For Texas’ postseason opener against Minnesota on Friday, head coach Connie Clark will continue to use all-conference honorees Janae Jefferson and Paige von Sprecken atop her line-up.
Jefferson has been the leadoff hitter in each of Texas’ 56 games. The freshman has reached base in her last 19 contests, and her .404 batting average would rank seventh in the school’s history books if the season ended today. Von Sprecken is hitting .316 and her 20 doubles have tied Lindsey Stephens’ school record.
Batting third for the Longhorns? Expect to see senior Randel Leahy, whose late-season surge has provided UT’s offense with a spark.
When Texas observed its Senior Day on April 22, Leahy was given her 11th start of the season. In the 11 games since, she has started nine times. Leahy has had three two-hit performances during the past 12 games. She homered and scored three times against Iowa State at the Big 12 tournament.
During UT’s past three games, Clark moved her two-year captain into the batting order’s third slot.
“She’s being that senior that you want to see, that captain,” Clark said. “I think she’s going to be somebody that we’re going to have to really ride this weekend.”
A native of Norco, Calif., Leahy hit .272 with seven home runs and 56 RBIs over her first three years on campus. Listed as both a catcher and utility player on UT’s roster, Leahy entered her senior season without a defined on-field role. Clark felt that Leahy was putting too much pressure on herself during the first part of the year and “just couldn’t get the job done.”
Leahy, though, has recently found a home in right field.
“(I’ve been) just keeping it simple and just knowing that this is my last time, potentially ever, playing the game that I grew up playing,” said Leahy, who is majoring in speech and language pathology. “Just having confidence knowing that I’ve spent years and years of work and dedication playing this game. Just to have that confidence has really been significant for me.”
Joining von Sprecken and Kristen Clark, Leahy is one of three seniors on UT’s roster. Redshirt junior Erica Wright will also wrap up her career this postseason. This quartet is looking for its first trip to a Super Regional. (Von Sprecken did not reach the NCAA tournament during her freshman year at the University of San Diego).
On Friday, Texas (32-24) has a date scheduled with a Minnesota team that won the Big Ten’s tournament. Minnesota (39-15) ranks 16th nationally with its 1.89 ERA.
Washington (44-8) and Boise State (40-14) are also playing in the Huskies’ four-team regional, which will use a double-elimination format.