Randel Leahy showed a lot of promise as a freshman in 2015.
A nagging lower back injury derailed her sophomore season, and the Norco, Calif. native has struggled to find her freshman form where she ranked among the top five in nearly every team offensive category. In 2015 she hit .291 with 14 extra-base hits (five home runs, two triples and seven doubles), 23 RBIs and 24 runs scored. She also had a .513 slugging percentage, which ranked fourth on the team. Leahy was “On Call” to be there for Texas at the plate, just as her Kings of Leon walk-up song suggested.
Leahy is a team leader in the clubhouse, which is why head coach Connie Clark made her a team captain this season.
But it wasn’t until this past weekend during Texas’ sweep of Texas Tech and in Wednesday’s 5-0 win over Texas Southern, that Leahy showed that same promise she displayed at McCombs Field two seasons ago.
In Texas’ last three games, Leahy has hit .600 with four RBIs, two runs scored, a double and a triple.
It was a spark for an offense that finally found its grove, scoring 24 runs with nine extra-base hits, including Kelli Hanzel’s home run in game two of the series and a triple from Leahy.
Coming into the weekend, Leahy only had two multi-hit games in 31 played. She had two against Texas Tech in back-to-back games.
Leahy’s injury last year limited her playing time to 27 games and she wasn’t the same player when she returned. She had a .205 average with only two extra base hits — one double and a home run — along with nine RBIs and a .295 slugging percentage.
It likely helped Leahy and the offense that they faced a pitching staff at Texas Tech that collectively holds the worst earned run average (4.36) in the Big 12. But a mental boost will do wonders for Texas at the plate.
Leahy needed a weekend like that. Texas needed a weekend like that.
She’s just one part Clark’s puzzle, but make no mistake, she’s a big piece of that puzzle when she contributes at the plate like she has the last three games. If Leahy can fully return to her freshman form, it will give an offense that ranks fourth in the conference with a .285 average the much-needed boost it’s looking for.
Let’s play in some dirt
- Pitching staff putting it together: Texas had a solid weekend from its pitching staff. Erica Wright went nine of the 14 innings of Game 1, allowing one run and two hits. She struck out 12 and walked three and looked every bit as dominant as she did her freshman season in 2015. Kristen Clark hasn’t allowed a run in three appearances and 6 2/3 innings of relief. She picked up a win in Game 2 of the Texas Tech series and struck out two in 3 2/3 innings of work. Paige von Sprecken had a good outing after reliving Tiarra Davis in the final game. All five pitchers combined for a shutout against Texas Southern.
- There’s the offense: This has been touched on already, but Texas has scored 29 runs in four games. In the previous four, the Longhorns scored just four. Where’s this been all year?
- Four in a row: The Longhorns have now won four straight. Texas could — and likely will — extend that winning streak to seven games this weekend when last-place Iowa State, which has only beat the Longhorns once in 49 meetings (2005), comes to McCombs Field.
- It was Texas Tech: The Red Raiders’ pitching staff is the worst in the Big 12. Texas should have lit Tech up the way it did. Doing it against Texas Tech isn’t the same as doing it against quality pitching. Still, it did do wonders for the Longhorns’ psyche.
- Too much playing from behind: This may not seem like a big deal when Texas swept Texas Tech, but the postseason opponents won’t be as giving as the Red Raiders. Tech erased a 1-0 lead in Game 1 of the series. That game went 14 innings and Texas eventually won 4-1, scoring three in the 14th. The Red Raiders actually erased a Texas lead in all three games, forcing the Longhorns to play from behind. It won’t be that easy in the postseason.
That’s all we got. Hard to see the downside of a four-game winning streak.
ON DECK: The Longhorns (24-18, 3-6 Big 12) return to McCombs Field this weekend to host last-place Iowa State. The Cyclones (16-31, 1-11) have never beaten Texas, but did shock Oklahoma State on April 15 with a 10-9 victory in Ames, Iowa for their first conference win and the Cowgirls’ first conference loss. Texas swept Texas Tech. Here’s the upcoming schedule (all games will air on the Longhorn Network and 105.3):
Friday — Iowa State, 4:30 p.m.
Saturday — Iowa State, 1 p.m.
Sunday — Iowa State, 11 a.m.
Wednesday — North Texas , 6 p.m.
AROUND THE HORNS: Here’s a quick look at story lines involving the Big 12, state schools, the Longhorns and their opponents:
- Texas State cracks RPI top 25: After defeating No. 13 Baylor, the Bobcats (32-10) were almost certain of jumping up in the rankings. The Bears weren’t the only ranked opponent Texas State beat last week. While Ricci Woodards’ team would have liked to win all three games against No. 18 Louisiana Lafayette, the Bocats did win the final game of their three-game series with the Ragin Cajuns. Their reward? Texas State jumped to No. 25 in this week’s Rating Percentage Index rankings.
- Lindsey McLeod picks up second Southland Conference honor: For the second time this season, Westlake High School’s all-time strikeout leader LIndsey McLeod was named the Southland Conference’s pitcher of the week. McLeod put on a pitching clinic in Sam Houston State’s series with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. In two appearances, she picked up two wins, struck out 19 and pitched 12 shutout innings. She tied her career-high 11 strikeouts in a complete-game shutout win in Game 2 of the series.
- Oklahoma extends winning streak to 16 games: The Sooners (39-7, 9-0) extended their winning streak to 16 games with a 8-0 run-rule victory in six innings against North Texas on Tuesday. No. 8 Oklahoma will host No. 15 Baylor (35-7, 8-1) this weekend for a key Big 12 series. The Sooners are a perfect 16-0 in Norman.
- Aggies fall to No. 18 Louisiana Lafayette: No. 5 Texas A&M lost its second straight game on Wednesday, falling to the Ragin’ Cajuns 11-9. Samantha Show, who did her part at the plate by going 4 for 4 with two RBIs, suffered the loss in the circle after giving up six runs in the first two innings. It was her third loss of the season. The Aggies will host No. 22 Georgia this weekend.
- Big 12 weekly awards: Texas freshman Kaitlyn Washington took home Big 12 player of the week honors while Oklahoma’s Paige Parker was selected as the pitcher of the week. Washington had at least two hits in all three games against Texas Tech. She had a career-high two doubles in the series opener with the Red Raiders. Parker struck out a career-high 14 batters in a 4-1 win over Kansas. She gave up one unearned run in 98 pitches and improved to 14-5.
— Texas Softball (@TexasSoftball) April 18, 2017
BIG 12 POWER POLL: Oklahoma is taking an 18-game winning streak into its series with Baylor. The Sooners remain atop of the Big 12 power poll while Baylor and Oklahoma State swap places and Texas leapfrogs Texas Tech and Kansas to take over the fourth spot.
|RANK||TEAM||RECORD (Big 12)||LAST WEEK||THIS WEEK||NOTE|
|1||Oklahoma||39-7 (6-0)||1||vs. Baylor (April 21-23)||The Sooners' are riding in style with their 16-game winning streak is the longest in the conference.|
|2||Baylor||35-7 (8-1)||3||at Oklahoma (April 21-23); at Lamar (April 25)||Baylor's path to the Big 12 title goes to Norman this week, where Oklahoma has not lost this season.|
|3||Oklahoma State||29-17 (8-1)||2||vs. Texas Tech (April 21-23)||Iowa State shocked the Cowgirls in the final game of the series last week. What?|
|4||Texas||24-18 (3-6)||6||vs. Iowa State (April 21-23); vs. North Texas (April 26)||Don't look now, but Texas has a winning streak going. It likely will stay in tact this weekend.|
|5||Texas Tech||17-23 (4-8)||5||at Oklahoma State (April 21-23)||Texas Tech's gauntlet of the Big 12 continues this weekend with Oklahoma State.|
|6||Kansas||22-22 (3-9)||4||vs. Nevada (April 21-23)||The Jayhawks are off this weekend from Big 12 play and will host Nevada.|
|7||Iowa State||16-31 (1-11)||7||at Texas (April 21-23); vs. Northern Iowa (April 26)||Iowa State is looking to find a little magic against Texas, but has only one win over the Longhorns in 49 tries.|
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