Texas head coach Connie Clark during a NCAA softball game at McCombs Field, Sunday, April. 2, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

BEVO BEAT Softball

Diamond Dust: Can Texas softball shake off its awful history against ranked teams?

Posted April 6th, 2017

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Texas’ softball team will try to avoid its worst start in Big 12 play since 2004 when it hosts 11th-ranked Oklahoma this weekend at McCombs Field.

Unfortunately for the Longhorns, history isn’t on their side.

Forget for a moment that Oklahoma (32-7, 3-0 Big 12) are 34-24 all-time against Texas. Also discard the fact that Texas hasn’t won a softball series against its Red River rivals since 2009. Or that the Longhorns haven’t beaten them at all since 2014. Or that the Sooners have won nine out of the last 10 meetings.

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None of that sounds good for Texas (20-15, 0-3). But there’s a lot more.

Oklahoma will be the first ranked team that Texas has faced since the Longhorns’ 3-2 loss at No. 10 UCLA on March 12. Texas is 2-8 this season against ranked teams, including an 0-5 record against teams ranked in the top 10. The Sooners, who were the nation’s No. 1 preseason team in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association’s poll, spent the first six weeks ranked in the top 10. They’re No. 9 in this week’s ESPN/USA Softball poll.

In this decade alone, Texas is 64-65 against top 25-ranked opponents and only 10-34 against top 10 teams. And the seven seniors on UT’s roster, including Stephanie Wong, Tiarra Davis and Devon Tunning, have seen only one win in their careers over a top-10 team — a 5-0 win over then-No. 8 Georgia on Feb. 19, 2015.

And while all of that points to a Sooners sweep this weekend, there’s also this: Texas’ seniors are only 1-8 against Oklahoma, and the Sooners have lost at McCombs Field only twice this decade. OU has swept Texas the last two years.

The Longhorns’ worst Big 12 start was 0-7, back in 2004.

Let’s play in some dirt.

Texas State (26-8) completed a season sweep of Texas on Wednesday night in San Marcos with a 2-1 win in nine innings. It’s the first time the Bobcats have swept the Longhorns since 2000, when the school was still known as Southwest Texas State. Prior to last year’s 9-5 Texas State win on March 2, Texas held a 12-game winning streak against its I-35 rivals. Bobcats ace Randi Rupp lost her first matchup against Texas, but is 3-1 against the Longhorns since.

Texas’ Reagan Hathaway (7) celebrates her triple against Houston with third base coach Jennifer McFalls during a NCAA softball game at McCombs Field, Sunday, April. 2, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Three, err, up? 

  • Taylor Ellsworth: I don’t think anyone can second-guess the freshman’s decision to forego her senior season at Georgetown High and join the Longhorns as an early enrollee anymore. Her .500 batting average would lead the Big 12 if she was eligible. She’s15 at-bats shy of eligibility. She would also lead the conference in slugging percentage (.715).
  • Home sweet home: There is good news for Texas when it comes to this weekend’s series with Oklahoma. The Longhorns are 11-4 this season at McCombs Field. On the downside, two of those losses were against a ranked opponent.
  • Texas sweeps Houston: It’s something, I guess, but the momentum gained from winning two close games was railroaded on Wednesday with the loss to Texas State. Texas has now lost four of its last six games. Wait, is this really an up?

Three down

  • Texas can’t close: The Longhorns have played 11 games that have been decided by one run. They’ve lost eight of those, and only held a lead in three of those games. Four of those losses were decided in the opponents’ final at-bat.
  • Is there a bullpen?: The pitching staff has yet to record a single save this season (see above). It’s hard to imagine that among the five pitchers Connie Clark has on her staff, there’s not a true closer. What happened to Kristen Clark?
  • Road woes: Texas is 5-9 in true road games. The Longhorns are 26th in the latest Ratings Percentage Index rankings. Texas needs to avoid being swept by Oklahoma if it hopes to host an NCAA regional. If that happens, it’s almost a sure bet the Longhorns will be hitting the road to open the NCAA tournament. How’s the drive to College Station?

ON DECK: The Longhorns host No. 11 Oklahoma this weekend for a three-game Big 12 series and won’t play a mid-week game next week. Here’s the upcoming schedule (all games will air on 105.3):

Friday — vs. Oklahoma, 4:30 p.m., LHN

Saturday — vs. Oklahoma, 1, LHN

Sunday — vs. Oklahoma, noon, LHN

Samantha Show had an impressive performance in a 5-1 win over Texas State last week, throwing a complete game while allowing one hit and allowed no earned runs. She allowed no earned runs in both appearances last week.

AROUND THE HORNS: Here’s a quick look at story lines involving the Big 12, state schools,  the Longhorns and their opponents:

  • Texas A&M wins fifth straight: The seventh-ranked Aggies (32-3) beat McNeese State 10-3 on Wednesday. A&M actually found itself in an early 3-0 hole, but the offense exploded for six runs in the third inning, sparked by Tori Vidales’ game-tying three-run home run. The Aggies swept South Carolina last weekend to move their conference record to 9-2 and trail  No. 2 Florida by one game in the SEC.
  • Texas State drops series to Georgia State: Before the Bobcats’ dramatic win over Texas Wednesday, they lost the second game of a doubleheader in a Sun Belt series with Georgia State, 4-0. Texas State travels to Mobile, Ala. this weekend for a three-game series against South Alabama. The Bobcats are in third place in the Sun Belt and trails Georgia State by a half-game.
  • Baylor sweeps Texas Tech: The Bears moved to 5-1 in the Big 12 and will host Iowa State this weekend in Waco. Baylor was ranked 14th in this week’s NFCA/USA Today coaches poll.
  • Big 12 weekly awards: Oklahoma’s Macey Hatfield and Baylor’s Kelsee Selman took home Big 12 honors this week. This is Selman’s second straight pitcher of the week honor. The senior finished with the lowest ERA (0.49) in 10-plus innings of work. She was 2-0 against Texas Tech and had a save in her three appearances against the Red Raiders. Hatfield, a senior utility player, was the player of the week. She had a career-high five RBIs in a 20-0 win over Iowa State. She had a 1.400 slugging percentage and a .800 batting average.

BIG 12 POWER POLL: Oklahoma State sits at the top of the standings for the second straight week after sending sweeping Kansas. Baylor moved to 5-1 and Oklahoma reminded us all they are still the champions with a convincing sweep of Iowa State.

RANKTEAMRECORD (Big 12) LAST WEEKTHIS WEEKNOTE
1Oklahoma State25-12 (6-0)1at Texas A&M (April 7-9); vs. North Texas (April 12) Cowgirls face tough non-conference slate after 6-0 Big 12 start.
2Baylor32-6 (5-1)2vs. Iowa State (April 7-9); at Texas State (April 12) Baylor will likely not break a sweat against Iowa State, but OU series looms.
3Oklahoma32-7 (3-0) 3at Texas (April 7-9) The Sooners are 13-4 against Texas since 2010 and have only lost once since 2014.
4Texas Tech16-18 (3-3)5vs. Kansas (April 7-9)This weekend's series against Kansas is an important one for the Red Raiders.
5Kansas19-17 (1-5)4at Texas Tech (April 7-9); vs. Wichita State (April 11) Kansas looking to rebound after being swept by Oklahoma State.
6Texas20-15 (0-3)6vs. Oklahoma (April 7-9) Longhorns hoping to avoid worst start in Big 12 play since 2004.
7Iowa State15-24 (0-6)7at Baylor (April 7-9); at Drake (April 11) Iowa State continues it's gauntlet of Big 12 powerhouses with Baylor.

That’s all the dust this week. As always, swing for the fences.

 

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