Two steps forward, one step back.
That’s been the mantra for the Texas softball team so far in 2018.
On a Friday where the Longhorns showed promise in a 3-0 victory against No. 20 Michigan, they followed it up with an even more disappointing 7-5 loss to Wichita State.
“It’s such a game of momentum, and I felt we gave them a little bit of momentum tonight,” Texas head coach Connie Clark said. “We had the opportunity to put our ace in the game, and we have the firepower to put more runs up, but we just didn’t get that done.”
All started well for the Longhorns (5–6) at the beginning of the nightcap against the Shockers, as the Texas lineup saw a quick revival of life against Wichita State.
An offensive onslaught began in the second inning when sophomore shortstop Kaitlyn Slack and freshman third baseman MK Tedder combined for back-to-back singles. On the next at-bat, Wichita State’s Bailey Lange fired a wild pitch, scoring Tedder from third and giving the Longhorns a 1-0 lead.
After junior catcher Randel Leahy was hit by a pitch, sophomore outfielder Tuesday DerMargosian looped a single to left field, preparing a bases-loaded situation for a pinch-hitting Ciera Schick.
On the first pitch she saw, the junior infielder lined a ball to right field to score two more Texas runners, improving the Longhorns’ lead to 3-0. Texas added one more run shortly after thanks to another Shockers wild pitch.
But Wichita State didn’t go away quietly.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the third, the Shockers’ Laurie Derrico slapped a line drive off the centerfield wall in order to cut the Longhorns’ lead in half.
Texas responded with another run of their own in the bottom of the third. With a runner on third, Tedder roped a RBI double down the left-field line for her second hit of the night, putting Texas up 5-2.
But Wichita State erased the Longhorns’ lead in the blink of an eye in the following frame. With the bases loaded again, sophomore first baseman Ryleigh Buck doubled to left-center field, clearing the bases and tying the game at five a piece.
Unable to respond in the bottom half of the inning, Texas opened the door for Wichita State to seize control of the game in the top of the fifth.
After opening with a lead-off triple, junior catcher Madison Perrigan scored on a RBI single from junior right fielder Asea Webber to make the score 6-5. Senior left fielder Morgan Palmer added another run to Wichita State’s lead with a RBI single of her own, driving Weber in with a looping single just over second base.
The Longhorns were unable to respond from there, leaving runners on base in the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings, losing 7-5.
“I thought we had a little bit of lull (in terms of playing with energy),” Clark said. “I know it’s late, but we have to keep the energy going and keep the pedal down.”
The problems that plagued the Longhorns against Wichita State were mostly absent in their earlier game against Michigan.
Junior starting pitcher Brooke Bolinger was sensational in working around Michigan hitters, accounting for a complete-game shutout, seven strikeouts and only five hits.
The Texas bats finally came to life in the bottom of the third.
Following singles by sophomore first baseman Malory Schattle and freshman second baseman Janae Jefferson that gave Texas its first two hits of the game, sophomore catcher Taylor Ellsworth uncorked a hanging pitch for a three-run homer over the left-field wall to put Texas up 3-0.
“I knew my team was down and we needed something to get going,” Ellsworth said. “I was just looking for a hard hit, and my hard hit ended up going over.”
The Wolverines loaded the bases in the top of the fifth — their second time on the night. But Bolinger was able to work out of the frame without any damage, and Texas cruised the rest of the way to the shutout win.
Texas returns to action on Saturday for another doubleheader in the Texas Invitational, with games against Virginia Tech and No. 21 Ohio State.
“Our energy can’t get down,” Ellsworth said. “We have to continue to work hard and take stuff from each game and just build on top of it.”