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Stephanie Wong safely slides into second base during a game against Minnesota at McCombs Field on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. Texas lost both of its games against Minnesota this past weekend at the Texas Classic. CREDIT: Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Softball

Diamond Dust: What we learned from Texas’ opening weekend

Posted February 16th, 2017

Opening week has come and gone. What did we learn about Texas’ softball team?

Here are five things we now know:

  1. Texas failed its only real test: The Longhorns (3-2) beat a bad Maryland team that went 0-5 and was run-ruled in its last two games. Texas also beat Colorado State twice, but the Rams’ only two wins were against Maryland. Which brings us to the only ranked team in last weekend’s field — No. 16 Minnesota. The Longhorns lost 5-2 to the Golden Gophers on Friday and 11-6 on Saturday.
  2. There were silver linings: While a win over Minnesota, now ranked 13th, would have done wonders for Texas, there are a lot of positives that came out of those two loses. For one, Texas scored a combined eight runs on 12 hits in the two losses, a stat that normally wins games.  Secondly, seven of those hits came against Sara Groenewegen. Minnesota’s ace gave up only two runs, but she’s one of the best pitchers Texas will see this season.
  3. Erica Wright needs time: The redshirt sophomore was banged up in her first action since 2015. Wright pitched only five innings last weekend, giving up two runs, two hits and five walks while striking out three. Expect Wright to return to form sooner rather than later.
  4. The future stars shined bright: These early-season tournaments give coach Connie Clark a chance to evaluate her newcomers. They didn’t disappoint. The three that really stood out were freshmen Taylor Ellsworth (.429 batting average, 2 RBIs), Kaitlyn Washington (.250, HR, 2 RBIs) and sophomore Brooke Bolinger (1.75 ERA, 8 IP, 3 Ks).
  5. Tiarra Davis was the MVP:  Texas’ most valuable player over the weekend was Tiarra Davis. The senior from Henderson started four of the Longhorns’ five games and had a weekend batting average of .539 with four RBIs and one double. She took the loss in the circle Saturday against Minnesota, but gave up one earned run and struck out five Golden Gophers in five innings.  Two Texas errors led to five Minnesota runs.

Let’s play in some dirt.

Erica Wright returned to the circle this past weekend after missing the 2016 season with a rib injury. She suffered the loss in Friday's loss to No. 16 Minnesota. CREDIT: Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Erica Wright returned to the circle this past weekend after missing the 2016 season with a rib injury. She suffered the loss in Friday’s loss to No. 16 Minnesota.
CREDIT: Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

IN THE CIRCLE: All five Texas pitchers got time in the circle, but it’s hard to compare each one due to the discrepancy between the competition. Kristen Clark (Maryland), Bolinger (Colorado State) and Paige von Sprecken (Colorado State) each picked up wins while Wright and Davis took the Minnesota losses.

Collectively, Texas’ pitchers had a 3.06 ERA, a .214 batting average against, 26 strikeouts and 20 walks. Those numbers don’t reflect dominance, but aren’t bad for an opening weekend.

Devon Tunning attempts a bunt against Minnesota during the Longhorns game at McCombs Field on Friday night, Feb. 10, 2017. CREDIT: Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Devon Tunning attempts a bunt against Minnesota during the Longhorns game at McCombs Field on Friday night, Feb. 10, 2017. CREDIT: Tamir Kalifa/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

ON DECK: Texas hosts the Texas Invitational this weekend that includes two undefeated teams in Louisiana Tech (5-0) and South Carolina (5-0). Indiana (3-2) also is in the field. The Longhorns and Hoosiers get things started Thursday at 6 p.m. The Gamecocks are the closest thing to a ranked opponent, having received 10 votes in this week’s NFCA/USA Today poll. … It will be a homecoming for Indiana sophomore pitcher Emily Kirk, who’s a graduate of Stony Point.

The schedule (All games on LHN; Texas games also on 105.3):

Thursday — Texas vs. Indiana, 6

Friday — Louisiana Tech vs. Indiana, 10 a.m.; Texas vs. Louisiana Tech, 12:30; Texas vs. South Carolina, 3; Indiana vs. South Carolina, 5:30

Saturday — Texas vs. Indiana, 10; South Carolina vs. Indiana, 12:30 (LHN tape-delayed to midnight); Texas vs. Louisiana Tech, 3:30 (LHN tape-delayed to 10 p.m.); Louisiana Tech vs. South Carolina, 6 (LHN tape-delayed to 2 a.m.)

Sunday — South Carolina vs. Louisiana Tech, 11

AROUND THE HORN: Here’s a quick look at a few storylines from around the Big 12 and with Texas opponents:

  • Defending national champion Oklahoma fell to No. 2 Auburn: In a rematch of last year’s Women’s College World Series championship series, Oklahoma dropped a 3-2 decision to Auburn in the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Mexico. It was one of two losses for the Sooners (2-2), who also lost 1-0 to Washington. The Sooners dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 in the NFCA/USA Today poll while Auburn remained No. 2 and Washington jumped five spots to No. 8.
  • Baylor goes 3-2 in Hillenbrand Invitational: Baylor picked up wins against Cal State Northridge, Northwestern and Tulsa. The Bears’ wins over Northridge (9-0, 5 inn.) and Tulsa (9-1, 5 inn.) were by run-rule while they needed extra innings in a 7-6 win over Northwestern.  Baylor dropped two spots in this week’s poll to No. 23.
  • Texas State rebounds after losing opener: The Bobcats went 4-1 in last weekend’s Century Link Classic at Texas State. After dropping a 1-0 contest to Abilene Christian in its first game, Texas State defeated Texas Tech (2-1), Iowa (2-0), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (8-0) and Abilene Christian (8-3). Randi Rupp went 2-1 in the circle with a 1.58 ERA and 24 strikeouts, which was the 14th-most in the country.
  • Former local star no-hits Texas Tech: Westlake product Liz Carter tossed her second career no-hitter Sunday to lead Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to a 2-0 win over Texas Tech at the Century Link Classic. Carter had nine strikeouts and just two walks. … Another Westlake standout for the Islanders picked up her first collegiate hit. Freshman Lacey Boyd hit a single in the win over Texas Tech, her only hit of the tournament.
  • Big 12 weekly awards: Kansas swept the weekly conference awards. Senior utility player Taylor Dodson was the player of the week after hitting .500 with three home runs; sophomore Alexis Reid was the pitcher of the week after tossing two complete games and 13 consecutive scoreless innings on her way to a 0.50 ERA.

BIG 12 POWER POLL: Kansas is the only team that went undefeated last weekend, but the Jayhawks didn’t really see that strong of competition; still, they do jump to No. 3 in this week’s power poll.

RANKTEAMRECORDLAST WEEKTHIS WEEKNOTE
1Oklahoma
2-21at Rawlings Classic (Houston) Sooners' two losses were to No. 2 Auburn and No. 8 Washington.
2Baylor3-22vs. Getterman ClassicBears return to Waco after good start in Arizona.
3Kansas5-05at North Florida Tournament (Jacksonville, Fla.) Jayhawks tallied 44 total runs last weekend in Florida.
4tOklahoma State3-24at South Florida tournament (Clearwater, Fla.) Both of the Cowgirls losses were to No. 7 LSU., including a 14-2 shellacking.
4tTexas3-23vs. Texas InvitationalTexas had a good weekend, but struggled against No. 13 Minnesota.
6Texas Tech3-26at Puerto Vallarta College Challenge (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico) Red Raiders were no hit by TAMU-Corpus Christi.
7Iowa State2-37at Tennessee State Tournament (Nashville, Tenn.) Cyclones come close to upsetting DePaul twice.

That’s all the dust for this week. As always, swing for the fences.

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