bench. So he’s just really doing a better job of being focused on his preparation.”

In the bottom of the first inning, the Longhorns scored two runs on an RBI single by junior outfielder Masen Hibbeler and an RBI double by redshirt freshman designated hitter Zach Zubia.

Zubia, whose homer made the difference in Friday night’s game, went 3-4 on the day with two singles, a double and an RBI. Zubia, who is the team’s cleanup hitter, has reached base safely in 41 straight games, a statistic that continues to rise.

Zubia currently boasts a .314 batting average with nine home runs, 33 RBIs and 30 walks, all of which are tied or ranked second behind junior Kody Clemens.

“I try not to think about it as much as possible,” Zubia said. “Because if you think about it, you’re not going to have success at the plate with all that stuff going through you head. But if you’re on base and you think about it, it’s cool to think about because you’re helping your team out.”

Texas, which has been in two surprisingly tough games against New Orleans this weekend, has already clinched the series but will look to secure the sweep with another win on Sunday. First pitch at UFCU Disch-Falk Field is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Going toe-to-toe with ranked teams takes endurance, skill and willpower. All three aspects were on display at McCombs Field on Friday night as the Longhorns beat Oklahoma State, 3-0, in the first game of a doubleheader, then lost 3-1 in the second.

Friday’s games were the 14th and 15th Texas has played against a ranked opponent this season. The Longhorns are now 5–10 against ranked competition. Both games were pitching duels and featured standout performances from the teams’ aces.

Junior ace Brooke Bolinger started in game one, pitching another complete game while collecting her season-high and career-high in strikeouts with 11.

“Going in and figuring out the umpire’s strike zone was the main thing,” Bolinger said. “He wasn’t giving the outside corner, so we had to figure out another game plan. Once we figured it out, we got the strikes that we needed at timely times.”

Bolinger finished the game with a nifty fielding play off of a bunt in the top of the seventh. It was her 11th win of the season, building on an already very strong campaign.

Senior ace Paige von Sprecken started the second game and picked up her eighth loss of the season. Despite a middling 10–8 record, she has still been incredibly solid for the Longhorns this year.

Texas has played 12 non-conference teams that are ranked, compared to only three matchups versus ranked Big 12 teams. Those games against quality opponents have been a large reason the Longhorns have gone 10–2 in Big 12 play this season.

“Playing those non-conference games definitely helped us because we were playing top-tier teams,” von Sprecken said. “It forced us to compete so that we could bring that compete factor into Big 12.”

Offensively, the first game started with a solo shot from junior captain Bekah Alcozer in the bottom of the second which put the Longhorns up early. The lead later grew to three runs on an RBI single by freshman Janae Jefferson in the bottom of the fifth inning.

In the second game, Texas only managed a single run on a hit-by-pitch by freshman MK Tedder with the bases loaded. Missed opportunities and unforced errors resulted in the close loss.

“Obviously, it was a tale of two games,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “We were pretty bang-bang out of the gate in the first game, then turned on cruise control and you just can’t do that.”

Texas and Oklahoma State will not play Saturday due to weather concerns, so the finale of the series will be on Sunday at 11 a.m. — Senior Day for the Longhorns.

In a game deadlocked 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth inning, freshman Zach Zubia drove a fastball to center field. Without even looking to see the ball go over the fence, the designated hitter dropped his bat to the ground, pointed celebratorily to the fans in the right-field bleachers and trotted over to first base.

There was no need to look.

Zubia left no doubt that the monstrous home run had just given the Longhorns the advantage — the last lead change in a roller coaster 8-6 Texas victory over New Orleans on Friday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

“They came with the off-speed and then with the fastball,” Zubia said. “They hung a split-finger fastball up, and I was able to get under it and hit it out. I got the barrel on the ball and that’s it.”

Entering Friday, there was no reason to think this would be much of a game.

The Longhorns have dominated non-Power 5 opponents this year. Before Friday, Texas was 10–1 against such competition, outscoring teams 64 to 21.

But the Southland’s Privateers proved to be a worthy opponent from the jump. In the first inning, New Orleans pounced on junior pitcher Nolan Kingham. The Privateers scored three runs in the inning, a rally highlighted by two-run bomb to left field.

“Whether it’s a non-conference or a conference game, people come into The Disch and bring their A-game,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “I thought (New Orleans) swung the bats well early, and we weren’t very sharp early with Nolan (Kingham).”

With Texas failing to get anything going at the plate, the team found itself trailing 4-0 heading to the bottom of the fifth. But that’s when the fun started.

The Longhorns came alive on offense, scoring four runs in the half inning to tie things up. Junior infielder Kody Clemens got things started, knocking out a two-run homer after junior infielder Masen Hibbeler hit a single.

Texas then reached base in five different ways — in five consecutive at-bats — to knot the game up at 4-4.

Zubia was hit by a pitch, then sophomore infielder David Hamilton walked to put runners on first and second. After an error loaded the bases, junior catcher DJ Petrinsky singled to cut the deficit to 4-3. A fielder’s choice RBI on the next at-bat completed the comeback.

But even after Texas took the lead in the next inning, New Orleans punched back, scoring two runs in the seventh to take a 6-5 lead heading into the eighth inning. That’s when Zubia and the Longhorns put the game away for good.

“Unbelievable resiliency and unbelievable fight from the team and not panicking,” Pierce said. “I think what’s happening is that we’re maturing and that we’re confident that we’re going to win. It’s here we go, hit here and hit there, and we’re going to win the game.”

Kingham struggled in the game, allowing six earned runs on nine hits.

Junior Josh Sawyer was awarded the win, his first since 2015, pitching a perfect eighth inning. After the game, Sawyer was surprised not only that he was awarded the win but how long it had been since his last one.

“I actually had no idea that I got the win,” Sawyer said. “I was in the locker room and Jake (McKenzie) came up, and he asked, ‘When was your last win?’’’ It wasn’t last year and it wasn’t the year before...I think I won a couple of games my sophomore year.”

Game two of the three-game series is slated for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Disch-Falk Field.

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

After three seasons as a Texas assistant coach, Tina Thompson has been named the head coach of the Virginia women’s basketball team.

Tuesday’s announcement ends the Cavaliers’ 27-day search for a new head coach after Joanne Boyle stepped down from the position on March 20 due to a family matter. Thompson will now take over a program that boasts three NCAA Final Four appearances in its 44-year history.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to become the next women’s basketball coach at the University of Virginia,” Thompson said in a statement. “I am grateful for the opportunity to lead a program with such a rich history. This program is in an exciting place with a hardworking group of young ladies. It is my intention to continue the winning ways coach Joanne Boyle has built with this impressionable group.”

The hiring marks the next chapter for a person who has succeeded on every level. After being selected No. 1 overall by the Houston Comets in the 1997 inaugural WNBA Draft, the USC alumna led the Comets to four straight WNBA championships in her first four seasons.

Thompson won on a global stage as well, claiming gold in both the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. After a 17-year career of shattering records and hanging up banners, Thompson retired in 2014 as the league’s all-time leading scorer with 7,488 points.

Those accomplishments were recognized on March 31 when Thompson was announced as an inductee into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

“I am thrilled to have Tina Thompson as our new women’s basketball coach,” Virginia athletic director Carla Williams said. “She is one of the best to ever play the game, and she has experienced tremendous success at all levels of the game.”

After being hired as an assistant coach at Texas on May 18, 2015, Thompson used her experience to help develop players such as Imani McGee-Stafford and Ariel Atkins, both of whom later became top-10 picks in the WNBA draft.

“She has a strong commitment to and passion for developing confident, successful women,” Williams said. “As a coach, she has proven to be a tremendous teacher and recruiter. I’m excited for the future of our program.”

Thompson has been open about her desire to eventually become a head coach over the past few seasons. Now the WNBA legend will get that shot, and she credits Texas head coach Karen Aston for helping launch her coaching career.

“I am forever grateful for the opportunity Karen Aston and the University of Texas provided me,” Thompson said. “My experience there has helped to prepare me for this moment. I want to thank Carla Williams for this coveted opportunity.”

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

It seems the Longhorns have a flair for the dramatic.

After a Friday night finish in which the team came back in the top of the eighth to retake the lead and eventually win the game, Texas, down three runs, scored five unanswered on Saturday night to steal its second straight from the Sooners in Norman, 5-3.

Texas was held scoreless until the fourth inning when a two-out, two-run double with the bases loaded by sophomore outfielder Duke Ellis put the Longhorns on the board.

In the top of the fifth, something Texas fans have come to expect happened yet again. Junior infielder Kody Clemens hit a solo shot followed by one of the meanest bat flips you’ll ever see to tie the ball game.

That made it 11 home runs for Clemens on the season to go along with 37 RBIs and a .380 batting average. His older brother, Kacy, who led last year’s Texas team in most offensive categories, sported a .305 batting average with 12 home runs, 49 RBIs and 40 walks. The younger Clemens, who has almost eclipsed his brother’s totals, still has 84 at-bats to go to match his brother’s at-bat total from last year.

Kody, who has smiled at the proposition of trash-talking his older brother once he breaks the milestone set, is likely chomping at the bit to add a few more tanks to his home run column with still so much of the season left to play.

The game was deadlocked for the following three innings, until a two-run bomb from redshirt freshman designated hitter Zach Zubia put a stamp on the game for Texas. Zubia, who has made quite a name for himself after redshirting last season, has become the thunder to Clemens’ lightning.

The Longhorns are red-hot heading into game three and are looking for a series sweep of the Sooners. Game three is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday at L. Dale Mitchell Baseball Park in Norman.