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Texas softball star Miranda Elish opts out of 2021 season

Texas pitcher Miranda Elish (40) celebrates a strikeout against Sam Houston State in May of 2019 in Austin.

Miranda Elish has opted out of the 2021 softball season, Texas announced on Friday.

Concerns about the coronavirus pandemic were cited as the reason for Elish skipping this spring. Texas held its first practice of the season on Friday.

In a statement released by Texas, Elish said that "After all my yeas of playing the game I love, this message comes with deep sadness and a very heavy heart. It was a decision that I've thought long and hard about, and unfortunately due to situations surrounding me, I feel it is in my best interest to not participate in the 2021 season because of my concerns over COVID-19."

In its ongoing preview for the 2021 season, Softball America has rated Elish as the nation's second-best player. Elish had previously been named Softball America's player of the year for a 2020 season that was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last season, the right-handed Elish went 11-3 with a 1.25 ERA and 96 strikeouts. Elish threw a perfect game in her final appearance of the spring, and another one of her wins was recorded against No. 1 UCLA. Elish also hit .370 in 2020. She clubbed four home runs and drove in 19 runs.

Elish was classified as a senior in 2020. She, however, announced in March that she would return to Texas since the NCAA was freezing the eligibility of its spring athletes.

After beginning her career at Oregon, Elish transferred to Texas ahead of the 2019 season. She earned first-team all-conference honors in both the Pac-12 and Big 12.

Elish earned a spot in Longhorn lore in 2019 when she threw 429 pitches over two days as Texas fought off elimination and won four regional games at McCombs Field. Her 2019 season was later cut short when she was hit in the face by an errant throw during a super regional hosted by Alabama.

Elish would have been the ace of a Texas team that was ranked third in the NFCA's final poll for the 2020 season. The Longhorns have retained veteran arms in Shealyn O'Leary (6-0, 1.97 ERA in 2020) and Courtney Day (5-0, 1.00). Texas also signed right-hander Ryleigh White during the 2020 recruiting cycle and added Ole Miss graduate transfer Molly Jacobsen.