Longhorns prepare for busy weekend

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After winning the Big 12 Championship last spring but dropping out of the NCAA tournament in the regional round, the Longhorns are back for more. Fall play began Oct. 8, and so far the team has won exhibition games against Odessa College and UT-San Antonio. The women hope to continue this successful streak into the upcoming weekend when they face former Texas players in the inaugural alumni game.

This Saturday, 31 Longhorn alumni will challenge the current players at McCombs Field. One such player is Loryn Johnson, a recent UT alumna and a current member of the professional team the Tennessee Diamonds.

Johnson was a four-year varsity letter winner in high school and started immediately as a Longhorn.

“Cat Osterman was UT‘s pitcher at that time. The team was ranked third, and they were on the road to the World Series,” Johnson said. “I didn‘t expect to help out so much, but I was blessed with a great team of leaders. I‘m glad I could represent Texas with how I played.”

After finishing second all-time on the Texas career batting average list (.349) and first in slugging percentage (.562), Johnson was drafted into the National Pro Fastpitch league, following in the footsteps of former Longhorn greats Cat Osterman and Megan Willis.

“Megan and I were friends when she was a senior and I was a freshman, so playing against her in the pro league is very different,” Johnson said. “We‘re super competitive on the field, but as soon as the game is over, we‘re good.”

Willis, a two-time Big 12 defensive player of the year while at Texas, will also be playing against the Longhorns this weekend. She currently serves as a volunteer assistant to head coach Connie Clark, working specifically with Texas’ defense and catchers.

“I‘ve been her teammate, played under her when she assisted my senior year, played opposite her this summer, and now will join her again in the alumni game,” Johnson said of Willis. “She’s an awesome person, and seeing every side of her has really been something.”

Willis had a four-year career at UT, with two Women’s College World Series appearances. From there, she went on to win a league title for the Rockford Thunder in 2009 with Osterman.
Since many of the alumni have been out of the game, not only have practices and anticipations been upped, but so has the trash-talking, according to Johnson.

“I’ve seen stuff on Facebook like, ‘Don’t leave your game at home,’ but I hope the old folks can show UT they can still play,” she said. “Texas is good this year, so it will be a fun challenge, but I don’t know who they think they are trash-talking Cat.”

The alumni game will take place Saturday at 6 p.m. Texas will face Navarro College and Alvin Community College on Oct. 29 before taking on the National Pro Fastpitch All-Stars on Sunday, Nov. 7. The NPF’s “Back to School College Tour” will visit 17 other universities in the fall to give the All-Stars a chance to return to the universities where they experienced so much success, including Johnson, Willis and Osterman.

“The upcoming weekends will definitely be exciting, playing UT and seeing old teammates, as well as opponents from this summer,” Johnson said. “It’d also be neat to beat my alma mater.”