The third inning brought Texas exactly what it needed.
The Longhorns entered Sunday’s final game against Kansas with a 2–0 series lead in hand, and no intentions of ending the weekend with a loss.
The momentum began with All-American second baseman Janae Jefferson. At the top of the third, a hit off of her bat just over third base allowed designated player Ki’Audra Hayter to run one in for Texas.
The runs continued with an RBI by first baseman Lauren Burke and a two-run single from junior Kaitlyn Washington bringing Texas’ lead to 4-0, one that held until a late Kansas rally fell short, ending the game at 4-2 in the Longhorns’ favor.
“Well I thought we did a good job scoring early there in the inning,” head coach Mike White said. “We had a big four-run inning, which is huge. Washington hit the ball real well today which was big for us.”
In Texas’ first game of the Kansas series, White explained a need for more depth at bat. He credited catcher Mary Iakopo with being the most consistent when it came to hitting the ball.
“We’re just not quite stringing them together,” White said after Texas’ first win of the series. “We’re working with the order a little bit trying to change things around, but Mary’s the one that’s consistent right now, and we just can’t seem to help her out a little bit. But hopefully we can put it together and get some of these guys hot.”
As the weather changed, however, so did Texas’ offense.
In Saturday’s game, even with even with high wind speeds, eight Texas players were able to get hits off of Kansas’ pitcher. Texas run-ruled the Jayhawks, 10-1.
“It really was (good),” White said. “It was good to break out, a lot of people got hits today.”
The weather change over the three days of play in Kansas made it difficult for Texas’ defense to play its usual solid game, though, accounting for the two late runs by the Jayhawks.
White also added that while the weather change did cause significant challenges for the team, it’s something they try not to focus on in the moment.
“The elements are a little difficult,” White said. “Obviously, (pitcher) Miranda (Elish) was having a tough time staying warm out there and I think her hands were pretty cold. We had like three seasons in three days but, you know that is part of it. That’s one of the uncontrollables I talk about all the time and I thought we handled it pretty well this weekend.”
Just as Jefferson started things for Texas on Sunday, she also played a part in ending them.
The second baseman helped Texas maintain its 4-0 lead in the third inning when the Jayhawks were able to get consecutive singles on Elish. Then, Jefferson preserved the lead in the fifth when she made a diving stop at second base to end the inning.
“She’s pretty tough out there, makes great plays and certainly came up with some big plays today,” White said of Jefferson on Sunday. “And that’s what we need, a quiet leader. And she’s doing a good job for us.”