The Texas Longhorns are coming off of a so-so season by Texas standards. They finished the year at 33-26 going 7-10 in their conference (Big 12) and made it into the playoffs. Their season ended though with a loss to regional host team Texas A&M.
Texas did lose several players from last years team including, Devon Tunning, Kelli Hanzel, Celina Felix, Stephanie Wong, and Tiarra Davis. Of those players the biggest losses will be the hitting of Tunning along with the team leadership provided by Wong and Davis.
The team does have a core of returning players though including, Taylor Ellsworth (.394 avg., 3 HR’s, 24RBIs) and senior catcher Randel Leahy (.281 avg., 24 RBIs) to share team catcher duties, outfielder’s Reagan Hathaway (.253 avg. 18 RBIs), Kaitlyn Washington (.253 avg.,16 RBIs), Tuesday DerMargosian (.301 avg., 7RBIs),and Bekah Alcozer (.253 avg., team leading 6 HR’s, 24 RBIs).
With another year under hitting coach Tripp MacKay the team should feel more comfortable with his system and be able to put runs on the board.
Even with the loss of starter Tiarra Davis Texas still has a stacked pitching staff with veterans like, Erica Wright (8-7 record, 1.63 ERA, seven complete games, 102 strikeouts, 116 innings pitched) who should be even better this year, Paige von Sprecken (7-6 record, 2.19 ERA, 62 strikeouts, 76.2 innings pitched) and Brooke Bolinger (7-2 record, 2.50 ERA, 34 strikeouts, 61.2 innings pitched).
Plus the team has added several new promising freshman and transfers to this years team including, Ariana Adams (RHP/Magnolia, Texas/Magnolia West/Scrap Yard Dawgs), Janae Jefferson (OF/Humble, Texas/Nimitz Senior/Texas Aces Express Gold), Chloe Romero (RHP/Helendale, Calif./Academy of Careers & Exploration/California Cruisers), Mary Katherine (MK) Tedder (IF/Hoover, Ala./Spain Park/Birmingham Thunderbolts), junior transfer’s Ki’Audra (Kay Kay) Hayter (IF-OF/Nacogdoches, Texas/Garrison/Butler Community College) and Ciera Schick (IF/Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Los Osos/Arizona State-2016).
Texas will get a chance early to see where they stand with a trip to play in the 2018 Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.
It will be the first time that the Longhorns have played a softball game outside of the U.S. with the trip on Feb. 15-18, 2018 at Nancy Almaraz Stadium in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The tournament, hosted by Triple Crown Sports, will feature a 10-team field split into two five-team sessions between Feb. 8-10 (Session One) and Feb. 15-18 (Session Two).
Session One will include Georgia, James Madison, Long Beach State, Louisiana Tech and Nevada, while the Longhorns will participate in Session Two alongside Ole Miss, Oregon, Rutgers and Houston.
I think head coach Connie Clark has a good group of players to build upon this year with the mix of veterans and promising fresh faces. Texas should have a good season that will have them in the playoffs again this year and being very competitive in the tough Big 12 that Oklahoma has ruled for the last several years.