Texas will travel to Lawrence, Kansas, this weekend to face the Jayhawks in one of their last in-season series. For many Longhorns, a familiar face will be waiting.
Kansas head coach Jennifer McFalls is wrapping up her first season in Kansas. This is her first year as a head coach and her experience comes from none other than her time as an assistant coach for the Longhorns, starting in 2010 and ending with the 2017–18 season.
This season, Texas also began with a new face for returning players when Mike White came on staff as head coach from Oregon. Along with his thick New Zealand accent, he brought with him an onslaught of talent that has proven to be a major help this season.
Utility player Lauren Burke, pitcher/designated hitter Miranda Elish, catcher Mary Iakopo and outfielder Shannon Rhodes joined White in the move to Austin this year to play for the Longhorns. And whether it be with pitching style, home runs or outfield play, the additions have made a noticeable impact on the team’s success.
“We just have a little more grit and knowledge (this season) and we’ve all just kind of gotten a little bit better this year than last year,” center fielder Reagan Hathaway said before Texas faced No. 1 Oklahoma. “We’re getting set up for success, these coaches are doing everything they can to get us to where we need to be.”
The Longhorns were scheduled to face Prairie View A&M on Wednesday, but the game was canceled due to inclement weather. This left Texas with a longer game break than anticipated.
Texas will be heading into its series against Kansas after going 0–3 against their biggest rival, the Oklahoma Sooners.
Following three nail-biting games, White credited the Sooners with being the better, “more seasoned” team. However, he also mentioned it was a learning experience for the Longhorns that can help them finish strong this season and make it to the Big 12 Championship.
“I always say that no loss is taken in vain,” White said. “We need to play more teams like (Oklahoma) to understand what it takes to be at that level. There’s a certain level you need to be at to compete in the World Series, and you can’t do it without playing at it.”
Both Kansas and Texas have new program heads, and although Texas has had more success in its Big 12 season — seven wins to Kansas’ three — the trip to Lawrence could be either team’s series.
White has emphasized multiple times throughout the season that the game of softball doesn’t know who holds what record. It all comes down to the execution on game day.
The first pitch at Arrocha Ballpark will be at 5 p.m. Friday.