Freshman ace Tiarra Davis was cruising through four innings of play Tuesday night against No. 17 Baylor. Much like she did against the Bears on March 22, Davis was able to keep the hitters off balance and work her way out of jams.
But after getting a one-run lead, Davis allowed a single, double and a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning and a triple and double in the sixth as the Longhorns fell to the Bears 2-1.
“I really think that game could have gone either way,” head coach Connie Clark said.
The game began similar to the first one between the two teams in March. Both teams were able to get runners on base occasionally, but Davis and Baylor ace Whitney Canion were able to easily work around those base runners.
But, in the top of the fourth, the Longhorns (32-21, 11-6 Big 12) were able to strike first. After senior shortstop Taylor Thom singled to left and freshman Devon Tunning reached on an error, Davis lined a double to left to score Thom and put Texas up 1-0. However, that would be the only run to come out of the inning as senior catcher Mandy Ogle grounded out to the pitcher and freshman left fielder Stephanie Wong popped out to second to end the inning.
“Whitney did a really nice job tonight,” Clark said. “She’s one of the best in the country for a reason. She was really bringing it.”
The missed opportunity would prove costly. In the fifth, after the leadoff runner reached base on a walk, Baylor left fielder Liz Paul ripped a double down the left field line to put runners at second and third with nobody out. After a walk to the next batter, Bears second baseman Ari Hawkins hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game at one.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Bears continued to put pressure on Davis. Catcher Claire Hosack hit a triple to center and then scored two batters later on a double by third baseman Sarah Smith to give Baylor a 2-1 lead.
Clark said that despite the loss, Davis battled through the lack of her off speed pitch and kept the Longhorns in the game.
“She still battled extremely hard,” Clark said. “It’s something to work on this week.”
Even with the loss at the end, Clark said that the atmosphere was similar to that of an NCAA tournament game, something that should help a team with seven freshmen down the road.
“I think as we move forward that environment and our mental tenacity is a great test for us,” Clark said. “I really like that piece of it from a learning standpoint moving forward.”
The loss locks Texas into a third-place finish in the Big 12 this season and the Longhorns still have a chance to make it into the NCAA tournament for the tenth straight season. A win against Baylor at home on Sunday would boost the Longhorns’ chances at an NCAA appearance.
To do that, Clark said that they’re going to work with Davis and her off speed pitch over the next couple of days.
“I thought she did some things nicely tonight, but there were some of their hitters where we really needed that pitch to help us,” Clark said. “She’ll work hard on that this week and be able to bring that into the mix on Sunday.”