At 6:02 p.m., with the sun beaming down on Red and Charline McCombs Field, Baylor leadoff hitter Nicky Dawson singled off Texas pitcher Miranda Elish to start Texas Softball’s home matchup with the Bears.
87 minutes, 77 Elish pitches, 17 Baylor hitters and a wild Kentucky Derby finish later, with the sun shining golden near the horizon, Dawson walked to become the Bears’ only other baserunner in the ballgame as Elish dominated for a complete game one-hitter in the 1-0 Texas victory.
If the leadoff single gave any hope to a Baylor team that needed a win to stay in Big 12 Championship contention, Elish slowly withered that away over the next seven innings. Hitter after hitter, Elish never got far behind in the count and forced a plethora of weakly hit grounders — 15 in total.
This start was not even her best form of this season. She was sporadic at times with her location, missing several balls well over the head of catcher Mary Iakopo early on. But when she hit her spots, she attacked the strike zone, and Baylor hitters just weren’t able to catch up.
“I really didn’t have my riseball, but I was just trying to locate and hit the sides that Coach (Mike) White was calling,” Elish said. “(I was) really just trying to throw my pitches. I wouldn’t say it was my best game, but I battled with what I had and my defense had my back the entire time.”
Saturday was Elish’s final regular season start as the postseason begins with the Big 12 Championship in one week. While the one-hitter comes as no surprise for a pitcher who has posted a 1.73 ERA, it’s a welcoming sight with an increase in pressure and level of competition looming.
“It’s a big deal, we just have to get that confidence up a little bit,” Elish said. “But we just have to work hard this next week. Play tomorrow, and then grind it out this week and go into Big 12s and play our best.”
With Texas struggling to string together scoring rallies to back Elish at the plate, it was second baseman Janae Jefferson who finally broke through. With two outs and two runners on base, she took a pitch to opposite field, shooting a grounder into left field to drive in the game’s only run.
Although the Longhorns picked up seven hits, they ran themselves into some trouble on the basepaths in several instances, including an out at home plate on a play where White tried to hold the runner. White has had no hesitation sending runners in questionable circumstances, but the mistakes on the basepaths will increase in impact as the stakes raise.
“Those things happen,” White said. “I like to gamble a little bit. But you can’t miss that (sign) rounding third base, that’s just a mental error. When you get onto the biggest stage, those things just really hurt you.”
White is familiar with the big stage. Many of the Longhorns are not. But with another Miranda Elish gem thrown in the regular season’s penultimate game, it appears the rest of this Texas team is about to get well acquainted with it.