Of the three Big 12 teams in the bracket, Texas certainly has the hardest road to navigate to make it the Championship Series of the Women’s College World Series.
Texas has been the most resilient team in softball this postseason, making its way out of the Seattle Regional and Fayetteville Super Regional with 2-1 series wins over No. 13 Washington and No. 4 Arkansas, however, the pressure gets turned up a notch in Oklahoma City.
Who Stands in Texas’ Way?
The Longhorns’ first opponent on Saturday is UCLA, who comes into the WCWS with a 48-8 record and a pitching staff that ranks second in the country in team ERA (1.40), led by senior Holly Azevedo (1.19 ERA).
Win or lose, Texas will have another steep test in the second round as they will face either No. 1 Oklahoma or No. 9 Northwestern. The Longhorns are familiar with what the Sooners are capable of, but Northwestern would be a bit of a mystery for UT. Here’s all you need to know about the Wildcats: They have recorded wins over five host teams this season: UCLA, Clemson, Washington, Missouri, and Arizona State.
Let’s say that Texas gets through Game 1, but loses Game 2. This result would have them flip brackets and play the loser of Game 6, which could be any one of the following: No. 14 Florida, No. 7 Oklahoma State, Oregon State, or Arizona. I like the Longhorns’ chances against any of those teams with how they’re playing right now, perhaps outside of Oklahoma State who is 4-0 against Texas this season.
What Texas Needs to Make it All the Way
The simple fact of the matter is that Texas will likely have to go through either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State to get to the Championship series, so what will UT need to do to get past their Big 12 foes?
Well, the answer is really more simple than you would think. The sudden surge that Texas has had recently has been thanks to playing clean, error-free softball. The Longhorns led the Big 12 in errors this season with 71, leading to a fielding percentage that ranked 167th in the country. Over the past two weekends, they’ve committed just three errors in six games. As it would turn out, the Longhorns are one of the best teams in softball when they don’t get in their own way, just like I said at the beginning of the season.
Another reason why the Longhorns have played their best softball of the season over the last two weeks is because of Janae Jefferson and Hailey Dolcini, and an extremely impressive showing from Sophia Simpson in the circle to down the Razorbacks in Game 3 of the Fayetteville Super Regional. The leaders on this Texas team have stepped up in a huge way, and have breathed new life into a team that everyone wrote off as soon as they landed in Fayetteville. Now, if Mike White’s squad can lean on those players, and get a ball or two to bounce their way, it will land them in the Finals next week.