This past weekend Texas went 1-2 against the University of Oregon in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament in Austin, Texas. The No. 4 Longhorns narrowly missed a chance to go to the College World Series in Oklahoma City for the first time in six seasons.
The last time the Longhorns made the trip up north was when Cat Osterman was in the circle in 2006. Junior All-American Blaire Luna led the Longhorns in the circle again this year and despite an impressive season, finished just short of the finals.
The Longhorns finished the 2012 season with a 47-13 overall record and 16-8 Big 12 Conference Record. Texas finished third in the conference behind Oklahoma and Missouri.
“It’s obviously very painful to come up a little bit short,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “I am extremely proud of the fight and the tremendous season that this team had….We had some opportunities in that first game and I think we battled well till the very end. WE just didn’t get the outcome that we wanted.”
Despite not living up to their personal expectations and goals, which included a national title, the Longhorns did make it past the first round, something they had not been able to accomplish the past couple of seasons.
“I think we did a great job bringing this team together this season,” said senior third baseman Nadia Taylor. “Even though we fell short I know this season was definitely a success for us.”
After a 4-2 victory Friday night, the Longhorns had two chances to pull off the series win. A pitching battle on Saturday afternoon resulted in a 5-4 Oregon victory which forced a rubber match for Saturday evening. However, poor pitching in game three resulted in an Oregon offensive explosion. Oregon won the final game 10-6 earning the trip to the College World Series.
On Friday Luna pitched a complete game against the Ducks and earned the victory for the Longhorns while giving up two runs off of seven hits and striking out seven. Taylor lead the offense with a three run home run in the bottom of the fifth which secured the Longhorn’s win.
“This Super Regional has two great teams matched up, and I thing you could tell in the first half of the game that we haven’t played each other much,” Clark said. “Blaire Luna gave us a great game tonight. Oregon has a tremendous lineup. They are very balanced and have great power. I though Blaire did a really nice job pitching to them.”
Luna started off in the circle for the Longhorns Saturday morning in game two but after giving up three runs off of two hits, sophomore Rachel Fox took over in the third inning and earned the loss. Fox finished the season 14-2. Oregon, who played as the home team for game two and game three, went up quickly in the bottom of the first off of a home run and a throwing error by Luna. The Texas Offense responded going up 4-3 by the third inning. The Ducks tied up the game in the bottom of the fifth forcing extra innings. A walk off sacrifice pop fly by junior Kaylan Howard of Oregon won the game 5-4 for the Ducks.
Howard’s sacrifice fly forced a rubber match Saturday Afternoon. Luna started off once again in the circle but was replaced quickly by Fox in the second inning after giving up five runs off of three hits. Fox only lasted an inning and a half before being pulled after giving up an additional three runs off of five hits.
Junior Kim Bruins finished the game for the Longhorns in the circle but the damage was already done. Bruins gave up two runs off of two hits. Despite scoring six runs, the Texas Offense was unable to overcome the problems on the defense. Luna took the loss for the Longhorns finishing the season 22-6.
“It was a matchup of two great teams. We came out and battled it out,” Clark said. “I don’t know if there is a big difference…That game couldn’t have been any more intense. I think it was just a matter of creating some breaks and getting timely hits. It ended up going their way tonight.”
In the seventh inning, Texas scored three runs all off of solo home runs. Junior Taylor Hoagland and seniors Lexy Bennett and Courtney Craig each launched one over the fence for the Longhorns. Hoagland, who set the career home run record earlier in the season, hit her 18th season home run against the Ducks.
“Oregon’s pitcher was very talented. She moved the ball around the strike zone well,” Bennett said. “I thought we did a very good job adjusting, but we just didn’t get the outcome we wanted in the end. The three homeruns in that last inning showed that we weren’t just going to lie down and let them have it.”
This weekend marked the final series for seniors Bennett, Craig and Taylor. All three have contributed significantly the Longhorn’s success over the past four years.
“The seniors have been amazing since the first day they arrived on campus. This is a special group sitting here. They’re going to be missed greatly,” Clark said.