Softball's period of adjustment continues
Connie Clark, the only coach Texas Softball ever has known since the first year of varsity play in 1997, understood that 2007 would represent a transition for her team.
Year 1 A.C.O. -- After Cat Osterman, the best women's collegiate softball player on the planet for the last four years -- would present a challenge.
To that end, Clark and her staff addressed that with the team in the first meeting last fall.
However, it was even more than losing Osterman. It was working with a team that featured only two seniors on the roster in 2007.
Still, the Longhorns' 1-0 victory to open the season against No. 3 UCLA in the beginning of February gave Clark and staff confidence.
It also began a roller coaster ride that has been cause for pause for all as the team winds up the Big 12 Conference regular season and points to the Big 12 Championships in Oklahoma City.
"We've gotten a few things accomplished and we've learned to adjust and compensate," Clark said. "But there is no doubt that we hit some bumps in the road."
And the bumps have come on the road, as the Horns lost nine of their first 13 games away from McCombs Field this year.
"We wanted to get our point across with regard to focus," said Clark, whose roster of 16 contains 11 freshmen and sophomores. "We preached working to get better each day and not to worry about what we can't control.
"We wanted to build to where we are peaking at the right time, peaking when we get ready for the Big 12 Conference tournament. We had a 'Come to Jesus' meeting to make certain everyone was on the same page."
A doubleheader sweep of Texas Tech the last week of April heartened Clark.
"We looked confident and had our swagger back," the head coach said of the two triumphs that came on the heels of a shutout at the hands of Texas A&M.
"We had been working on building confidence," Clark continued. "Timely hitting, good pitching and solid defense produced the results we got against Tech. I also was proud of the effort."
Injuries, likewise, have played a part in the up-and-down season, as Clark found herself without junior Desiree Williams and freshman Brittany Chalk for much of the regular season. Sophomore Kelly Melone has just recently been cleared to return.
Yet with the Big 12 tourney on the horizon, Clark feels good about pitchers Meagan Denny and Erin Tresselt, as well as sophomore Shannon Thomas, who has paced the Longhorns in hitting this season.
"Meagan is right on stride," said Clark of the person most impacted by the departure of Osterman.
"Meagan had a great deal of early-season success," the coach continued, "and she was doing a lot of good things. Then, we needed to reset and we had a conversation about that the other day. She has such a great attitude and is such an unselfish player.
"When we were talking, Meagan asked, 'What can I do to help the team? I want to help the team more. I want to do better.' I just love that about Meagan. I love that she is about the team."
Tresselt, a freshman from Elkins High School in Missouri City, captured eight of her first nine decisions, along with three saves.
"Erin never tries to do too much," Clark said. "She is so deceptive when she pitches. She goes out and hits her spots. She really is a veteran at this time and I am confident in her. She and Meagan are a perfect complement to each other, as Erin offsets the power of Meagan."
Thomas has been a consistent contributor for Clark, who praised the Antioch, Calif., resident for controlling her strikeouts.
"I have been sorry because as hard as the girls have worked, we have not had better results during the regular season," Clark said. "But, they have stuck with our program and the good results for the hard work may be coming in the postseason."