There’s something missing along the center field wall at McCombs Field.
It’s subtle, really. If by subtle you mean the way the absence of the statues of Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams — Texas’ two Heisman Trophy winners — would be if they weren’t erected in the southwest corner of Royal-Memorial Stadium.
When it comes to Texas sports legends, softball’s Cat Osterman belongs in the same conversation as Campbell and Williams. She’s to softball what Williams, Campbell, Colt McCoy and Vince Young are to Texas football.
There’s one slight difference: Osterman’s No. 8 has not been retired by the UT athletic department the same way that Williams’, Campbell’s, McCoy’s and Young’s numbers are.
Does she need Heisman Trophies? Osterman has three of softball’s equivalent, winning USA Softball’s collegiate national player of the year honor in 2003, 2005 and 2006. Records? She’s the NCAA’s all-time strikeouts leader with 2,265, a record that may stand for some time; it would take a pitcher to average 567 strikeouts each season in a four-year career in order to pass Osterman. Last year’s national strikeout co-leaders had 336. And let’s not forget, Osterman also holds Texas’ records in nearly every pitching statistical category.
Olympic medals? Osterman has two, and she wore No. 8 both times. National championships? She doesn’t have one of those, but did help Texas to three appearances is the Women’s College World Series.
In 2013, UT women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky told the American-Statesman’s Cedric Golden, “You never say never, but right now in women’s athletics, we’ve ceded our Hall of Honor as our ultimate honor.” Plonsky said Tuesday through a UT spokesman that her nearly four-year old statement still stands. Osterman was inducted into the women’s hall of honor in 2011, the same year as Plonsky.
An athlete of Osterman’s distinction and accomplishment at Texas certainly deserves for her number to be enshrined on the center field wall of the stadium she built her legacy. No one has worn her No. 8 since she left in 2006.
Let’s play in some dirt.
On deck: We’re a little more than two weeks away from Texas’ season opener. The Longhorns open with the Texas Classic at McCombs Field against Colorado State and Minnesota on Feb. 10. The preseason NFCA national poll has yet to be released, but Minnesota was ranked No. 20th .
Texas will likely face Minnesota twice; the Golden Gophers feature Sara Groenewegan, who tied for the national lead in strikeouts last season (336). She was 31-7 with a 2.03 ERA last year, when opponents hit .197 against her.
Texas’ other tournament matchups will be two games against Colorado State and one against Maryland. Game times have not yet been set.
Extra bases: The Texas Charge recently landed another Longhorn. The National Pro Fastpitch franchise, which now calls Texas State’s Bobcat Stadium home, acquired free agent catcher Mandy Ogle; Ogle’s former team, the Pennsylvania Rebellion, ended operations last month.
It’s a homecoming for Ogle in more ways than one. She was a high school star at nearby New Braunfels Canyon, located just south of San Marcos, before going to UT. Ogle tweeted, “So excited to be back in Texas! #TexasCharge,” after the acquisition was announced.
The Charge has a deep connection to Texas softball in its three-year NPF history. Former UT shortstop Taylor Thom holds the distinction of being the first player to hit a home run for the Charge. Thom played one season in the NPF in 2015. Ogle joins fellow Longhorns Nadia Taylor and Lindsey Stephens on the Charge’s roster.
Know your Longhorns: Each week we’ll take a look at a player on the Texas roster. This week it’s pitcher Paige von Sprecken, the junior who’s well-known for her signature bounce before every pitch.
Von Sprecken settled into Texas in 2015 after playing her freshman season at the University of San Diego. Softball wasn’t the reason the California native came to Texas, though. She said she visited the campus after her mother suggested she take a look at UT. After she fell in love with the campus, she then went to talk to coach Connie Clark about joining the team.
In her debut season, the right-hander posted an 11-3 record with a 2.91 ERA. She had three shutouts and 61 strikeouts in 25 appearances. She’s also a pretty good hitter; Von Sprecken had 20 hits in 48 at-bats (.417 BA) and 17 RBIs. She had seven extra-base hits, including two home runs.
Trivia: Last week, we asked how many times have the Longhorns been picked to win the Big 12 in the preseason coaches poll, with bonus points if you could name the year(s). The answer: Only once, in 2005, when Texas had six first-place votes and two more points than Oklahoma. How did that work out for Texas? The Longhorns finished third in the final standings, but won the Big 12 tournament.
This week’s question involves numbers: Two players on this year’s roster wear jersey numbers that no UT softball player has ever worn before. Who are they and what are the numbers?
Check back next week for the answer.
As always, swing for the fences.
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