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Softball Update: Texas is Very Good

After sweeping Iowa State, the Longhorns sit at No. 6 in the RPI and are a consensus top ten squad among voters. It’s safe to say the new coach is working out.

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros
The dearth of college softball photos available to us is a shame, so here is all-time great Cat Osterman.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Now would be an excellent time to start paying some attention to the Longhorns’ softball team in coach Mike White’s first year in Austin. Texas is currently ranked No. 6 in the RPI, No. 8 in the Softball America poll, No. 9 in the poll, and No. 10 in the Coaches’ poll, and with a 29-6 record they look like a real threat to make a Women’s College World Series run.

Oklahoma remains the class of the Big 12, but Texas has its strongest squad in years and looks poised to finally challenge the Sooners for conference supremacy. Both opened the conference season with sweeps this past weekend, with Texas taking down Iowa State at home and OU dominating #14 Tech in Lubbock. Obviously it’s early, but the teams’ April 18-20 series in Austin could be huge in determining the conference champion.

Either way, both teams are on a path to a top-8 national seed and regional-host status if things keep going as they are. The Big 12 is strong, with 4 out of 7 teams ranked in the top 16 (West Virginia, K-State, and TCU don’t field softball teams), so having 2 teams earn top-8 seeds isn’t out of the question.

How is Texas doing it? By just dominating people both in the circle and at the plate, with incredible depth at both. First, the pitching: Oregon transfer Miranda Elish followed White down from Eugene and is this week’s NFCA National Pitcher of the Week after tossing a one-hitter at Lipscomb and a no-hitter in the first game of the Iowa State series. Oh, and she also hit a “walk off” grand slam to run-rule the cyclones 11-0 in the same game. One great way to ensure success as a coach at a new school is to bring Miranda Elish with you.

Elish sports a 1.72 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP, which is almost as incredible as freshman Shealyn O’Leary’s 0.45 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. Third starter Brooke Bolinger would be the ace on a lot of rosters (2.03/1.09) and sophomore Ariana Adams (1.79/1.14) rounds out a pitching staff that can keep just about any opponent within striking distance for Texas’ hitters. Opponents have scored more than 5 runs against Texas only 3 times all season: top-six teams LSU and Tennessee, and top-15 team Arizona State.

On the subject of Texas’ hitters, they’re good. No starter is hitting under .300 and the team sports an overall .337 average. Elish again bears mentioning, as when she’s not pitching she is often slotted in as the “Designated Player” (essentially a DH but can sub in and out of the game on defense for any other player for whom she is not batting at any time, without either player being considered to have left the game). The former Duck has an OPS of 1.058 (.615 SLG, .443 OBP) with four dingers and seven doubles in 78 at-bats.

Sophomore second baseman Janae Jefferson is the offense’s sparkplug, leading the team in OBP at .477 — while hitting .457. Of her 48 hits in 105 at-bats (!), 45 are singles. Swinging from the left side of the plate, Jefferson is quick down the line and a ball in play is likely to be a base hit. Junior Reagan Hathaway, sophomore Oregon transfer Mary Iakopo, and senior Bekah Alcozer all join Elish as starters boasting OPS’ above 1.000.

The Longhorns take on Baylor tonight at 6:30 in a midweek conference game in Waco (Baylor comes to Austin for the other two later in the season) on Fox Sports Southwest+. They’re at Oklahoma State this weekend, and Saturday’s game will air on ESPN2 at 7:30.

Now you know some names, you know the team is killing it, and you know when their next four games are. They’re fun to watch and I recommend having seen them play before frantically trying to learn all this in time for the postseason. So tune in, and hook ‘em.