Miranda Elish was under strict orders on Monday.
Texas softball coach Mike White told his star pitcher with the seemingly never-tiring right arm to “do nothing.”
By Tuesday, Elish did just enough in practice as the Longhorns worked out one final time in Austin. Late Tuesday afternoon, the squad gathered in front of their chartered jet for a group photo, then headed to Tuscaloosa for a super regional date with Alabama.
The Longhorns’ post-season fortunes ride on Elish’s arm. She pitched four complete games —all wins — last weekend to help qualify Texas for its first super regional since 2013. Coincidentally, that’s the last time the Longhorns earned a trip to the Women’s College World Series.
Conversely, the Crimson Tide have more super regional experience than any team in the country. They’ve made 15 straight — that’s every one since the NCAA introduced super regionals in 2005.
White, who is in his first season as UT’s head coach, said Elish likely will start each day of the three-game series against the eighth-seeded Crimson Tide.
“Miranda’s the one who is going to be out there,” White said. “It’s no secret. She’s going to start every game unless we see something that they’re adjusting to, you never know.”
White opted to save Elish last Friday when UT opened regional play against Sam Houston State. The Longhorns lost, 2-1. Elish then threw 429 pitches in 29 innings of work over a two-day stretch.
After a day off, how did her arm feel? “It’s great,” Elish said. “I got a lot of treatment, got a lot of massage. … I turned my arm over (in Tuesday’s practice). I’m going to be ready to go on Friday and give it my all.”
Texas is one of three Big 12 teams that qualified for the super regionals. That’s the most since 2012. Top-seeded Oklahoma, which has won three national titles in the last six years, will host Northwestern. Oklahoma State, which is seeded 13th, will meet fourth-ranked Florida State.
The Longhorns have a dichotomy of post-season experience on the roster.
UT hasn’t lasted this long in the post-season since 2013 when the Longhorns tied for third place in Oklahoma City.
But White, as the head coach of Oregon, has made five trips as a head coach to the world series. Four Oregon players, including Elish and catcher Mary Iakopo, transferred to UT and know what it’s like to compete for a program that expects to end every season in Oklahoma City.
White made the world series for the first time in 2012 and he did it at the expense of Texas, winning a three-game super regional at McCombs Field. He also knows what it’s like to host a super regional as a top seed and lose.
“It can happen,” White said of post-season upsets. “That’s what we’re taking with us.”
After last Friday’s stunning loss to Sam Houston, White preached about having one player step up and flip the momentum. He got that in Elish, whom he described as the “heart and soul of this team.”
A refreshed Elish proclaimed Tuesday that “the sky’s the limit (for Texas) and there’s no ceiling on what we can accomplish.
“I was just trying to do whatever I had to do for my team so we could be standing here today getting another practice in,” Elish said, “getting ready to go to Tuscaloosa.”
Alabama Super Regional
Thursday-Saturday, Tuscaloosa, Ala., ESPN, 105.3
Game 1, 8 p.m. Thursday; Game 2, 8 p.m. Friday; Game 3 (if needed), 1 p.m. Saturday