Softball producing big numbers at the plate
Feb. 18, 2013
Alex Hubbard, Texas Media Relations
AUSTIN, Texas - When the Texas Softball team is working in the player development facility at Red & Charline McCombs Field, the Longhorns are working on more than just bat meeting ball.
There are hitting stations, sure, but the Longhorns also have vision training stations.
"I love to think that they are training the muscles in their eyes," head coach Connie Clark says, "and that helps with the extra confidence of seeing the ball."
Eleven games into the season, the Longhorns are hitting .350 as a team with 90 runs scored (8.2 per game), 13 home runs, 34 stolen bases and have a .457 on-base percentage as a team. At this pace, the Texas offense would surpass last season's record-setting unit statistically.
In 2012, Texas led the Big 12 in batting average (.330), on-base percentage (.411), doubles (85) and triples (13). Compared to this season's fast start, the 2012 team averaged "only" 6.2 runs per game.
Corrie Hill is in her eight season as an assistant coach at Texas. She oversees and directs the Longhorns' offense. Under her guidance, Texas has scored more than 300 runs in three consecutive seasons. From 2010-2012, Texas averaged 5.9 runs per game.
Hill believes hitting is all about the players' approach at the plate.
"We don't want to hope for a certain pitch. We say that hoping is not a plan," Hill said. "We go in with a game plan to look for a certain pitch. Right now, they are doing a good job of waiting until they get that pitch.
"When they get that pitch, they explode."
In the Hilton Houston Plaza Invitational this past weekend, that confidence grew as Texas went 5-0. The team hit .357, smashed eight home runs and scored 52 runs. Junior shortstop Taylor Thom recorded four home runs, including two grand slams in Saturday's win against Houston, and had 13 RBI. Thom became just the fourth player in NCAA history to hit two grand slams in a game, and set a Texas record with eight RBI during the contest.
What is perhaps the most impressive thing about this team is that the players and coaches are always focused on finding ways to improve. This weekend, Clark and Hill saw the adjustments being made by some of the team's "slap" hitters, including outfielders Brejae Washington and Torie Schmidt.
"The biggest key for us this weekend was having our slappers be able to stand in and hit. If the pitchers keep coming inside we can change our game plan," Hill said. "It gives us another wrinkle."
In Friday's 3-0 victory over Illinois, Schmidt hit a crucial double in the fourth inning and scored the game-winning run. In that same contest, Washington hit a two-run double in the sixth inning, and collected all three of Texas' runs batted in.
The hope is that the momentum the Longhorns have built at the plate will stick with the team for the 2013 season.
"Hitting is contagious because of the confidence level involved with it. When the whole team starts feeling it, it is a contagious thing," Hill said. "I don't know if it's a real thing, but it is definitely something you feel in the dugout."
After their 11-0 start, Texas softball hosts the Texas Invitational, presented by Time Warner Cable this weekend at Red & Charline McCombs Field. The Longhorns welcome Tulsa, Lamar, and Utah State for the three-day tournament. Tickets are available online at TexasSports.com or by calling 512-471-3333.