The Texas softball team received a big send-off Tuesday as they boarded a chartered bus to Oklahoma City. Destination: Women’s College World Series. About 50 fans waved them on, as two Longhorns football players led cheers. An Aggie even came out to wish the team well.
It’s the first World Series trip for the Longhorns since 2006, when they won their first game, then lost the next two. This is the fifth time Texas has qualified for the WCWS; they finished third in 2003 and 2005, but have never reached the final game.
Coach Connie Clark made sure to bring her camera so she can document her team’s stay in Oklahoma City. She’s hoping it’ll extend until next week to the final best-of-three series, which is set to start June 3.
“We’ll go up there and enjoy every moment we can,” Clark said.
But she’ll stress that merely qualifying for Oklahoma City and getting over the last two years of playoff disappointment isn’t enough.
Senior third baseman Taylor Hoagland has gotten Clark’s message.
“It’s almost surreal. It hasn’t hit us hard yet,” Hoagland said. “We’re excited to get there. But we’re going there to win. We’re not going just to go.”
Oklahoma, Florida, Arizona State, Tennessee, Michigan, Washington and Nebraska round out the eight-team field. Texas is a No. 4 national seed; only the top-seeded Sooners and the No. 2 Gators are seeded higher than the Longhorns, who have yet to lose in the postseason.
First up for Texas is fifth-seeded Arizona State, a WCWS mainstay. The Sun Devils arrived in Oklahoma City on Monday. They’re making their 11th trip, last winning the World Series in 2011.
Arizona State beat Texas in March, 3-0, when the Sun Devils were ranked No. 2 in the country and the Longhorns were ninth. The teams were participating in the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif.
Trivia time: Which team has broken the hearts of the Longhorns at the World Series in UT’s last three appearances there?
That would be UCLA, which eliminated Texas in the World Series in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
There are no California teams competing in Oklahoma City this year. The Pac-12 is represented by Arizona State and Washington.
Thom turnaround: The Longhorns have been a national top-eight seed for the last three years, but never extended their season to Oklahoma City until now.
Shortstop Taylor Thom is a big reason for the turnaround. The junior and three-year starter from Vista Ridge High School bats third in the lineup. She’s hitting .438 in five playoff games and 16 at-bats, with three home runs and 10 RBIs. She leads the team in both homers and RBIs.
Thom had 31 playoff at-bats, collectively, in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. She managed a .194 average with no home runs and only one RBI.
49 and counting: Texas has won 49 games this year. Only two Longhorn teams have won more. The 2006 bunch won 55 and the 2002 group got to 50.
Setting records: The Longhorns set a single-season team record in the super regionals for most stolen bases. They now have 120. That total is tops among the WCWS participants. Tennessee is next with 109.
Hoagland also broke the Big 12’s career record for walks. She has 173. She also likely will break the league record for on-base percentage. She’s at .615. The conference record is .594.
New bracket contest: Northwestern Mutual and the NCAA are sponsoring a World Series bracket contest on Facebook. Fans have until Thursday — the start of the World Series — to enter their predictions.
COLLEGE WORLD SERIES
Thursday-June 6, Oklahoma City, ESPN2; Thursday — 14-Nebraska vs. 11-Washington, 11 a.m.; 7-Tennessee vs. 2-Florida, 1:30 p.m.; 5-Arizona State vs. 4-Texas, 6; 8-Michigan vs. 1-Oklahoma, 8:30