#17 Texas Softball Preview

Texas Longhorns

Overall Rank: #17
Conference Rank: #2 Big 12
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Head Coach Connie Clark and the Texas Longhorns will look to build on last year’s run to the Super Regionals, their first since 2006.  Offensively, the Longhorns were formidable in 2012.  They ended the season ranked top 20 nationally in a number of categories including:  average (5th, .330), scoring (11th, 6.2 runs/game), home runs per game (16th, 1.15), doubles per game (17th, 1.42) and slugging (9th, .530).  Coach Clark led her powerful club to a third place regular season finish in the tough Big 12 and into the NCAA Tournament for the eighth straight season last spring.  The 2013 Longhorns will have to replace a major portion of that offense after losing seniors Lexy Bennet, Nadia Taylor and Courtney Craig.  Coach Clark has a tough schedule planned for her squad that returns 10 letter winners, seven position players and three pitchers. The skipper is optimistic, “Our biggest question mark will be the influx of six freshmen. Deciphering who will step up to produce offensive numbers put up by last year’s senior class, Lexy Bennett, Nadia Taylor & Courtney Craig will be significant. I loved how hard we competed last year. As a team they are hungry and the expectations are high after coming off a solid 2012 campaign which had us as eight in the final RPI ranking.”

2012: 47-13, 16-8
2012 Postseason: NCAA (Lost in Austin Super Regional to Oregon)
Coach: Connie Clark, 17th Season

Field Players:
Senior Taylor Hoagland, who can play infield and outfield, is the Texas career home run leader, three-time All Big 12 selectee, led team in home runs (18), walks (41) and runs scored (59).  The Longhorn leadoff hitter is speedy, bats from the right side and was second on the team in stolen bases with 18.  Junior centerfielder Brejae Washington is among the fastest athletes in D1 softball.  She hit .324 and stole 27 bases last season.  Torie Schmidt, a senior outfielder, was also an All Big 12 selection in 2012.  She hit .388 during Big 12 play, tops in the conference.  Her full season .358 average was second on her team.  Junior catcher Mandy Ogle returns after a sophomore season where she hit .303 with 27 RBI.  Junior infielder Karina Scott hit .298, but had nine home runs and 26 RBI.  Coach Clark describes her as a “strong and dangerous hitter.”

Two-time All-American and two-time National Player of the Year Top 10 Finalist Blaire Luna finished third in the nation in strikeouts per seven innings (10.6) and won 22 games. The senior tossed 21 complete games and eight shutouts.  Coach Clark is also counting on senior Kim Bruins.  She says, “Kim is extremely competitive, gritty & versatile, providing key senior leadership.  She made 16 appearances in the circle in 2012, plays first base and is one of our most consistent performers. She is healthy and will be a key factor in 2013.”  Overall, the only head coach the Longhorns have ever had feels good about her staff, “We have an ‘anchor’ in Luna and with Kim Bruins ‘compete factor’ we will have extremely solid upperclassmen we can rely on. Youngsters, (sophomore) Gabby Smith and (freshman) Holly Kern will get plenty of looks and we will know more about the staff collectively once we begin conference play. Both of them are athletic and throw a “heavy ball” but also mix speeds very effectively. We have a great balance of experience and different looks amongst the staff, so I am very optimistic.”

Who to Watch:
The incoming Texas freshmen class includes some of the nation’s top 2012 recruits.  Erin Shireman ranked 15th, Stephanie Coe was 20th and Holly Kern was 32nd on the ESPN 2012 Top 100 Recruit list.  Shireman, who can play a variety of positions including catcher, third base and outfield, was an ESPN High School All-American.  Coe, an outfielder from Southern California, was Cal-Hi Sports All-State.  Kern, a pitcher/first baseman was also an ESPN High School All-American and Max Preps All-American.  Coach Clark had this to say about her newcomers, “Our freshman class may be the most mature group we have ever had collectively. We have some serious leadership in this young class which provides an interesting and exciting dynamic. It is a very talented group overall, but keep a specific eye on Erin Shireman (C, 3rd, OF and big power) Stephanie Coe (2nd, SS, OF) & Holly Kern (RHP, 1st base and big power).”

Final Projection:
A veteran group returns for Coach Clark and the Longhorns in 2012.  Hoagland, Washington and Schmidt return on offense, coupled with Luna’s experience in the circle Texas will have a solid chance to stay at the top of the Big 12 in 2013.  If the highly decorated freshmen can step in and make a significant contribution by season’s end, Coach Clark’s crew is poised to make another deep run into the NCAA post season.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Taylor Hoagland, OF/IF, 178
Hits: Taylor Hoagland, OF/IF, 58
Home Runs: Taylor Hoagland, OF/IF, 18
RBIs: Taylor Hoagland, OF/IF, 39
Runs: Taylor Hoagland, OF/IF, 59
Stolen Bases: Brejae Washington, OF, 27

Wins: Blaire Luna, P, 22
Innings Pitched: Blaire Luna, P, 188
Strikeouts: Blaire Luna, P, 286
Saves: Blaire Luna, P, 3

Madness 2013 NPF Draft Rankings:
#17 Taylor Hoagland
#25 Blaire Luna

Madness 2013 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#12 Erin Shireman
#29 Stephanie Ceo
#35 Holly Kern


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