By William Weathers
Special to the American-Statesman
LAFAYETTE, La. – Texas didn’t just advance to the winner’s bracket of the NCAA Lafayette Regional.
The Longhorns (38-14) barged their way through with a 5-0 win over rival and 16th-ranked Texas A&M Friday to open the three-day tournament at Lamson Park. Five solo homers and the crafty left arm of starting pitcher Tiarra Davis did the job.
The Longhorns will play the winner of host-No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette-Boston University in the first game on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 11 a.m. Should Texas lose its next game, UT will play an elimination game at 4 p.m. If they win, Texas will not play again until 3:30 p.m., Sunday.
Lindsey Stephens jump-started Texas’ power display with a pair of homers and Davis threw a five-hit, complete game in front of a crowd of 1,477.
“Everyone in Austin’s going to be ecstatic,” Stephens said of UT’s first matchup since 2012 with its arch-rivals. “I’m just glad we were able to play them and get that win.”
The Longhorns extended its win streak to six games and won for the 11th time in its last 12 games.
“I’m just very proud of the team, it was a tremendous team effort,” said Texas coach Connie Clark. “We didn’t want to change anything physically coming in, although physically we’re in as good a shape as we’ve been in all year.”
Stephens led off the game with a homer to left field – her 200th hit of her career – and tagged the first pitch from Texas A&M’s losing pitcher Trinity Harrington to center field for a 2-0 lead in the third inning.
“It’s really helpful when you can start a game off like that,” Stephens said. “My goal was to be the first team to relax. When we got here everyone was very relaxed, very excited. We definitely talked about starting fast, getting ahead and we took advantage of that.”
With Davis up second in the order in the sixth, Clark pinch-hit for her pitcher and Mickenzi Krpec blasted the third solo home run of the game to give Texas a 3-0 lead. It was Krpec’s first homer in 12 plate appearances this season.
One batter later left fielder Reagan Hathaway capped Texas’ biggest home run production since a May 7 outing at Iowa State, delivering a 2-2 pitch to dead center field and ending Harrington’s afternoon.
Texas’ final run came in the seventh when Kelli Hanzel hit a solo shot in the seventh inning off relief pitcher Samantha Show.
“We knew what we were looking for when we went up there,” Clark said. “We wanted her to elevate the drop ball just a bit. I think we did a nice job getting some favorable counts and getting some pitches, when she elevated it, that we were looking for and took advantage of it.”
Davis held one of the nation’s top offensive teams – A&M (37-19) – in check throughout. The junior from Henderson walked two batters and came within two (11) of matching her season-high for strikeouts. It was only the second time this season the Aggies were shutout.
“I think what helped me the most was staying relaxed and not over thinking things,” said Davis, who threw 74 of 116 pitches for strikes. “I sometimes have a tendency to do that. I went out there, saw the pitch being called and attacking the (catcher’s) mitt. It kind of worked out in our favor.”