Softball enters NCAA play with momentum
May 14, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas - As Texas Softball closed out its regular season against Baylor, there was a singular focus, and it was written on the board inside the Longhorns' locker room.
"FINISH," the message read.
And the Longhorns did, carrying momentum into NCAA postseason play with a 3-1 victory against the Lady Bears on Sunday's senior day at Red & Charline McCombs Field.
Lexy Bennett's 4-6-3 double play to end the top of the sixth inning stands as the supreme highlight of a game defined by them. Bennett was moving to her right, into the center field grass, as she used a backhand stop to field a sharp ground ball, then flipped to Taylor Thom, who tightly turned the throw to first for the second out.
It marked the Longhorns' first double play of the season.
"You would have thought we won the World Series with that play since the whole staff was jumping up and down," head coach Connie Clark said.
The Longhorns had a week of practice between their tilt with Baylor and last Sunday's win at Oklahoma, which claimed the Big 12 regular season crown. Fundamental drills and long workouts typified UT's schedule, and as it happened, double play work was part of the grind.
Bennett's Sunday gem was rewarding because it was the fruition of hard work and diligence. And the Longhorns carved the win against Baylor in a similar style. Blaire Luna struck out 10 in a complete game victory, and that was Luna's eighth game this season with double-digit strikeouts and second in her past three starts.
Clark described UT's start the season like a "ball out of a cannon." The Longhorns opened Big 12 play in late March with just two losses - both to top-five opponents California and Florida.
But league play brought hurdles. The Longhorns dropped a pair to the league champion Sooners and also lost twice to Missouri, which eventually finished second in the Big 12.
Still, UT's overall body of work gives justification to the Longhorns' ethos of daily improvement leading to bigger results. UT won five of its seven three-game Big 12 series, and the Longhorns were a perfect 10-0 in Sunday games.
UT now heads into NCAA tournament play as the No. 6 national seed and will host a regional championship for the second straight season.
"There is going to be ups and downs throughout a season. It's a long season," Clark said. "We were just continuing to rebound, rebound, rebound. I lover where we are at right now, and am looking forward to continuing that momentum onto regionals."