Softball proves mettle in 'gut check' game
April 14, 2011
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- Think of it as perfect timing. A night after suffering their fourth one-run loss of the season, the third-ranked Texas Longhorns bounced back with their 12th run-rule victory of the year.
Behind a dominant effort by freshman hurler Rachel Fox, who carried a no-hitter into the fifth and final inning, the Longhorns brushed past North Texas with an 8-0 victory on Thursday night at Red & Charline McCombs Field.
“Tonight was about absorbing the blow and coming out and playing Texas Softball,” head coach Connie Clark said. “I thought we did that immediately in the first inning.”
Brejae Washington was key in that effort, slapping a double in the first inning to bring around leadoff hitter Taylor Hoagland, and Washington also came around to score in the frame. Washington again produced an RBI double in the second, and the Longhorns led 6-0 after two innings.
Washington was 3-for-3 on the night, with two RBI and three runs scored.
Following Wednesday night’s loss to Stephen F. Austin, first baseman Lexy Bennett said the team strives to make at least one improvement in every game.
“And (the loss) is disappointing because I don’t think we did that tonight,” said Bennett, who contributed two RBI against North Texas.
But the match-up with North Texas gave the Longhorns an immediate chance to improve.
“This was a complete turnaround,” Courtney Craig said. “We got our minds right and stayed strong. We needed to prove to ourselves that we could bounce back. Coach challenged us to show that we still had that grit.”
Fox set the tone and tossed a perfect game until Courtney Bradshaw’s pinch-hit blooper fell into the gap just beyond third base. Fox struck out six, and 43 of her 60 pitches were strikes.
North Texas is a free-swinging team, but Fox and catcher Amy Hooks executed a plan to get ahead in the count and set batters up for Fox’s new change-up offering.
“I wanted to go right at the batters and get ahead,” said Fox, who now sports a 1.09 ERA. “The focus was on staying ahead, getting outs and getting the team back in the dugout so we can score.”
Craig finished 2-for-2 with a pair of runs scored, and also saw her first substantial playing time in left field since injuring her wrist in preseason practices. Craig looked like her normal self, gliding toward fly balls and wowing the crowds with diving catches. In the top of the fourth inning, Craig sprinted to a pop fly just a few yards onto the outfield grass, and she snagged it just before it touched the ground to earn the inning’s second out and preserve Fox’s perfect game bid.
“This was a gut check,” Washington said. “Our mindset was totally different, and we wanted to show we could bounce back.”