Doomed by a fifth-inning error, Texas dropped a 3-1 decision to Oklahoma in the opener of a three-game series at McCombs Field on Thursday evening.
The loss was UT’s 16th straight to a Red River rival it last beat in 2014. Ranked 11th in the NFCA poll, Texas is now 36-10 and 7-4 in Big 12 play. No. 1 Oklahoma is 39-2 and unbeaten in its 10 conference contests.
Following the two-run setback, pitcher Miranda Elish acknowledged that the Longhorns have two more shots at the Sooners this weekend.
“This team’s awesome and we’re going to go really far this season,” Elish said. “I think you’ll see a little glimpse of that in these next two games.”
Both Oklahoma and Texas started junior standouts in the circle on Thursday, but neither pitcher had any history with the Red River Rivalry. Giselle Juarez spent the first two years of her collegiate career at Arizona State. Elish transferred to Texas from Oregon this year.
Elish and Juarez were the pitchers of record in an 8-4 win by Oregon in 2017, but Thursday marked the first time they had started against each other. Both multiple-time recipients of the Big 12’s pitchers of the week award, Elish and Juarez battled through four shutout innings. Oklahoma, though, got on the scoreboard in the fifth inning.
Eliyah Flores led off the frame with a pinch-hit single before Grace Lyons, the ninth bat in Oklahoma’s line-up, was given two reprieves by the Texas defense. Lyons initially popped up a bunt attempt that catcher Mary Iakopo was unable to track down in foul territory. “Weird spin, I could have caught it,” remarked Iakopo afterward.
Lyons got a bunt down on the next pitch but UT third baseman Shannon Rhodes threw wide of first base. That mistake moved two runners into scoring position for Oklahoma. Sydney Romero then made Texas pay for the error with a two-run single.
“You’ve just got to understand, like, a team like that, they feed off every single out you give them that’s extra. They feed off it. That’s what good teams do,” said UT coach Mike White, whose team entered the series ranked 63rd nationally with its .966 fielding percentage. “They don’t let teams get away with it and they didn’t tonight.”
Oklahoma added a run in the seventh inning on Kylie Lundberg’s RBI double. Like Flores two innings before, Lundberg had just entered the game as a pinch-hitter.
Down 3-0, Texas attempted to rally in its last at-bat. Iakopo led off the seventh inning with her third hit of the evening, and Rhodes moved pinch-runner Tuesday DerMargosian across the diamond with a double. With one out, DerMergosian scored on a wild pitch. From the shortstop position, however, Lyons recorded the final outs to strand Rhodes at third base.
“I think (the rally) is just a stepping stone for the rest of the series,” Iakopo said. “We fought from the first inning to the last. I’m proud of the team for that.”
Texas and Oklahoma will resume their series on Friday at 6 p.m. White said he will start either senior Brooke Bolinger (8-3; 2.20 ERA) or freshman Shea O’Leary (12-1; 0.51). O’Leary has been nursing an ankle injury this week.
Around the bases: Texas second baseman Janae Jefferson’s two strikeouts doubled her season-long total. Jefferson also singled in the sixth inning. … Elish struck out five batters and allowed eight hits. … In a five-hit effort, the left-handed Juarez registered 10 strikeouts. … Texas had previously announced a sell-out for Friday’s game, but a crowd of 1,086 fans was below the McComb Field’s capacity of 1,254.