It was bound to happen sometime. The Longhorns, who had surpassed expectations this season with a 10-0 start, were handed their first loss in California this past weekend.
The 8th-ranked Longhorns went 4-1 in California this weekend at the Cathedral City Classic. Their only loss of the weekend came to top-ranked Florida on Friday morning after a lengthy double header the previous evening. Texas is now 12-1 on the season.
In their first game Thursday night, the Longhorns easily handled the Cal State Northridge Matadors. Freshman pitcher Gabby Smith set the tone for the 4-0 shutout win with 10 strikeouts, a season high. Smith has not given up a run in almost 12 innings. Senior infielder Lexy Bennett continued her success at the plate by going 2-3 with two RBIs that evening. Bennett’s RBI performance puts her at third in the Texas record books for career RBIs.
Texas beat San Diego State 2-1 in the second half of Thursday’s double header. The Aztecs were up 1-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning and almost managed the upset before sophomore infielder Karina Scott’s two RBIs double secured the late comeback win for the Longhorns.
“I just wanted to get something on the right side,” Scott said of her walk-off double. “We are not quitters. We are never going to stop until the game is officially over.”
Their efforts came up short, however, when the Longhorns faced No. 1 Florida early the next day. Junior Kim Bruins was slated with Texas’s first loss in the 5-1 game Friday morning. Bruins gave up three runs off of three hits before sophomore Rachel Fox came in as relief in the fourth inning. The Texas defense was unable to stop the powerful Florida offense who registered four more hits off of Fox with two runs in the fifth inning to secure the win.
Sophomore shortstop Taylor Thom was credited with the Longhorn’s only score after an RBI by junior outfielder Torie Schmidt. The potent Texas offense, who had outscored their previous 10 opponents 82-10, was shut down for the first time all season. The Florida defense allowed just one run off of four hits.
“Florida is a great hitting ball club,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “Kim [Bruins] didn’t have great command of her changeup today and we really needed that ... I thought the game was still within reach with us down, 3-1. We have to field the bunt better and that’s something we need to commit to being better at this season.”
The Longhorns bounced back the next day with a close 5-4 win against their second ranked opponent, No. 7 UCLA. Bennett had another outstanding day on offense with three RBIs and a two-run home run. Sophomore outfielder Brejae Washington went 2-for-4 against the Bruins with two RBIs.
“I loved that they took ownership and said ‘that is not happening today,’” Clark said. “Their whole approach during the warm-ups was much more aggressive and they couldn’t wait to play this game.”
In the circle, junior All-American Blaire Luna had a bit of trouble controlling the Bruins’ offense. Luna, who had only given up two runs all season, gave up four against UCLA. The Bruins were in line for the win during the bottom of the seventh inning; however, the Texas defense stepped up to help Luna secure the win.
The Longhorns finished the weekend with a 3-0 shutout win against No. 18 Nebraska, their third ranked opponent in three days. Fox, who was credited with the win, gave up three hits but held the Husker offense scoreless with the help of the Texas defense. The game was scoreless through six innings before a hit-by-pitch from the Nebraska pitcher with the bases loaded led to Texas’ first score.
The Longhorns will face in-state rival Texas State on Wednesday night for a double header at McCombs field in Austin.