Texas softball finds itself in uncharted territory as of late, with a 6-6 record heading into the Mary Nutter Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. on Thursday. After four straight wins to start the season, Texas lost six of eight games to fall to a modest .500.
The last time Texas failed to post a winning record through its first 12 games was in 2000, when the Longhorns were an even 6-6 after consecutive losses to then No. 15 Long Beach State and No. 1 UCLA. That year, Texas finished third in the Big 12 and advanced to the regional round of the NCAA playoffs before losing to Florida.
Coming off a 2013 campaign in which the Longhorns reached the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series and were a perfect 12-0 at that point in the season, head coach Connie Clark’s team has found success hard to come by early on.
With a notably younger team than last year’s squad — there are seven freshmen and six sophomores on the roster — Clark has stressed to the players the importance of pacing themselves as they continue to navigate the growing pains of an unproven pitching staff and uncertain ace.
“The pitchers’ performances have improved every time they come out here,” senior catcher Mandy Ogle said. “It’s cool to see how they started out in the first weekend and what they have done this past weekend. I am excited for what this week brings.”
Texas has suffered some close losses, including its most recent 6-5 defeat at the hands of No. 9 Kentucky in the championship game of the Texas Classic. The Wildcats came through in the seventh to score the winning run after a costly error.
“I feel like we are a comeback team this year,” Ogle said. “We’re in it all seven innings and that’s good to say for any team.”
Despite the team’s rough start, freshman outfielder Stephanie Wong finished the tournament leading the team in batting average (.636) after seven hits through five games.
“She is just locked in,” Clark said of Wong’s recent play. “She has a tremendous mind-set for the game [and is] very focused.”
The Longhorns fell from No. 16 to No. 25 in the nation after the sluggish start, but hope to end their woes against UNLV (2-7) and Cal Poly (4-6) on Thursday at 12:30 and 3 p.m. respectively. Texas will face No. 2 Washington, Fresno State and California, who both just fell out of the top 25 this week, throughout the rest of the weekend.