Stephen F. Austin

Texas has needed a late second-half comeback to secure the majority of its wins this year. Five times in seven contests the Longhorns have trailed in the final seven minutes of a game – winning four of those times.

After the third of those narrow victories, sophomore forward Connor Lammert offered a simple theory as to why Texas has been so successful in late-game situations.

“You see the lineup we have out there when we finish the game and it’s most of the guys that have returned,” Lammert said after a 72-62 triumph over Stephen F. Austin last month. “We’ve finished well with that lineup on the court. Last four minutes, we were really able to hold onto the ball, make free throws, execute and get stops and rebounds. I think that’s what we’ve done well better than anything.”

Over the final eight minutes of that game, Texas used only six players – Javan Felix, Jonathan Holmes, Demarcus Holland, Isaiah Taylor, Cameron Ridley and Lammert – five of whom were among the six scholarship players that returned from last year’s 16-18 team, Taylor being the lone freshman. 

Trailing by four at the 8:00 mark, 54-50, the Longhorns ended the game on a 22-8 run to win the game by 10 points. It’s how Texas has been winning most of its games this year.

Four underclassmen – Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis, Ioannis Papapetrou and Sheldon McClellan – all left the program after last season for various reasons. Kabongo, Papapetrou and McClellan were the Longhorns’ three leading scorers a year ago. Losing them was a big reason why Texas was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 this season.

Not only were the Longhorns bad in 2012, they were supposed to be worse in 2013.

But those members of the worst Rick Barnes-led team at Texas who came back this year have led the Longhorns to a 6-1 start. Tough non-conference games remain against squads like Vanderbilt, North Carolina and Michigan State. But the Longhorns have shown they can be much improved since last year.

A closer look at Texas’ first seven games shows that are getting plenty out of its perseverant returners but that one newcomer, in particular, has made his presence felt. He doesn’t lead the team in any major conventional category but he does come out on top when you look at plus-minus (how many more or less points the Longhorns score than their opponent when he’s on the floor).

It’s that lone newcomer in the six-man rotation – Isaiah Taylor – who leads Texas in plus-minus at +74. The Longhorns are -9 when he’s not on the floor, making him one of two players on the team who Texas has been outscored by its opponents when he’s not on the floor, the other being Holland.

Not surprisingly, Taylor also leads the Longhorns in +/- per 40 minutes at +16.5. Jonathan Holmes (+13.6) and Holland (+12.1) are the only others in double digits in this category.

The single-best plus-minus performance of the year, however, doesn’t belong to Taylor but to Holmes, who was +35 in the aforementioned victory over a solid Stephen F. Austin team who won 27 games last season. Holmes was an incredible +24 in the second half and Texas was -25 in that game when he wasn’t on the floor.

Here are the five best individual plus-minus outings this year:

And here are the five worst individual plus-minus games. As expected, most of them came in the Longhorns’ only defeat so far this year, a 86-82 loss to BYU in Kansas City on Nov. 25.

Texas’ starting lineup hasn’t changed much this year. Four players – Holland, Taylor, Ridley and Holmes – have started every game they’ve played in so far. But there is one move Barnes has stuck with. He’s made a sixth man of sorts out of Felix, who has recently become the first man off the bench instead of a mainstay in the starting lineup.

Has it paid off? The numbers say no. In Felix’s three starts, he was +14 but in the last four games he hasn’t started, Felix is -10, including a -15 showing against BYU. Even if you treat that performance as an anomaly and only look at Texas’ six wins so far, Felix has still been better as a starter. He’s +14 in Texas’ three wins he’s started in and +5 in the team’s three victories he hasn’t started in.

Here is a complete breakdown of how each player has done as a starter and how they’ve done coming off the bench.

Of those six scholarship players who returned from last year’s team, only sophomore forward Prince Ibeh was not included in that effective late-game six-man rotation. But, as this table shows, Ibeh has saved his best basketball for the close games this year.

In games decided by fewer than 10 points, Ibeh has notched a +14, including a +12 in just 16 minutes of an 84-77 win over South Alabama in the Longhorns’ second game of the season. On the other hand, Ibeh is -8 in games decided by at least 10 points.

No. 25 Texas soccer notched its second straight shutout Friday, beating Stephen F. Austin 2-0 in Nacogdoches despite being outshot by the Ladyjacks.

The Longhorns 12 total shots, only five of those on goal, were enough to secure the win despite Stephen F. Austin’s 16 total shots, including seven from forward Chelsea Raymond.

The pair of goals for Texas was split between the halves and goalkeepers, one coming from senior midfielder Gabby Zarnegar on keeper Lacey Lee and the other from freshman midfielder Julia Dyche beating the Ladyjacks’ second keeper, Morgan Glick.  

Zarnegar got her shot off in just the sixth minute off a corner kick from junior midfielder Sharis Lachappelle. Lachappelle sent the ball in from the right side, and the cross caught the head of Zarnegar, who put it in the back of the net. Zarnegar’s second goal of the season ended a drought dating back to Sept. 6 against Samford.

In the second half, Dyche scored her first career goal on a cross from sophomore forward Kelsey Shimmick. After Shimmick drove the ball up the right side of the field, she crossed it to the box, finding the feet of Dyche, who sent it on the ground past the keeper.

Sophomore goalkeeper Abby Smith recorded her eighth shutout of the season, topping last year’s seven. Smith also recorded a career-high in saves with seven.

Texas will look to extend its winning streak to six in its final match of the regular season against Texas Tech in Lubbock on Friday before the Big 12 tournament begins the following week. 

Freshman Holly Kern pitches against Steven F. Austin on Wednesday afternoon. In her second career start, Kern pitched a complete-game shut-out to blank the Lady Jacks 6-0 in Austin, Texas.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

It hasn’t taken long for Holly Kern to get used to the college game.

In just her second career start, Kern tossed a complete-game shutout in Texas’ 6-0 win over Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday. Kern retired the side three times in six innings of her Longhorns debut last Friday, when she allowed one run on three hits during a 9-1 win over North Texas.

“I was hoping to get [the first shutout] in my first game,” Kern said.

The freshman from Plano didn’t set the Lady Jacks down in order until the sixth inning Wednesday, stranding seven runners, but kept Stephen F. Austin from crossing the plate all night.

It was a much crisper performance than the one the Longhorns turned in last Sunday, when they squeaked past North Texas, 5-4, in the Texas Classic title game.

“We talked to the captains,” head coach Connie Clark said. “They were the first to admit that their warm-up could have been a bit sharper on Sunday. They set the tone. Our captains sured things up today.”

Kern got some early help when Texas tacked on three runs in the second inning. Taylor Thom got things started with a leadoff double in that frame but was thrown out at home by Lady Jacks second baseman Lindsay Campbell. Gabby Smith’s RBI single and Taylor Hoagland’s two-run blooper into left gave the Longhorns a 3-0 lead.

“It was nice to have that run support,” Kern said. “Once we scored some runs, I knew I could relax a little bit.”

Hoagland drove in her third run of the game when she singled home Stephanie Ceo in the fourth inning. Mandy Ogle and Smith were thrown down after Ceo’s leadoff triple, but Hoagland came through with a line drive to left, giving Texas its fourth two-out run of the game. Twenty of the 38 runs the Longhorns have scored this season have come with two outs.

“We’ve been feeding off each other,” Hoagland said. “I think everyone is going up with the mentality of putting the team in a good position and taking it one at-bat at a time. Being consistent has been our main focus.”

Texas, which has won each of its first 10 games in the last two seasons, improved to 6-0 with the win. More importantly, Kern showed how deep the Longhorns’ staff, which now boasts a 0.72 ERA, really is.

A week after playing for individual bragging rights, the Longhorns will compete to contribute to the team’s success this weekend.

The Longhorns begin dual match play Saturday, hosting Wichita State, No. 34 Utah and Stephen F. Austin as part of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend.

Saturday they will face Wichita State in a rematch of last year’s first-round match in the NCAA Championships. They will play Utah or Stephen F. Austin on Sunday depending on who wins.

The winning team will advance to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship on Feb. 8-11.

Last season as a freshman, Lina Padegimaite dominated dual match singles play. The Lithuanian posted a 21-5 record en route to being named Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year.

Another Longhorn to keep an eye on in dual match singles play is junior Elizabeth Begley. She tied Padegimaite last season for most wins in dual match singles with a record of 21-2.

If all goes to plan, Sunday should pit the No. 11 Longhorns against the No. 34 Utes, who feature three players ranked in singles and a Top 25 doubles team.

Play at the Penick-Allison Tennis Center begins 10 a.m. Saturday with doubles.

Nadia Taylor embraces her teammates during a 9-5 win against Missouri. Taylor was named the Big 12 Player of the Week.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns are hitting the road again. The 35-5 Texas team will make the hour-and-a-half journey up I-35 to challenge Baylor in a one-game conference stand.

The Longhorns are currently 9-3 in the Big 12 where they stand second behind rival Oklahoma. Baylor, on the other hand, is seventh in the conference with their 3-8 record.

The No. 25 Baylor Bears are coming off eight days of rest. Before that break, the Waco team had a six game home stand against Stephen F. Austin, Kansas and Texas A&M. Baylor won four of those six games but lost the last two, one against Kansas and the other to Texas A&M. With that two-game losing streak hanging over their heads, the Bears look to leader Kathy Shelton to keep them competitive. The junior leads the team in batting average (.374), runs, hits, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and stolen bases. She plans to stop the Longhorns current three-game winning streak.

Texas comes into tonight’s game after sweeping Kansas in Lawrence. Senior third-baseman Nadia Taylor leads the team, and was just named Big 12 Player of the Week for the second time this season. She hit at a .625 clip during the week against in-state rival Texas Tech. In the series against the Jayhawks, she hit .800 with three home runs and a Texas record-high five walks in one game.

Taylor is one of many Longhorns who have been hitting the ball much better. After the weekend sweep, Taylor Hoagland said that Texas is much more confident at the plate.

“I think our team hit the ball in fantastic fashion throughout the series,” Hoagland said. “We really hit well across the board this weekend. [The losing streak] was a humbling experience and a wake-up call for us. It was an eye-opener for us and made us realize there is a lot to be done. It’s a good starting point for us.”

Kansas played decently against the Longhorns. Not only did the team hit well, scoring 32 runs, they also showed their strength after losing three straight to Missouri and Texas Tech.

Texas travels to a tough stadium, however. While it may been remembered as the field that President George W. Bush and members of his staff and secret service agents often used for pick-up games, Getterman Stadium in Waco is not known for allowing home runs. Since 2007, Baylor has hit 43 of their 60 home runs in road games, highlighting the difficulty of their home stadium.

From here on out, the Longhorns have only conference games left. They know its grind time if they want to win the regular season in the Big 12 and make a push into the NCAA Tournament. This one-game stand is the last on the road for the team before they come back to Austin for a series against Oklahoma State. The fight has just begun as the post-season is coming up. Every game and every win means an opportunity to move up in the rankings and get ready for their run after the regular season ends.

Printed on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: Road tested Longhorns hope to keep streak alive against Bears

Eric Weiss hit a two-run home run on Sunday putting Texas up 4-1 over Kansas State. He went 3-4 with two home runs and a triple.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

It didn’t come easy, but the Longhorns won another series this past weekend.

No. 22 Texas (13-9, 5-1) took two of three games from Kansas State (13-10, 2-4), capping off the series with an 8-5 victory in Manhattan, Kan. Sunday afternoon. The Wildcats captured the series opener, 5-2, and led by two runs going into the eighth inning of the next contest but the Longhorns triumphed in extra innings Saturday before taking the rubber match the following day. They have won seven of their last eight games.

Texas pounded out 30 hits in the final two games of the series, both wins. Junior left fielder Jonathan Walsh, senior shortstop Jordan Etier, sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss and sophomore first baseman Alex Silver combined to account 13 of the Longhorns’ 16 hits Sunday while scoring and driving in all eight of their runs. Walsh had a game-high four hits while Weiss tripled once and homered twice.

Walsh, who returned from a thumb injury he suffered during this past weekend’s sweep of Oklahoma that kept him out last Tuesday’s win over Stephen F. Austin, proved why he’s become a mainstay at the cleanup spot in the lineup. He went 9-for-15 at the plate with three runs and 5 RBI against Kansas State. After a 4-for-5 performance in his most recent contest, Walsh has replaced sophomore right fielder Mark Payton as the team’s leading hitter as he currently boasts a .387 batting average.

But things did not start out well for Texas in this series. The Longhorns dropped their game in Big 12 play Friday and trailed entering the final stages of Saturday’s contest. Down 4-2 in the eighth inning, Weiss started the frame by getting hit with a pitch and Walsh followed with a single. Silver laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced them to second and third base. Weiss crossed the plate after a balk by Kansas State to trim the deficit to 4-3 and Walsh scored the tying run on a single from freshman second baseman
Brooks Marlow.

Weiss and Walsh each chipped in an RBI single in the decisive 11th inning before sophomore closer Corey Knebel completed his four-inning outing by retiring the Wildcats in order in the bottom half of the frame. Knebel did not allow a run in five innings of work during the series. With the 6-4 victory Saturday, the Longhorns improved to 4-0 in extra-inning games this season.

Knebel fared better than Texas’ starting pitchers on the weekend, none of whom made it through the sixth inning. Sophomore Nathan Thornhill, freshman Parker French and freshman Ricky Jacquez combined to surrender 20 hits and 11 runs in 13.2 innings of work. Thornhill was saddled with the loss in Friday’s defeat, while junior Hoby Milner (4-3) and Knebel (2-0) picked up wins in the games Jacquez and French started, respectively.

Printed on Monday, March 26, 2012 as: Longhorns win series, continue to improve

Freshman Dillon Peters earned the win last night after pitching three innings. He allowed one baserunner on a walk and fanned four. The pitching staff did not allow a hit until the fifth inning and the only run was off a solo home run in the seventh inning.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

Billy Beane would be proud.

The Longhorns’ increasingly uncanny ability to get on base recently would certainly impress the Oakland Athletics general manager, who was played by Brad Pitt in “Moneyball.” Texas head coach Augie Garrido had his team watch the Oscar-nominated film on the way back from a three-game sweep of Oklahoma, and the Longhorns took the lesson to heart.

The team picked up right where they left off, getting on base 21 times in 43 plate appearances as every member of the starting lineup reached base and all but one reached base at least twice, including sophomore right fielder Mark Payton, who has now reached base in 19 consecutive contests. Texas drew five walks, racked up eight hits and was hit by a pitch five times.

“When you’re getting on in a lot of different ways, it puts pressure on the defense. We can steal from time to time, we can run a hit and run. You’re creating so many more opportunities,” Garrido said. “I’m very impressed with the team being able to come out and play against the game and not care about the opponent.”

Meanwhile, the Texas pitching staff did not surrender a hit until the fifth inning or a run until a seventh-inning solo home run by pinch-hitter Chris Hernandez. Freshman Dillon Peters picked up his first win of the season as the Longhorns (11-8, 3-0) extended their winning streak to six games with a 9-1 triumph over Stephen F. Austin (7-13, 2-4) at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Tuesday night.

“[Peters] pitched very well,” Garrido said. “We were anxious to get back home to this game on a mound that he’s comfortable with, with a team that’s doing well and scoring runs, playing a high level of defense behind him — this is the best environment that we could have put him in and he capitalized.”

Texas turned in a solid offensive performance but the Lumberjacks did not do themselves any favors defensively. After a leadoff single by freshman Brooks Marlow in the second inning, Alex Silver hit a ground ball through the second baseman’s glove on a hit-and-run play before sophomore catcher Jacob Felts hit a soft comebacker that got past both the pitcher and the second baseman.

Senior designated hitter Kevin Lusson drew a bases-loaded walk, followed by singles from senior second baseman Jordan Etier and sophomore shortstop Christian Summers as the Longhorns took a commanding 3-0 lead.

Another defensive miscue allowed Texas to expand that lead in the following frame as a fly ball hit by Marlow to left-center field was mishandled by Stephen F. Austin left fielder Fola Lajide. Marlow trotted to third base with a triple, and scored later in the inning when Etier beat out a potentially inning-ending double play ball.

“It’s about time that it started falling our way,” said Etier, who went two-for-four Tuesday. “We got some hits that weren’t squared up but just fell in and that’s part of the game.”

Senior center fielder Tim Maitland was hit by a pitch for the 10th and 11th time in the contest and scored both times, beginning in the fourth inning when he was driven in by a sacrifice bunt from Marlow. Sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss drew a walk in the same frame and scored on a triple by Silver to extend the Longhorns’ lead to 6-0.

Texas tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning — Payton scoring on a wild pitch following a leadoff double and Weiss scoring on an errant throw by the Lumberjacks catcher on a pickoff attempt while he was on third base. Maitland, who was been hit by two more pitches than the entire Stephen F. Austin squad this season, provided another insurance in the seventh inning to cap the game’s scoring.

The Longhorns pitching staff was solid again Tuesday night as Peters began the contest with three innings of no-hit baseball, with a second-inning walk being the only base runner he allowed during his best outing of the year so far. Sophomore pitcher Nathan Thornhill retired the Lumberjacks in order in the fourth inning before freshman Ricky Jacquez held them scoreless in the fifth. Fellow freshman John Curtiss pitched the following three frames, allowing three hits, including a towering solo shot into the Stephen F. Austin bullpen in the seventh inning. Then, Hoby Milner — the fifth and final Longhorns pitcher of the evening — sat the Lumberjacks down in order in the ninth inning.

Published on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 as: Strong team effort continues winning streak

Sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss slides safely back into first base during TexasÂ’ 6-1 win over Texas State last Tuesday. Weiss, a .348 hitter last season, went 7-for-15 in last weekendÂ’s three-game sweep of the Sooners, raising his batting average this year from .259 to .304.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Head Coach Augie Garrido was unsure of whether his team could play well away from home, especially in a place like Norman, Okla., home of the Oklahoma Sooners, his Longhorns’ first Big 12 foe of the year.

“I think after tonight we can hope [that we’re ready],” Garrido said after a 6-1 win over No. 20 Texas State last Tuesday.

“Whether we’ll be able to go from the coziness of where we scrimmage and take it to a different environment remains to be seen.”

After Texas swept Oklahoma this past weekend and pounded out 45 hits in three games against the Sooners, Garrido should have his answer — a resounding “yes”.

The Longhorns struggled at the plate before last week, scoring only 30 runs in the 12 games before their victory over the Bobcats, who boasted the nation’s best ERA coming into their game against Texas. But thanks to an offensive explosion — scoring 23 runs and batting .360 as a team ­— the Longhorns (10-8, 3-0) were able to win their 14th straight series against the Sooners and sweep OU for the seventh time since that streak began. Now they set their sights on a home game against Stephen F. Austin (7-12, 2-4) Tuesday at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk as Texas attempts to extend its winning streak to six games.

There were several players that stood out last weekend, starting with senior shortstop Jordan Etier, who was suspended for the first four games of the season, missed Texas’ fifth game while suffering from food poisoning and getting only one hit in 16 at-bats over the next six. But Etier bounced back with a 2-for-4 showing in a win over Dallas Baptist, picking up base hits from each batter’s box. Then, the former Westlake High School standout went 5-for-8 with a triple in the first two games of the series against Oklahoma, raising his batting average from .154 to .265 in the process.

Sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss, the team’s leading batter last year when he hit .348 and drove in 28 runs, also struggled early on this season. Weiss went 5-for-28 (.179) in the Longhorns’ first eight games of the year, but has since raised his batting average above .300 and recorded a base hit in all but two of his last 10 games, turning in multi-hit performances in six of them. The Brenham product batted .467 against Oklahoma and had three of his seven hits go for extra bases, including his first home run of the year in the series opener.

“What can happen — and we don’t know whether it will or not — is that he can decide that he has to do too much,” said Garrido of Weiss before the season began. “If he does that, then he’ll have a down year. If he comes out and just keeps baseball simple and continues to have fun with it, which is kind of his personality, he’ll be fine.”

Unlike Etier and Weiss, sophomore right fielder Mark Payton was white-hot at the beginning of the season, getting base hits in seven of his first 13 at-bats before batting .191 in his next 11 contests. But Payton got back on track last weekend, picking up as many hits in three games against the Sooners as he did in his previous 47 at-bats (nine). At .329, Payton currently stands as the Longhorns’ leading hitter.

If Texas hits as well as it did against Oklahoma the rest of the season, the Longhorns — who seem far from the team that lost five consecutive contests — will be tough to beat.

Printed on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 as: Hot-hitting Horns look to continue win streak

AUSTIN, Texas — The memorials around the Texas Capitol grounds have long honored heroes and moments of Texas’ storied past, from the Alamo to the Confederacy to fallen soldiers in foreign wars.

Joining them this month is a tribute to Texas’ earliest pioneers, Tejano settlers who trail-blazed what would become the Lone Star State. On March 29, a massive granite and bronze memorial to those early Spanish and Mexican explorers, settlers and their descendants will be formally dedicated on the South lawn of the state Capitol, the culmination of a decade-long effort to honor their history.

“We’ve been here for 500 years. For 500 years, we’ve ignored that chapter of Texas history,” said Renato Ramirez, CEO of International Bank of Commerce in the border city of Zapata and one of the leaders of the nearly $2 million project. Ramirez’ family gave $125,000 to the effort.

The creation of the monument also coincides with the rising political importance of Tejanos, as whites drop below 50 percent of the Texas population and Hispanics now make up more than 50 percent of young people.

Tejano history dates to the 1500s, when Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda first mapped the Texas coastline. Spanish missions were established in the 1600s. A group of Tejano settlers led by Jose Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara declared the first Republic of Texas in 1813. The descendants of Spanish and Mexican settlers established a thriving cattle and agriculture industry, became the first cowboys and also fought at the Alamo.

But some historians say these contributions have been overlooked by a popular history that focuses on when whites started moving to Texas from the United States.

Andres Tijerina, an Austin Community College history professor and author of the book “Tejano Empire,” says the new monument enriches Texas history by recognizing the settlers who were in Texas before Lone Star State icons like Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston.

“It expands Texas history before 1821 which is what the public narrative has always used as the starting point for Texas history, when Stephen F. Austin arrived,” Tijerina said “Those families, who are such an important part of Texas, are still here.”

At 525 square feet, the monument will be among the largest on the Capitol grounds. Mounted on a 250-ton slab of pink granite, bronze statues depict a Spanish explorer, a vaquero (cowboy) on his mustang, a longhorn bull and cow and a family of settlers. A series of plaques will tell the story of Tejano history.

The slab was cut from the same quarry in Marble Falls that was used for the Capitol building. The sculpture was designed by Laredo artist Armando Hinojosa, a descendant of Don Tomas Sanchez, the founder of Laredo.

Project architect Jaime Beaman, whose family on his mother’s side lived along the Texas-Mexico border for generations, said the original design depicted a Roman-style monument with arches and columns and was quickly scrapped.

“We’re not Roman, we’re Tejano,” Beaman said. “This is art.”

The Tejano monument is not on the Great Walk, the 500-foot, tree-lined promenade that leads from Congress Avenue to the South steps of the Capitol, but occupies a prime piece of land just inside the southern gate, a popular entry point for tourists and Capitol visitors.

Getting it there required a change in state law. New monuments have been banned on the south lawn ever since the completion of a major restoration project in the early 1990s. The Tejano monument was destined for the less-visible north side of the Capitol until 2009 when the Legislature passed a special exception.

The monument sits about 50 paces east of a massive tribute to the Confederacy topped by a statute of Jefferson Davis. A monument to African-Americans is planned for the west side of the grounds, but that project is still in development.

Printed on Monday, March 19, 2012 as: Capitol honors Tejano history

Coming off of a very disappointing loss to Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday, the Longhorns came out motivated. Thanks to a one-hitter from freshman Rachel Fox and some stellar defensive plays, they were able to get rid of the bad taste quickly against North Texas.

Fox came out of the gate with her best stuff, keeping the hitters off balance all game. She allowed only one hard hit for the night, from the first batter of the game who hit a line drive into center that Brejae Washington was able to snag.

From that point on, Fox was excellent and had a perfect game bid going into the top of the fifth, when Courtney Bradshaw broke up the bid with a bloop single into left field.

“It sucks that she got a little blooper, but we got a ‘W’ and that’s all that really matters,” Fox said.

Part of what worked so well for Fox in the game was taking advantage of the North Texas hitter’s aggressiveness at the plate, throwing her off-speed pitches well and keeping the hitters out in front.

“We were getting ahead and working the pitches well, we kept them off-balance and it was just a great performance from [Amy] Hooks calling pitches behind the plate,” Fox said.

The perfect game that was so close for Fox would not have been possible without some spectacular plays from the defense behind her.

The best of these plays came in the fourth inning when junior Courtney Craig made a great diving grab down the left field line to keep the perfect game bid alive.

“I couldn’t breathe, I landed straight on my glove, it knocked the wind out of me,” Craig said. “But I was just going out there hard, being aggressive and doing what I can.”

Craig making the play says a lot about the team’s depth, as she wasn’t even starting in right field for the night, coming into the game for Tori Schmidt in the second inning.

“Tori Schmidt was feeling a bit under the weather tonight, so when we got the opportunity to make a change with Courtney Craig we didn’t miss a beat,” said Texas head coach Connie Clark. “To see depth like that is exciting for us as coaches.”

The Longhorns boast a defense ranked first in the country with a .984 fielding percentage. The defense was great again tonight allowing Fox to pitch free, because she knew if there was a sharp grounder in the hole, or a laser to the outfield, someone would be there to snag it.

“It’s so good to know that your defense is behind you, and we’re probably the best in the country statistically,” Fox said. “It’s just so relaxing as a pitcher to pitch and know you have defense behind you.”