With Lexy Bennett’s graduation, there was a glaring hole at second base.
Someone had to follow the all-time Texas leader in batting average, runs scored, RBIs, on-base percentage, and hits. But no one expected the replacement to match Bennett’s numbers.
With 42 games under her belt, freshman Stephanie Ceo is starting to make a name for herself.
Ceo is hitting a staggering .414 this year. And while most players pad their numbers while beating up on weaker opponents, Ceo is actually better against better competition. In conference play, she is batting .474 — a team best.
Ceo, though, is still no Bennett, who was arguably the best to ever step up to the plate in a Texas uniform. But Ceo is doing an outstanding job of filling the hole Bennett left.
The numbers are pretty close. Ceo’s average is only 0.008 lower than Bennett’s was her senior year. Her fielding percentage is just 0.025 off. And Ceo is on pace for more stolen bases.
Still, this is Ceo’s freshman year. The only big difference in the two comes in the power game and in leadership.
But No. 6 Texas doesn’t need Ceo to hit for power. They need her to get on base and set up the power hitters like on-base guru Taylor Hoagland.
And that’s exactly what she is doing.
Just look at her first conference game, a nine-inning affair against Baylor. It was Ceo’s single that started the ninth. And it was Ceo’s run that proved to be the game-winner. Head coach Connie Clark has taken notice.
“I actually felt like the table-setting in the ninth was amazing,” Clark said after the Baylor game. “It was tremendous to see Ceo lead off that inning with a hit.”
Now, with top ranked Oklahoma (37-2) coming to town this weekend, Clark is really going to need Ceo to set the table and help Texas extend their 15 game-win streak.
While the Longhorns have one of the most dominant pitcher-hitter duos in Blaire Luna and Taylor Hoagland, Oklahoma may even have a better one in Keilani Ricketts and Laura Chamberlain.
Ricketts is fresh off a season that saw her national player of the year honors and is near the top of most statistical categories, including an NCAA-best 14 shutouts. She’s a big reason why the Sooners boast a 1.07 team ERA, the lowest in the nation. Chamberlain is putting up absolutely ridiculous numbers at the plate, leading the nation in home runs with 21 while hitting .472, the best in the Big 12 among those with at least 10 at-bats this year.
Texas’ 1.47 team ERA is the fourth best in the country while it boasts a .342 batting average, the ninth-best in the nation. Oklahoma is hitting .333 as a team this season, the country’s 16th-best mark.
“We match up tremendously with them,” Clark said. “It will be two great teams with two great pitchers going at it. We are similar in many ways. I am glad that we are on our field for this match-up.”
Both teams are currently undefeated in conference play, meaning that whoever takes this three-game series has the fast track in the race for the Big 12 regular season championship.
The players can’t mask their excitement.
“I cannot wait for the game against Oklahoma,” Taylor Thom said. “They are a great ball club. This week cannot go by fast enough.”
If there is ever a time to come out to Red and Charline McCombs field, it is this weekend.
“There is no way that they can just go through the motions,” Clark said. “They will be hungry and fired up with some great intensity.”