The general feeling in the Texas dugout these days is the opponent does not matter.
“We don’t look at the conference of the team or the opponent’s name, really,” said senior Amy Hooks. “We’re just going to go out and play Texas softball every game.”
Tonight will be a case study of that mentality as the Longhorns face Texas State in San Marcos, a warm-up for this weekend’s road trip to Oklahoma.
Texas last faced the Bobcats in Austin before spring break when Texas won 2-1. Despite being from an easier Southland conference, this annual rivalry against Texas State is important to the Longhorns.
“They are a competitive Division I program right down the road, and that is something that we try to take advantage of,” said head coach Connie Clark. “They always have a roster full of Texans and they always bring their A game when they play against Texas, so it’s a good challenge for us.”
In most sports, Texas’ in-state rivals are considered to be Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor. In softball, the Bobcats provide Texas with a tough mid-week test and have earned a spot as a rival. Not only are they a difficult team that is always prepared, but the Bobcats have a tough home field and know the Longhorns well.
“It’s a good Texas rivalry,” said freshman pitcher Rachel Fox. “They’re going to have a lot of fans at their house. We never take them lightly.”
Texas must be careful not to get caught looking ahead against Texas State on Wednesday. After the pit stop in San Marcos, the Longhorns travel to face Oklahoma State on Saturday for the weekend series. The Cowgirls are the first-ranked Big 12 opponent on the Longhorns’ schedule at No. 18 in the and USA Softball poll.
“Oklahoma State always has a good softball team,” said Hooks. “They just have good hitting and good defense and it is going to be tough. But we have pretty high goals set for our team and it’s going to be a good ball game.”
The series sweep last weekend against Kansas helped the team carry its newfound momentum into the conference schedule. This weekend will show whether it can compete with the best in the Big 12 conference. Texas, undefeated in conference play, ranks second behind Missouri. The competitive Big 12 conference features eight of 10 softball programs that are ranked in the top 25 in the various national polls. Texas ranks first in the Big 12 with a .990 fielding percentage and second with a .349 team batting average. Junior first baseman Lexy Bennett ranks first in the league with a .452 individual batting average. On the defensive side of things, sophomore all-American pitcher Blaire Luna ranks first in the conference with 10 shutouts and second with 181 strikeouts.
“We’ve just got to defend our [Big 12] title,” said freshman Brejae Washington.