By Hunter Jones
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
The Texas Longhorns come into Tuscaloosa to face an Alabama softball team that has a 16-4 record at Rhoads Stadium in the super regionals.
The odds are against them.
The Longhorns, however, have already faced tough odds just to get here.
Texas (45-15), whichfinished third in the Big 12, earned the No. 9 overall tournament seed and got to host the Austin regional last week.
The Longhorns lost their tournament opener to Sam Houston State, immediately putting themselves in a mustwin situation the rest of the weekend.
On Saturday the Longhorns beat Texas A& M 3-2 and Sam Houston State 3-0. Then on Sunday, the Longhorns beat Houston twice, 5-2 and 7-0, to punch their ticket to the super regionals.
The one constant presence in all four of those wins was Longhorns’ pitcher Miranda Elish. While she did not pitch in the loss to Sam Houston State, Elish pitched complete games in the next four outings, throwing 429 total pitches and racking up 31 strikeouts while allowing just four runs.
“We showed a lot of fight and we had our backs against the wall and played really free. Everything really came together in those last four games,” Elish said.
Longhorns left fielder Kaitlyn Washington called that first game a “gut check” and said they showed how gritty they can be after that.
The Longhorns are in their first super regional since 2013 under first-year head coach Mike White. While this Longhorns team may be new to the super regionals, White has coached in 10 straight super regionals, dating back to his first season as Oregon’s head coach in 2010.
After the Longhorns hired White, Oregon standouts first baseman Lauren Burke, catcher Mary Iakopo, third baseman Shannon Rhodes and Elish all followed White to Texas.
“You see this at Alabama you get a process started and then your upperclassmen start to teach the underclassmen. When you come in as a new coach you have to start that all over again so it takes a while to get things going and it’s been a struggle for us at times,” White said.
SOFTBALL SUPER REGIONAL
Alabama vs. Texas
Schedule: Thursday 8 p.m.; Friday 8 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m. (if necessary)
Where: Rhoads Stadium
Records: Alabama 55-7, Texas 45-15
Radio: 93.3 FM
White said he knows it’s going to be tough to come out of Tuscaloosa with two wins, not just because of the crowd.
“They are very balanced and always have been,” White said. “Last year may have been a rebuilding year for them but they have come back strong this year. They are a very young team this year. They have speed, they have power. Even their power hitters are fast. They also play good defense. So it’s just a very solid team.”
Some of the Longhorns’ other key players include second baseman Janae Jefferson, who leads the team with a .398 batting average and Iakopo, who leads in both home runs (10) and RBIs (38).
“Alabama has the edge on us in power so we have to negate that with good pitching,” White said. “We have to make the most of our opportunities. We know what’s ahead of us. It’s a tough job but hopefully we’re up to the task.”