Three numbers were etched into the outfield grass at Red and Charline McCombs Field as the Longhorns honored their three graduating seniors. But outfielder Ki’Audra Hayter — whose No. “10” graced the grass in left field — had a bit more to play for than just her final regular season game in Austin, a 3-1 win over Baylor.
Ki’Audra’s brother, La’Kedran, stepped onto the field during the pregame festivities, meeting face-to-face with his sister for the first time in a year and a half after a military tour in Japan. At this moment, a senior day full of lasts turned into a celebration of firsts.
La’Kedran has been stationed in Japan for the past three years during a tour with the army. He hadn’t seen Ki’Audra since November 2017. A video message from La’Kedran played on the big screen in centerfield before first pitch.
La’Kedran walked out of the home dugout. Ki’Audra turned around and saw him and dropped to her knees, overcome with emotion.
“I kind of broke down on the ground, I got kind of weak,” Ki’Audra said. “It was really surprising. Usually I’ll see a lot of stuff and figure out what’s going on, but they really got me.”
The surprise had been in the works for months, but only La’Kedran and their father Keith knew what was coming.
“To just see her expression and to see her be so happy to see her brother, no words can explain that,” Keith said. “It’s just really awesome.”
The last time La’Kedran saw Ki’Audra play softball, she was a freshman at North Texas in 2015. Now, nearly four years later, Ki’Audra is playing for her “dream school.” La’Kedran was able to see one of her final games on the field, one in which the Longhorns scored three runs in the fifth inning to take the comeback win over the Bears.
“I loved that he was able to do that for her,” Ki’Audra’s mother, La’Shan, said. “It was something that she was really wishing that he could be here, to see her play at UT … I’m just overwhelmed, to see him walk out, for him to be able to make her senior day.”
While the weekend was designed to honor seniors Ki’Audra, pitcher Brooke Bolinger and outfielder Bekah Alcozer, it appears that there’s still some softball left to be played at McCombs Field. Back-to-back wins over Baylor helped make it an all-but-sure bet that the Longhorns will host an NCAA regional round in Austin.
“I think we’re a dangerous team,” Texas head coach Mike White said. “We feel like if we just keep pushing, we have an opportunity to go a long way in the postseason.”
Nonetheless, Sunday’s game was not about the postseason. It wasn’t about the end of White’s first regular season as head coach, or the series sweep of Baylor. It was about three careers nearing their end, a touching moment and a family reunited.
“I’ve really missed my brother,” Ki’Audra said. “It being my last game, it was just a blessing that he was able to come all the way down here to support and make the family as a whole.”