There was an aura of excitement emanating from Red and Charline McCombs Field on Wednesday.
No, there weren’t any fans packing the stands, and the only team that took the field donned the burnt orange and white.
But as the Texas softball team finished up one of its final practices before beginning the season, the buzz in the atmosphere made it clear this team is more than enthusiastic for the new beginnings it is about to undergo as it begins the season Friday in the Texas Classic.
“We’re really excited to start another year,” catcher Taylor Ellsworth said. “We’ve put in so much hard work already, taking it from the fall to the spring, we’re just ready to go.”
It was an offseason of transformation for a squad that finished 33–26 a year ago, fourth in the Big 12, in the final year of head coach Connie Clark’s 22-year career in Austin. New head coach Mike White took over after leaving Oregon, bringing four of his top players with him.
“There’s an air of confidence right now,” White said of the new team. “(We have) a deeper pitching staff, some stronger hitting. (I’m) just looking forward to it.”
This new group of players ranked No. 9 in the country in the Softball America preseason poll, as a big jump is expected from the Longhorns. But the first on-field test will start Friday at McCombs Field, where the Longhorns will take on Northwestern State, Boston College and Boise State in a series of games spanning through Sunday.
White has tinkered with the lineup plenty this offseason, moving several players to new positions to bolster the offensive firepower.
“What I’m trying to do is put our best offensive lineup out there,” White said. “Sometimes that means playing some people in unfamiliar positions just to try and get some depth there.”
What White wants to see from the team, full of several unfamiliar faces and positions, during this first weekend of play is playing as a unit.
“We’ve got to really see how we gel,” White said. “I’m more concerned about playing (like) ourselves and playing the game as opposed to (who our opponents are). We’ve got to start doing things the right way.”
As one of the final preseason intrasquad scrimmages wrapped up Wednesday, the same sentiment echoed again and again: Texas is ready for the fun to begin.
“We’re excited, we’re super ready to get going,” infielder Kaitlyn Washington said. “We’re kind of getting tired of playing ourselves, and we’re ready to play someone else. It’s going to be a good start for us.”