Thursday’s season opener was tight through the first two inning, with no runs scores and pitchers largely dominating the game — the two sides combined for six strikeouts in that period.
The key inning of the game for Texas came in the third, as the Cardinals failed to capitalize on a scoring chance. The Longhorns took advantage of the lapse, jumped out to an early lead and kept it for the rest of the game.
Louisville was batting in the second with two outs and runners on second and third. A hit by the Cardinals appeared headed for the second-base gap when freshman shortstop Taylor Thom made a diving play followed by a strong throw to just nab the runner at first, saving two runs.
“I think the play definitely got everyone pumped up and more excited,” Thom said.
The play that Thom made in the gap had an immediate impact to the feel of the game it was the first time that the fans really got on their feet on a cold February night, and really seemed to energize the team.
“Anytime you get an aggressive defensive play like that it helps energize the team,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said.
The Longhorns’ continued the rally in the bottom half of the inning. Sophomore right fielder Taylor Hoagland hit a no-doubt-about-it home run to left-center field to put Texas ahead. Lexy Bennett, the very next batter, followed with a homer of her own to left field, putting Texas ahead 2-0, and firmly in control of the game’s momentum.
“I think going out there after Taylor’s play my mentality changed, and hitting that homer changed the pace of the game,” Hoagland said.
The team continued to hit well in the inning — after the two home runs the Longhorns notched two more hits from junior Nadia Taylor and senior Amy Hooks, who both reached base on singles. While neither scored, it proved to be a long inning for Louisville, which looked exhausted afterwards.
The Cardinals to pull starting pitcher Tori Collins and the defense had to stay out on the field for upwards of twenty minutes in the 32-degree weather, a tall order for any team.
Texas used the momentum that it gained in the inning to go on to win convincingly, and when the Longhorns look back on the year they will look at the third inning as the one that really started to get things going in 2011.