Horns ready for conference season

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There is no easy path through the Longhorns’ conference schedule.

Seven of the nine Big 12 opponents that Texas will face this season are ranked in the top 25 of the USA Today national softball ranking. Texas is currently ranked second in the Big 12 behind Texas Tech, which only has one loss in the season. Though they were ranked behind Tech in the pre-conference season rankings, the Longhorns are now ranked the highest in the Big 12 in several of the national polls.

“We are pretty excited,” said sophomore Taylor Hoagland. “We are going to see some good competition.”

Texas will host Kansas for a two-game series this weekend at McCombs Field in Austin.

The Longhorns’ current 26-3 season record indicates good preparation for their rigorous upcoming schedule. Texas will bring a pitching staff that earns weekly honors and an offense that can light up scoreboards in Big 12 play. In the past week, the Longhorns have faced seven different opponents, most of them in away games. Even without a home-field advantage, Texas was able to come out of the weeklong grind unscathed.

“You get into the grind of the season and [want to] see how they respond going back-to-back games,” said head coach Connie Clark about her two pitchers, sophomore Blaire Luna and freshman Rachel Fox. “I was very pleased with their performance.”

This week, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and USA Softball each named Luna the national player of the week for her lights-out performances in a five-game stretch in California. Luna has shut out each of her last four opponents and threw her first perfect game against fourth-ranked Washington last week. She has not given up a run in her past 33 innings pitched.

“You wouldn’t know if we were up by 15 or if it is an even ball game,” said Clark about Luna. “She stays very focused even if she gives up a hit.”

While it is often said that pitching wins games, the Texas offense has proven that it can too. Hoagland currently holds the Big 12 record for consecutive games with a hit at 26. With a .438 batting average, junior Lexy Bennett leads the team on offense so far this season with 39 hits.
The entire team has been contributing to this team’s offensive power. With the exception of the pitchers, every member of the team has scored a run, had a hit and produced an RBI.

“We have a lot of ways to score runs,” said Clark. “We can be very aggressive on offense.”

Even with their impressive record, the Longhorns aren’t letting success get to their heads. They have been focused in their preparation for their season. They have goals of making it to the softball College World Series and understand that a strong non-conference record will mean nothing if they can’t play well in the Big 12.

“We won those games, and now we are here,” said senior catcher Amy Hooks. “Even though it was great, we are getting ready for conference this weekend.”