Texas softball welcomes Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for its 17th season opener at 7 p.m. Thursday in Austin. The game commences the weekend Texas Classic tournament that also hosts North Texas and Memphis.
Boasting a 22-3 record against A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas won the last match-up 6-5 on Feb. 15, 2012. The Longhorns undefeated at 16-0 in season openers, with 10 shutouts including last year’s program-high 23 runs against Cal State Fullerton that propelled a 10-0 season start. Returning with strong prospects this year, Texas was ranked No. 7 in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Top 25 preseason poll, No. 9 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball preseason chart and No. 2 in the Big 12 Conference preseason poll. Last Friday, senior catcher Taylor Hoagland and senior pitcher Blaire Luna were named to the preseason watch list for 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
“Blaire’s competitive, she’s got the experience, hungry and wants to go out on a high note,” head coach Connie Clark said of Luna, who enters her final season tied for career saves and second in nearly all other school records. “I don’t think she’ll be satisfied without that.”
Hoagland complements Luna in the senior class, anticipating third base and outfield appearances. With the Texas career records in home runs (44) and slugging percentage (.674), Hoagland joins senior Kim Bruins and junior Brejae Washington as team captains. Bruins will pitch with Luna and continue infield experience for which she posts a .985 fielding percentage in 105 games. Washington, leading the Texas records for career stolen bases (65), brings a confident batting strategy of bunting.
Junior catcher Mandy Ogle returns as starting catcher after helping the pitching staff post a 2.40 ERA last season. Freshmen Taylor King and Erin Shireman (No. 15 ESPNHS recruit) follow her behind the plate. Infield high prospects include Karina Scott, whose .995 career fielding percentage will help her at first and second bases as well as junior Taylor Thom at shortstop following a 95-assist 2012 season.