I was suprised as anyone when I saw that softball season was underway. I could've sworn I saw something that said with Cat Osterman graduating that they were going to disband the softball program all together.
But head coach Linda Clark is a visionary, and low and behold her gamble has paid off. Texas is back among the nation's elite just a season after losing all-everything pitcher Cat Osterman, and 4 other starters from last year's national finalist team. A month into the season and the team is continuing the winning tradition, off to a 17-3 mark, ranked 8th in the country.
This year's team is a youth movement, as much of the team is made up of freshman and sophomores. There is no question though as to who the leader of this team is as much of team turns to Meagan Willis to provide senior leadership on this very young team. Her handling of the pitching staff and her .333 average this season is crucial to Texas' early season success. As the season moves into the Big XII tournament, her role will continue to become more important.
However, as Cat Osterman showed us all over 4 wonderful years, is that for the most part softball is about a pitcher. With the void left by Cat, Texas has turned to Junior Meagan Denny and she has not disappointed. She has thrived in the role of #1 starter (I dont' think there are any more numbers after that when it comes to softball pitching staffs) posting a 10-2 mark with a 0.86 era. The big surprise has been the play of Freshman pitcher Erin Tresselt who has become the relief specialist posting a 5-1 record and a 0.77 era in 11 appearences this season. Between the two of them, Texas has been able to continue to succeed in the post-Cat Osterman era.
The biggest change from this team is the apparent change of attitude. Texas always seemed to fall short at the end of the season when opposing teams would get one run off Cat (I'm still shocked as to how they managed that) and manage to shut down the Texas bats and escape with 1-0 victories. This year's team knows that they cannot rely on their pitching to win them every game. This is evident in the team's current .292 batting average up .036 from last season. The ressurection of the bats are being led by freshman Loryn Johnson (.381/3/14), freshman Tallie Thrasher (.333/6/14), and sophomore Kacie Gaskin (.293/5/16).
The real test as to whether this team has the ability to go deep into the tournament still is yet to be seen, as the true test will be how they fair in conference, with #4 Texas A&M, #6 Oklahoma, and #16 Baylor laying ahead. But, this team appears poised to live up to the expectations set by Cat Osterman.