While a good, strong non-conference schedule is important in developing the skills of any team in a top conference, a season’s real success is based on the final conference record.
The No. 3 Longhorns have proved that they are a talented ball club. In 33 games, the 2012 squad has proven 31 times that they can contend, only twice coming up short to the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked ball clubs. The Longhorns 31-2 record includes a 5-0 Big 12 record so far this season.
However, those five conference games came dispersed throughout their non-conference schedule.
The real test for the Longhorns is upon them. Conference foes are different than non-conference ones. Teams like Missouri, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State who face Texas every year, know the Longhorn’s strengths and weaknesses and are more equipped to end the Longhorn’s current win streak. While facing strong non-conference opponents is important, the conference season is a whole other ball game.
So who’s up next to try and break the Longhorn’s nine game winning streak?
No. 11 Missouri is the first of seven straight conference series, which includes contests against rivals No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 22 Baylor. The Tigers come to Austin tonight to begin a three game series at McCombs Field.
The Tigers are 28-5 on the season and 7-2 in Big 12 Conference play. They are seated comfortably in third place in conference standings behind the Longhorns in first and the Oklahoma Sooners in second.
The Longhorns are in for a tough stretch. With five teams ranked in the top 25 nationally, two in the top five, the Big 12 has established itself as one of the most competitive conferences for college softball.
“It is one of the hardest conferences to compete in because it has some of the best hitting, pitching and defense in the country,” said junior outfielder Torie Schmidt of the caliber of the Big 12 conference.
The last time the Longhorns played Missouri, they lost a 6-3 battle on the road last Mafy which effectively cost Texas a conference title for the 2011 season.
At the time, the Longhorns were also ranked third in the country. Missouri owns a slight 15-17 edge over the Longhorns in the history of the matchup. However, home field will be a factor as the Longhorns are undefeated so far this season and own a 9-6 advantage over the Tigers on the 40 Acres.
“We are excited for Missouri,” said junior All-American pitcher Blaire Luna on facing Missouri after last season’s loss. “I think we are hungry and eager to beat them.”