Texas's head coach Connie Clark embraces players after beating Florida State during game two of their NCAA Super Regional in Austin, Texas on Sunday, May 26, 2013. Clark is in the final year of her contract this season. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Softball

With Clark’s 800th win behind them, Texas softball focuses on Big 12 stretch run

Posted April 29th, 2016

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Now that 800 wins are in Connie Clark’s rearview mirror, the Texas softball team is focused on adding at least eight more to her ledger.

Clark, the only coach the softball program has ever had, posted her 800th career victory Wednesday when the Longhorns beat Texas Southern. But Texas’ final eight regular-season games, beginning with this weekend’s three-game series with Kansas, are just as important.

Texas (31-13, 5-6) wants to keep the momentum it’s built during its four-game winning streak as well as improve its RPI in advance of the NCAA postseason, which is three weeks away. The latest RPI, released this Monday, has the Longhorns at a season-best No. 32, third in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma (No. 3) and Baylor (No. 14).

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On Wednesday, Clark took her milestone win — and the pie-in-the-face celebration with her players afterward — in stride. She credited her past players and coaches over the past 20 years, citing her longevity and support from the administration.

“When you hit milestones, you stop and reflect a little bit on the longevity,” Clark said. “You don’t see that very much anymore, where you are blessed to start the program and then be there 20 years later. That just means that you had a lot of great athletes. Through the years, it takes a team, and not only the athletes, but my staff as well. I am really blessed about it.”

Clark said her team continues to work to improve and build on the successes it’s earned throughout the season.

“We’ve had an open mind to continue to get better, and through some ups and downs and trials, we’ve continued to build trust,” she said. “We’ve learned to play with more poise when we’ve been under pressure. And that continues to be our push the last couple of weeks, because it’s all about the finish.”

Paige von Sprecken, who was named the Big 12’s player of the week on Tuesday, will be a key as the season winds down. She led Texas in its sweep of Oklahoma State last weekend, hitting .571 (4-for-7) along with her first career home run and six RBIs.

She had the game-winning single in the sixth inning of Texas’ 8-7 win in the series finale. Over the Longhorns’ last 14 games, she’s batting a team-best .500 (13-for-26) with five extra-base hits and 11 RBIs.

Kansas (27-16, 4-5) has been one of the Big 12’s surprise teams.

“We know Kansas is really scrappy; they’ve beaten Oklahoma and lost three close games to Baylor last weekend,” von Sprecken said. “We can’t take them lightly. We just have to play our game. If we play Texas softball, we can beat anyone.”

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