The Longhorns struggled all weekend to figure out the Jaywhawk pitching staff.
In the first two games of the series, Texas only managed to score four runs on eight hits and through four innings in the rubber match on Sunday, it was more of the same from the Longhorns.
But then the fifth inning rolled around and after the first three batters of the inning reached on singles, the floodgates finally opened for the Longhorns. Seven runs crossed the plate for Texas in the inning, including a walk-off three-run triple from freshman left fielder Stephanie Wong as the Longhorns won 8-0 to take a 2-1 series victory.
“We were looking for one pitch,” Wong said.
The Longhorns struggled Friday and Saturday to figure out Kansas ace Kelsey Kessler, who despite not throwing fast, kept Texas off balance with movement. Texas helped her out in those games swinging early in the count.
On Sunday, however, the Longhorns made Kessler work, forcing 10 full-counts against the sophomore. While it didn’t have an immediate effect as Texas scored only one run through the first four innings, the strategy did force her to throw 62 pitches through the first two innings.
Head coach Connie Clark said they were trying to avoid the “junk” from Kessler.
“We were just trying to be more patient in general and get pitches that we can hit and handle better,” Clark said.
Then came the fifth inning. Wong, who had come into the game in a slump, led off the inning with a single to center, which was followed by back-to-back bunt base hits by sophomore second baseman Stephanie Ceo and senior center fielder Brejae Washington. A ground out, squeeze bunt and two singles upped the Texas lead to 5-0 before Wong stepped to the plate for the second time in the inning.
With the bases loaded, Wong took a 1-2 pitch to left which Kansas left fielder Taylor Hatfield misplayed, leading to a three-run triple to give Texas the run-rule win.
“It felt great to finally drive the ball,” Wong said. “I’ve been working through some things and it all came together on that pitch.”
The offensive burst came just in time for freshman ace Tiarra Davis, who had to bounce back from a rough Saturday start. In that game, Davis only pitched an inning, while giving up three runs in a 5-2 loss.
But in the game Sunday, Davis pitched with confidence, allowing only one hit in the first three innings. In the fourth, Kansas loaded the bases with one out. But, like she’s done all season, Davis managed to get out of the jam with a foul out to the catcher and a pop out to short.
“I had a talk with Mandy [Ogle] and Coach Clark right before I went out there and they just really calmed me down,” Davis said.
Texas will play Baylor twice in the span of six days, traveling up to Waco to make up the game that was rained out on March 23 and then hosting the Bears next Sunday. In the first meeting, Texas opened conference play behind a dominant performance from Davis and solid hitting for a 4-1 win.
While the offense has been up and down over the past three series, Davis said that the big last inning gives them momentum going into the final two games.
“It’s about finishing out strong and we’ve got two more opportunities to do that,” Clark said.