Oklahoma State 2, Texas 0: Longhorns see shot at a WCWS berth slip away in fifth inning
Texas was unable to book a season-ending trip to Oklahoma City this weekend.
A fifth-inning swoon cost the Longhorns dearly on Sunday afternoon in a 2-0 loss at Oklahoma State. Texas was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after dropping the decisive contest in its best-of-three super regional series.
The loss prevented Texas (43-14) from reaching its first Women's College World Series since 2013. Oklahoma State (47-10) will head to the Oklahoma City showcase for the second time in a three-year span.
"I think we brought a lot of energy into today and you know we gave it our all," Texas pitcher Shea O'Leary said. "Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong side, but I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of what we've accomplished this year."
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For much of Sunday, it appeared that the announced crowd of 694 at Cowgirl Stadium had purchased tickets for a pitcher's duel. O'Leary faced only 13 batters over the first four innings. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State ace Carrie Eberle kept Texas — which boasted one of the nation's top offenses at 6.5 runs per game — from scoring.
In the fifth frame, O'Leary stumbled. She one-hopped her third pitch of the inning into the knee of Oklahoma State's Sydney Pennington. She then plunked Karli Petty in the helmet with another pitch.
Those errant pitches put two Cowgirls aboard with no outs, and Oklahoma State quickly bunted both runners into scoring position. Avery Hobson then chopped a single up the middle to plate the day's first run. Oklahoma State later brought Petty home when Chelsea Alexander beat O'Leary's throw to first base on a two-out, two-strike bunt.
"I think I was just trying too hard or having self-doubt," O'Leary said. "I just didn't go out there the same. I don't know why, but it just happened unfortunately."
Hobson and Alexander were the eighth and ninth batters in the Oklahoma State batting order. Of Oklahoma State's 10 RBIs against Texas in the super regionals, those were the only two that weren't attached to a home run.
"That was just huge for the bottom of our lineup to be able to turn it over to the top," said Kiley Naomi, the Cowgirls' shortstop and leadoff hitter. "I'm just really proud of them."
After falling behind, Texas could not get a response from its offense. Of the seven batters that faced Eberle in the sixth and seventh innings, only Mary Iakopo got a hit.
Iakopo was on third base when Colleen Sullivan flew out to left field for the final out of UT's season. Texas stranded three runners in scoring position on Sunday.
Two of Eberle's three strikeouts were recorded in the first inning. Texas recorded groundouts for 12 of its 21 outs.
"Unfortunately, we missed the mistakes she made," Texas coach Mike White said. "Other than that, she kicked the ball right at the bottom of the strike zone and that was it. We were unable to get the ball in the air or hit it hard enough through the infield."
Sunday's loss closes the book on a wild year for the Longhorns. Back in January, All-America pitcher Miranda Elish opted out of the season before it even began. Like all teams across the country, Texas had to deal with restrictions tied to the coronavirus pandemic this spring. Texas also lost the first nine games on its schedule — including marquee home matches against eventual Women's College World Series qualifiers Arizona and Alabama — to winter weather.
"It's been a hell of a year, honestly," O'Leary said. "I think for us to make it this far has just been tremendous."
Texas finished with its second-most wins since the 2013 season. The Longhorns went just 2-11 against teams that played in super regionals this season, so White noted that "you can't just fluff yourself and pat yourself on the back."
Key contributors like Taylor Ellsworth, Kaitlyn Washington, Shannon Rhodes, MK Tedder and Molly Jacobsen won't be back at Texas next year. Only Ellsworth and Rhodes started on Sunday, though. (Tedder was used as a pinch-running and defensive substitution).
Texas has signed a top-10 class for the 2021 recruiting cycle. Barbers Hill pitcher Sophia Simpson, who will appear at McCombs Field during the upcoming state tournament, was one of UT's six signees this past fall.
"We've got a lot of work to do, we know that," White said. "We're going to work harder in the offseason, and this team will be ready to go next year."
Around the bases: Texas went 1-6 against Oklahoma State in 2021. ... Both teams were limited to four hits on Sunday. No player recorded a two-hit game. ... The only walk issued by Eberle was drawn by Janae Jefferson. ... White has led Texas to a super regional in two of his three seasons with the Longhorns. After the 2020 season was canceled, UT was ranked third in the NFCA's final poll.