Cockrell remembers start of Texas Softball
Feb. 21, 2013
Lauren Giudice, Texas Media Relations
When Nikki Cockrell looks around Red & Charline McCombs Field, she can’t help but be proud of the Texas Softball program’s progress.
On the fence, now, she sees the years the team went to the NCAA Women’s College World Series and won Big 12 championships. But Cockrell still remembers when the stadium was being built and even has pictures of the first softball game ever played at UT.
She and her teammates set the foundation for this program and its future successes. Cockrell was a member of the UT softball team in 1996 -- the program’s first year of existence as a campus club team.
Cockrell’s All-American junior year aided Texas in its first trip to the Women’s College World Series in 1998.
“That’s something that we’re all very proud of, those of us that played back then,” Cockrell said. “We go back to the field and see some of the changes. I have a lot pride when I look at it, comparing where we were to where we are now.”
UT’s first season in the NCAA was a trying transition, and the Longhorns won little more than 50 percent of their games. But the addition of U.S. Olympic pitcher Christa Williams gave the team the push it needed for the following season.
The reaction the Longhorns received from the UT community when they made it to the World Series shocked Cockrell. Texas fans clad in burnt orange, administration and students came and saw them off as they got on the bus for Oklahoma City.
“While we were there in Oklahoma City it was such a big deal because we were such a new program and no one really expected us to be there,” Cockrell said. “Nobody really knew how to play us. We felt like that would be a little bit of an advantage when we got there. We were soaking up everything and enjoying the process.”
The World Series trip ended early as UT lost two games in a row and was eliminated. But the Texas softball team became a force in just its second season in the NCAA. Cockrell believes that season set the tone for the program, which has won four regular season and four tournament conference championships since then.
Cockrell received offers to play professionally after college. But decided to focus on her career. Though she had a successful career in parks and recreation, she is in the midst a new journey: raising her two-year-old daughter, Blakely.
As a stay-at-home mom, Cockrell loves seeing her daughter grow and notices a lot of similarities between them. But she isn’t sure whether Blakely will follow her genes to the softball field.
“I don’t know if I will encourage her to play softball. But do we have a ball and a bat in the back yard? Yes,” Cockrell said. “But right now she’s 2, and she’s not really interested in anything in particular. She’ll hit the ball off the tee, and she’ll play with the ball and she’ll shoot her basketball ball and she has a soccer ball. I’m sure that in time I’ll put her in sports.”
Cockrell still lives in Austin, and although having a child limits her from attending a significant number of games, she still heads down to Red & Charline McCombs Field to watch the current Longhorns play.
“There’s a sense of pride to look at the softball team now and to look at all UT sports,” Cockrell said. “I watched the volleyball national championship game this year on ESPN. There’s so much pride that I have when I watch the games now. I just bleed orange. I love it. I love everything about the campus, I love everything about the school and I still support the softball program as much as I can.”