Newcomers already major contributors for No. 6/6 Softball
Feb. 14, 2013
Alex Hubbard, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas – Either the butterflies are gone, or the six newcomers to the No. 6/6 Texas Softball team have learned how to hide their nerves.
Through the early part of this 2013 season, the rookies have fit right in and helped the Longhorns to a 6-0 start. The February nonconference schedule allows the Texas coaches to tinker with lineups and field the team that puts UT in the best position to win. The shifting lineups mean opportunities for all six players, and they have answered the bell when called upon.
On Wednesday night it was freshman Holly Kern tossing a complete game as the Longhorns topped Stephen F. Austin, 6-0, at Red & Charline McCombs Field.
In two starts in the circle, Kern is 2-0 with two complete games and a 0.54 ERA. On Feb. 8 against North Texas, Kern pitched all six innings and gave up one run while striking out six in a 9-1 victory.
“I have a good defense behind me. So that’s more comforting, knowing that even if I make a mistake, someone behind me is going to make a play,” Kern said.
Stephanie Ceo, a freshman infielder and utility player, has been a sparkplug for the Texas offense. In six games, Ceo leads the team with a .667 batting average (8-of-12) and is third on the team with three stolen bases. She is only the third Texas freshman to have a hitting streak of five games or more to start her Longhorn career.
Ceo credits her hot start to a reliance on the basics.
“I just have to remind myself that I’m here for a reason and focus on the fundamentals,” Ceo said. “See the ball into your glove. See the ball hit your bat. You can do a lot with those two things.”
The Longhorns’ six freshmen are extremely versatile, as all six can play multiple positions. Ceo has played middle infield and outfield, and Kern has pitched and played first base. Like Ceo, Rachel Scott and Lindsey Stephens have played middle infield and could see some time in the outfield. Erin Shireman will back up Mandy Ogle at catcher and see time at third base, and Taylor King has served as a pinch runner and could also catch.
In any discussion with the Texas rookies, they are quick to credit the veteran players for helping them adjust to college softball.
“They have a lot of positive energy for the whole team and for us freshman,” Ceo said. “There’s six of us, so it’s nice to have such accepting upperclassmen. They accepted us as soon as we got here.”
Perhaps the most exciting thing about this year’s UT squad is that every player has a desire to help the team.
“You want to be the person in position to help your team and do what your team needs. We are all looking forward to that moment where we can help,” Ceo said.
Kern says the 6-0 start means nothing unless the team stays focused.
“We can’t get caught up in the numbers. We have to keep doing what we are doing,” Kern said.
Head coach Connie Clark has reason to believe the freshmen can help keep this team focused.
“The freshmen are an amazing class mentally,” Clark said during the preseason. “They are mature enough and talented enough that they are pushing everybody.”