There are no moral victories in softball. They don’t show up in the box score or a team’s overall record.
On Wednesday night at McCombs Field, however, the Longhorns pieced together one of the strongest performances of their young season, holding No. 1 Washington to its fewest runs scored and lowest score differential of 2018 in a 2–1 defeat to the Huskies.
“It feels great (playing Washington so close),” senior pitcher Paige von Sprecken said. “I think it gives us a lot of momentum going into the weekend as we play some more ranked teams.”
Von Sprecken continued her performance as the Longhorns’ best pitcher on staff against Washington, only allowing two well-earned runs and recording four strikeouts against a potent lineup that averaged over 10 runs per game entering Wednesday.
“(Paige) just competes,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “She wants the ball, and she’s just figuring out how to pitch a great inning.”
But Texas’ offense did little to support its star pitcher in the early going.
The Longhorns didn’t record their first hit until the third inning after a single from senior designated player Randel Leahy. Following a walk by freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson, the Longhorns appeared to be primed for a rally. But Washington pitcher Taran Alvelo sent down the next two Texas hitters on back-to-back strikeouts.
Sophomore left fielder Kaitlyn Washington recorded Texas’ second hit of the evening in the fourth, but again the Longhorns were unable to capitalize with a runner on base, grounding into a double play to end the inning.
The Huskies finally managed to crack von Sprecken in the fifth inning on a controversial play at the plate.
After a single and sacrifice bunt to start the inning, Washington’s Taylor Van Zee drilled a single to right field to force a play at home. Though it appeared junior right fielder Ki’Audra Hayter’s throw arrived at the plate in time, sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth was called for catcher’s interference, giving the Huskies a 1–0 lead.
The Longhorns appeared close to tying the game in the bottom of the fifth after Hayter sent a ball down the third-base line with a runner at second base. But Van Zee flashed her glove with a diving catch to
stifle another Texas rally.
Washington’s offense came alive again in the top of the sixth when first baseman Kirstyn Thomas’ lead-off triple was followed by a scorched RBI double off the wall from Julia DePonte, which gave the
Huskies a 2-0 advantage.
Texas finally found the scoreboard in the sixth inning when freshman third baseman MK Tedder drove a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Ellsworth to cut the deficit at 2–1.
But Alvelo was able to stop the Longhorns’ damage, as Texas stranded runners at first and third base, failing to capitalize on yet another opportunity.
In their last appearance at the plate, the Longhorns’ hitters went down silently in order, giving Washington the 2–1 win.
The Longhorns (4–5) return to action on Friday in Austin for a doubleheader against No. 20 Michigan and Wichita State in the Texas Invitational.
“We have quality teams coming in,” Clark said. “It’s got to be about us and our consistent approach, as opposed to bringing energy one day and being lull the next.”