Erin Shireman

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Whether she’s in the classroom, on the softball field or thousands of feet in the air, junior catcher Erin Shireman excels.

Erin is an aerospace engineering student and four-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection. During her freshman season, she was named to the Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team. On the diamond, she has played four different positions for the Longhorns, spending most of her time as a catcher.

But what sets her furthest apart from most utility players is her private pilot’s license.

Erin’s father, Kirk, worked for NASA, so aerospace engineering has always been an interest of hers, she said. A few years ago, Kirk started flying again, and that prompted Erin to take lessons and earn her license too. The skills she uses when she flies carry over to other aspects of her life.

“It helps with softball and school a lot,” Erin said. “Whenever you’re flying, you have to constantly look at the instruments, make quick decisions, assess things and respond — kind of like catching. When I’m working on problems for different classes, I look at the formulas and sample problems, and stuff actually comes into play when I’m flying or in the wind tunnel, too.”

Erin’s versatility has helped her grow into a key fixture for Texas. She has played in 45 games this season, including 44 starts, as a catcher, third baseman and designated hitter. Head coach Connie Clark said she appreciates the intelligence Erin brings to the game.

“It couldn’t be better that she’s a catcher for us — that field general who just has a really good, big-picture sense about things,” Clark said. “She’s got a tremendous work ethic and a competitor’s mentality. She comes in early and works and is really a student of the game.”

That work ethic has helped Erin improve her offensive output. Early in her career, Erin struggled with chasing balls outside of the strike zone. She finished last season with a .284 batting average, three home runs and 16 RBIs in 34 games played. She currently boasts a .307 average, tied for third-best on the team, and eight home runs and 39 RBIs, both the second-best records on the team.

Erin put significant work into improving her hitting during the offseason. She said she believes her time as a catcher has influenced her offense as well.

“My whole job is to catch pitches and read the release out of a hand, so I think that comes into play, and it helps a lot with being able to recognize the spins quicker and know how pitchers think,” Erin said.

As Texas (32–14, 7–5 Big 12) prepares for a three-game road series against Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State (20–28, 3–10), Erin and Clark both want to focus on the little things, while improving on consistency, to get the victory.

“I don’t know that we’ve hit on all cylinders yet,” Clark said. “We’ve had some great pitching outings and just didn’t get the timely hitting. Other times, we didn’t get the pitching, but we got the great offense, so I’d like to see it all come together.”

The series takes flight at 7 p.m. on Friday in Stillwater, Oklahoma, followed by afternoon games Saturday and Sunday.

Junior outfielder Lindsey Stephens eyes a pitch headed her way. Stephens hit a grand slam in win over UC-Santa Barbara.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

In another successful tournament, No. 25 Texas picked up four more wins to take it to a 13–7 record this weekend.

With six players hitting over .300 before the beginning of the Texas Invitational, Texas kicked off play on the Red & Charline McCombs Field with a nail-biting walk-off victory over Dartmouth. With two outs and a runner in scoring position, freshman third baseman Randel Leahy hit a game-winning double in the bottom of the seventh, scoring junior catcher Erin Shireman in the process. Freshman pitcher Erica Wright earned the win, improving her record to 4–3.

In the next game, Texas rotated its pitching staff, rekindling a veteran flame in the team.

“We’re moving them around a little bit and trying to make sure we have the best puzzle pieces set up and playing together,” head coach Connie Clark said at a press conference Wednesday. “So you may see a few different looks.”

One of these looks included senior pitcher Gabby Smith, who made her second start of the season over the weekend. 

“[Gabby’s] still working back from an injury, and she’s ready to go but just hadn’t had the number of pitches under her belt yet,” Clark said. “I think she’ll be good coming into this weekend.”

On Friday evening, Smith threw a career-tying 11 strikeouts in six innings to earn her first win this season and help Texas take down Texas Southern, 5–3. Leahy and junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens hit a home run a piece, and Shireman had a triple and two RBIs to help Texas rally from two runs down to win the game.

As temperatures dropped Saturday morning, Texas also dropped the third game of the tournament. Sophomore second baseman Mickenzi Krpec hit her first long ball, but no one else made their way around home plate as the Longhorns fell to Lamar, 9-1. After a slight freezing-rain delay, Texas fell behind early on as Lamar jumped to a 5–0 after one inning of play. Over the course of the jagged performance, the Longhorns recorded three errors to go along with their solo run and left with a 2–1 record in the tournament with two games to play.

“Anytime that you get away from focusing on yourself and you get consumed with [who the other team is], you get in trouble,” Clark said.

Sunday, the Longhorns ignored Dartmouth for their second matchup of the tournament, this time taking a 7–1 victory against the Big Green. In a role reversal, Texas batted in five runs in the first inning to start off strong. Wright, with a career-high 10 strikeouts and six hits allowed, posted another solid performance to earn her a 5–3 record, though the Big Green broke her impressive 28-inning streak of not allowing an earned run.

In their final game of the tournament, the Longhorns once again dominated Texas Southern, this time with a 4–0 win.

Texas plays North Carolina next in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the Carolina Classic, its last tournament before the season.

The No. 25 Longhorns started strong during its trip to California this weekend but struggled in their final games to end the weekend with a 2–3 record and a season mark of 9–6.  

On Thursday, Texas compiled upsets against No. 8 Georgia and No. 12 UCLA. The Longhorns handed the Bulldogs its first loss of the season behind a three-hit, complete-game shutout from freshman pitcher Erica Wright.

The game was scoreless until senior right fielder Marlee Gabaldon knocked a double into the right-center field gap to clear the loaded bases in the top of the seventh. Junior third baseman Stephanie Ceo then hit an inside-the-park home run that dropped between Georgia’s right and center fielders to add two more runs.

Two huge defensive plays from junior center fielder Lindsey Stephens kept the Bulldogs off the board late in the game. She fired a bullet in the bottom of the fifth to throw out Georgia senior pinch runner Adele Harrison at home and then made a tough catch in the sixth to strand two Georgia runners.

Against UCLA, sophomore pitcher Tiarra Davis threw four innings and gave up just one earned run on three hits while striking out two. Senior pitcher Gabby Smith earned her first save of the season, allowing two earned runs on five hits and striking out two in the final three frames of Texas’ 5–3 win.

Junior catcher Erin Shireman, who went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs, led the Longhorns while Stephens went 1-for-2 and scored a pair of runs.

Defensively, Shireman and sophomore left fielder Stephanie Wong made big plays to help preserve the Texas victory. In the bottom of the fifth, Wong made a difficult, back-handed running catch, and Shireman fired a shot from behind the plate to throw out a UCLA runner, keeping the game in Texas’ hands.

However, Friday didn’t go as well for Texas, as a seventh-inning Longhorn rally came up short in an 8–7 loss to Fresno State. Sophomore pitcher Lauren Slatten threw the first four frames, giving up three earned runs on seven hits with five strikeouts. Freshman pitcher Kristen Clark came on in relief and took the loss, giving up the first of four runs in a big fifth inning for the Bulldogs.

Junior first baseman Holly Kern led the Longhorn on offense, going 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs. Stephens knocked a home run as well and Smith, in the game as a designated player, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

On Friday night, Texas lost to No. 18 Missouri, 4–3. Wright pitched the entire game, allowing all four unearned runs and notching just one strikeout. Wong, Stephens and sophomore second baseman Kelli Hanzel each had an RBI. The Longhorns stranded the tying run on third in both games.

Texas closed out its weekend by losing to No. 24 Notre Dame, 5–1, on Saturday. Davis gave up four earned runs on four hits in 3.2 innings and took the loss before handing the game over to Slatten.

Smith accounted for the lone Texas score with an RBI single that scored Hanzel in the bottom of the sixth.

The Longhorns return to action this weekend at McCombs Field for the Texas Invitational.

Sophomore infielder Erin Shireman has proven to be a model student-athlete, currently pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering while playing a key role in the diamond for Texas.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Erin Shireman, a sophomore catcher/third baseman, is perhaps the most interesting player on head coach Connie Clark’s team.  

Shireman embodies the role of a student-athlete, currently pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering and continuing her family’s legacy.

“I have grown up with [aerospace engineering] my entire life,” Shireman said. “My parents got me into it at a young age, especially being from Houston. My dad works at NASA, so I have always been in that atmosphere and learned a lot from him. I have recently started flying, and that has kind of changed my mind, or given me a tough decision, as whether to go with space or atmospheric in the future.”

Shireman hopes her degree will be a launching pad for her ultimate goal of being an astronaut.

“I still want to be an astronaut, but I am being realistic that it may not happen,” Shireman said. “But now, having gotten my pilot’s license, I am really enjoying the atmospheric part of it. My parents keep me intrigued with that, and we go on family flying trips all the time.”

Many student-athletes view sports as their ultimate career destinations, often emphasizing their roles as athletes over being students. But when asked to choose which accomplishment she was most proud of, Shireman was stuck in the middle.

“That is a tough question because they are both a big part of my life, and so if I say I am more proud of one, I am kind of letting down the other part of me,” Shireman said. “I am proud of everything. Softball has given me the opportunity to come to UT and do the school aspect and then school will help me later on in the future, so they are pretty evenly balanced.”

Shireman and her teammates have had an up-and-down season thus far, but she has a concise summary for what has happened so far.

“Entertaining,” Shireman said. “There is never a dull moment when you have 19 girls on a team, and even when things are going rough we are always picking each other up and during the good times it is just easy, breezy rolling.”

The Longhorns made it to the semifinals of the College World Series last year and hope to reach similar heights this season despite their relative youth. 

“We have had a lot of games where we have lost by one run, or they have been really close games,” Smith said. “If we can just work on finishing that or getting ahead that will be the key to getting us back to the College World Series.”

Junior Taylor Thom signals an out to a teammate in left field during the Longhorns’ loss to rival OU in Sunday’s game. Thom went four for eight in the three game series tallying four RBIs. The infielder is now tied for second in program history for RBIs in a single season, with 50.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

The No. 6 Longhorns dropped two of three to the No. 1 Sooners at packed Red and Charline McComb’s field this weekend.

After losing the opener 6-1, the Longhorns bounced back on Saturday to even the series with a 4-2 win, which left the series to be decided in the rubber match Sunday.

After playing with fire and getting through the first four innings of that rubber match with just two runs given, Blaire Luna finally allowed the big hit. With the Sooners up 2-1 in the fifth, Brittany Williams delivered the back-breaking two-out, two-run double to break the game open. One inning later, Shelby Pendley added her second homer of the game to take the air out of the crowd.

With a four-run lead and last year’s player of the year Keilani Ricketts dealing, it looked as though the game and the series were over.

But that’s not the way the Longhorns saw it.

“Our team gathered some momentum late in the game,” assistant coach Corrie Hill said. “The spark in our dugout was great. The chatter was great. There was talk about comebacks we had in the past.”

After one run in the sixth, the Longhorns staged a furious rally in the seventh against arguably the game’s best pitcher. Karina Scott got hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Kim Bruins followed that with a single. After a fielder’s choice, Torie Schmidt singled in a run, cutting the deficit to two and chasing Ricketts for Michelle Gascoigne.

Pinch hitter Erin Shireman walked to load the bases for the team’s best hitter — Taylor Hoagland.

The players got out of the dugout and began leading the crowd in Texas Fight. The crowd was back into the game.

With a full count, Hoagland saw a pitched she liked, jumped on it and just missed.

“I have hit that ball 7 million times, and this time it wasn’t in my favor,” Hoagland said. “It’s an awful feeling, similar to that last year against Oregon.”

That left it all up to Brejae Washington.

But she struck out to the end the game in disappointing fashion.

“It’s always disappointing to lose a game like that,” Hoagland said. “But we can only learn from it.”

The loss sends the Longhorns to 39-6 overall and 9-2 in conference. Oklahoma has a full game lead in the division and owns the tiebreaker now, making it very difficult for the Longhorns to claim their first Big 12 championship since 2010.

However, the loss doesn’t crush the hopes for the Longhorns as they still plan on playing deep into the year.

“We plan on being in Oklahoma City for the World Series, standing right next to Oklahoma,” assistant coach Corrie Hill said.

Senior Taylor Hoagland rounds the bases after hitting a grand slam in Saturday afternoon’s 12-4 victory against Iowa State. 

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Friday: W, 8-0 
Blaire Luna’s 100th career victory couldn’t have gone any better. She recorded her second straight no-hitter while striking out 11 to blank Iowa State, 8-0, in the series opener. While the senior took control in the circle, a freshman, Erin Shireman, provided the offense. No. 6 Texas scored three in the second to get off to an early lead and never looked back. Shireman collected three RBIs in the game to spark the offense. Taylor Thom and Torie Schmidt each recorded three hits in the game as well.

Saturday: W, 12-4 
After getting off to an early two-run deficit, the Longhorns quickly erased it with a program record-tying nine runs in the bottom of the first en route to a 12-4 victory. Senior Taylor Hoagland led the inning off by drawing a walk and hit her second grand slam of the year later in the frame. Shireman continued her hot-hitting series with a 3-for-3 day and two RBIs. Once the Longhorns jumped out to a 9-2 advantage, there was no turning back. The Cyclones cut the lead to 9-4 in the top of the fifth, but the Longhorns responded with three runs of their own in the bottom half to cap the scoring. Despite a rough start, Kim Bruins improved to 8-0 on the season with the complete-game victory.

Sunday: W, 7-2 
With Luna back in the circle, Texas concluded its weekend sweep of the Cyclones. Luna’s 11 strikeouts highlighted an effort that, by far, bested that of Iowa State pitching staff’s, which combined for just one. The Cyclones drew first blood again, pushing a run across in the second inning but Texas, led by Thom, Bruins and Hoagland, easily erased that deficit as well.

By the numbers:  
56—Taylor Hoagland’s walks this season. With her three walks Sunday, Hoagland broke the single-season Big 12 record set by Texas A&M’s Meagan May last year.  
77—Number of consecutive batters Blaire Luna faced without allowing a hit, until Sara Davison’s second-inning single Sunday.
.625—Freshman Erin Shireman’s batting average for the series. Shireman got a base hit in each of her three at-bats in Saturday’s contest.

Catcher Mandy Ogle takes a swing against Iowa State this weekend. The Longhorns completed a three-game sweep Sunday.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

The No. 6 Longhorns swept Iowa State (18-22, 3-6) this week to improve to 38-4, remain undefeated in conference play and extend their winning streak to 15 games.

Blaire Luna opened the series Friday by tossing her second consecutive no-hitter in an 8-0 victory over the Cyclones. It was Luna’s 100th career win as the senior All-American fanned 11 in five innings but the Texas offense contributed just as strongly. The team swiped seven bases and scored eight runs, led by three hits apiece from Taylor Thom and Torie Schmidt. Closing out the fourth, Erin Shireman singled to right, driving in her third batter of the night.

“[Shireman] has become more selective at the plate and is getting a better understanding of hitting with certain counts,” head coach Connie Clark said. “She is doing a great job of advancing runners, doing the little things we know she can do.”

Kim Bruins took the mound Saturday and got off to a shaky start but managed to pick up her eighth win this season, a career high. The Cyclones scored on the opening play of the game, when Bruins and Shireman each committed throwing errors on a Brittany Gomez leadoff single. Erica Miller’s RBI double later in the frame gave Iowa State an early 2-0 lead.

But Taylor Hoagland helped Texas erase that deficit in a hurry. After her Big 12-leading 52nd walk preceded five Longhorn runs, Hoagland stepped back up with the bases loaded and crushed a grand slam. Three scoreless innings followed before the Cyclones shrunk the lead to 9-4 at the top of the fifth. Texas responded with three to secure their 12th run-rule victory of the season.

“I think we had some miscommunication in the first inning and then we realized we needed to get it under control,” Hoagland said. “We needed to change the momentum and that’s what we did with our nine runs. I’m glad we had an answer for everything in that game.”

Sunday wasn’t quite as solid of an effort, but Texas still pulled off a 7-2 win. Luna struck out 11, allowing four hits, five walks and two runs. Texas drew six walks and got five of their seven runs from Thom and Hoagland.

“It was a grind today but for the third day of the series, it was good we finished it out and found the outcome we were looking for,” Clark said. “It’s not necessarily about how you start it, it’s about how you finish.”