Head coach Connie Clark knows expectations are high at the University of Texas — she’s the one who created them.
So when the Longhorns struggled to put together a consistent winning formula in the 2017 season, it frustrated her more than anyone else.
“I like to be at the (College) World Series every year or else it feels like it’s failure and that doesn’t have anything to do with being at the University of Texas,” Clark said. “As a coach, I personally wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than a place like that.”
As the Longhorns enter the 2018 campaign, however, the team hopes to operate under a different mindset that will lead to more fun on the field, and
hopefully more wins.
“Our team chemistry is the best we’ve had in a long time,” senior catcher Randel Leahy said. “I’m just excited to have fun and look like we’re having fun and our fans to see us and enjoy those moments for us.”
That new mindset will be essential for the Longhorns who enter the 2018 season as one of the younger teams in the Big 12, losing seven seniors from last year’s squad and featuring only three on its current roster. But the Longhorns are still looking for key contributions from several returnees.
Behind the plate, Texas expects to have an outstanding duo behind Leahy and sophomore Taylor Ellsworth. Ellsworth, an All Big-12 player last season, was recently named to the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year watch list.
The Longhorns will also rely on their outfielders, headlined by sophomore Tuesday Demargosian and junior Reagan Hathaway, to provide consistency at the plate. Both Demargosian and Hathaway were top-10 hitters on last season’s team with .301 and .253 batting averages, respectively.
Turning toward the pitcher’s circle, Texas expects to have a formidable combination at its disposal. The Longhorns return three pitchers who possessed a 2.5 ERA or lower, including senior Paige von Sprecken, junior Brooke Bolinger and redshirt junior Erica Wright. Wright projects as the leading pitcher on staff, winning eight games last season after coming off a rib injury.
Clark also expects immediate help from members of a freshman class that finished seventh in the recruiting rankings last fall, specifically middle infielders MK Tedder and Janae Jefferson.
Whether the combination of experience and infusion of new talent will help the Longhorns this season is a question that will be put to the test early. Before Big 12 play begins, Texas will square off against five teams during its out-of-conference schedule that are ranked in the preseason Top 25 of the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll.
The Longhorns’ first test of the season comes Friday when they take on Incarnate Word in the first game of the Texas Classic at Red and Charline McCombs Field.