Lauren Slatten is finding her place in a crowded pitching staff on the Texas softball team.
The sophomore set a new career high with seven strikeouts on April 4 in a 6-5 win over Texas State, in just her fourth start this season.
“I honestly wasn’t paying attending to that, I had no idea and didn’t find out until two days after the game,” Slatten said. “I was proud of myself because I struggled a bit last year. This year I’m a completely different player, pitcher and person.”
It still wasn’t a great outing for Slatten, who attended Elgin High School from 2010-2011 before finishing out her career at Oak Hills High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Prior to re-entering the game in the seventh inning, she pitched five innings, gave up seven hits, five earned runs, walked three batters and hit another three with a pitch while striking out five.
She was set to take the loss in the circle until Texas’ (27-9) comeback victory in the bottom of the seventh.
Still, when things weren’t working for freshman Kristen Clark in the sixth inning, head coach Connie Clark called on Slatten to return.
She set up the Longhorns’ three-run seventh inning by striking out the first two batters and getting the third to hit a ground ball for an easy out in the top of the seventh.
“This year, I’ve been working on my mentality as a relief pitcher. It’s entirely different than being a starter,” Slatten said. “When I started the game, I wasn’t in the right mental state. When I came back in, I put myself in the right mental state and did my job and do what I was supposed to do.”
The transition for Slatten from a starter into a relief pitcher has been a change for her. She’s made nine appearances in the circle for the Longhorns and has a 2-0 record with one save and a 4.20 earned run average with 25 strikeouts.
As a freshman, Slatten made four starts and 15 appearances and had a 4.76 ERA and a 2-3 record. She got her first collegiate win against North Carolina on Feb. 7, 2014 in her first career start.
For someone who dominated in high school, recording 935 strikeouts during her high school career with numerous individual accolades, the move from starter to reliever hasn’t been so easy.
“I’m always ready,” she said. “I personally want to be out there every game, but we have a solid pitching staff. Anytime I’m called upon, I just want to go out there and do my job.”
With No. 5 Oklahoma coming to town this weekend for a three-game series with the Longhorns, Slatten may be called upon early.