The Longhorns opened the 2014 season with a bang, blasting two home runs en route to a 6-1 victory over then-No. 17 LSU Tigers. Senior shortstop Taylor Thom went the distance in the top of the third inning, clearing the left field fence to put Texas ahead 5-1 and extending her career home run mark to 29.
“Thom made a very nice adjustment at bat,” head coach Connie Clark said. “She was really looking for one pitch and I kept seeing them working her in one location, and she met her time.”
Sophomore utility player Lindsey Stephens opened the sixth inning with a leadoff home run to expand Texas’ lead to five. Junior pitcher Gabby Smith had a strong outing in the circle for the No. 10 Longhorns, pitching a complete game on 99 pitches while striking out two. Smith was the frontrunner to be the ace coming into Thursday’s opener.
Clark’s squad continued its hot offensive streak when Texas next took the field against North Carolina in the 28th Annual Louisiana Classic. Freshman pitcher Lauren Slatten got the start and delivered six innings for the Longhorns, surrendering three runs on four hits while striking out one and walking two — a solid performance for the right-handed rookie.
Against No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette, senior outfielder Brejae Washington headed a comeback as she scored five runs on 4-for-8 hitting to compensate for five first-inning runs surrendered to the Ragin’ Cajuns. Texas’ current leader in stolen bases, Washington added four on the day to raise her career mark to 101. Thom rounded out Washington’s success with another monster performance at the plate, producing a team-high five hits in eight appearances.
Texas’ rematch with Louisiana-Lafayette was more than just Texas’ fourth straight victory. It also marked Clark’s 700th career win. A day after narrowly beating the host team, the Longhorns handed the Cajuns their second loss in as many days. Stephens belted a three-run home run — her third of the year — to grab a lead the Longhorns would never forfeit. Gabby Smith, still undefeated as a starter, earned the 7-3 win.
But Saturday’s slate of games closed with the Longhorns’ first loss of the season. Texas fell 6-3 to Northern Iowa after the Panthers exploded for six first-inning runs off of sophomore pitcher Holly Kern.
Still shaky from its first loss, Texas again dropped its Sunday match 5-4. Texas posed a late threat in the fifth to bring the score within one but only managed to strand its first two runners on base. Sophomore Erin Shireman hit her third home run of the season to tie Stephens for the team lead.
Texas will open its home season Wednesday as it hosts UTSA.