Sophomore Gabby Smith’s single up the middle in the bottom of the eighth inning brought home freshman Stephanie Ceo and lifted No. 6/6 Texas Softball to a 1-0 walk-off victory over Tulsa Sunday morning in the championship game of the Texas Invitational, presented by Time Warner Cable at Red & Charline McCombs Field.
The victory was the Longhorns’ 16th in 17 games and avenged UT’s only loss this season, a 5-3 setback to Tulsa Friday evening. The win also ties the 2012, 2006 and 2003 squads for the best 17-game start in program history.
Senior pitcher Blaire Luna went eight innings for the victory, recording a season-high 16 strikeouts, just one shy of her career best. She surrendered three hits and no walks.
Tulsa junior pitcher Aimee Creger also went the distance and took the loss. She struck out eight and yielded five hits and two walks.
After a first-inning, two-out single from Tulsa senior Samantha Cobb, Luna retired 13 consecutive batters, including 10 on strikeouts.
Texas threatened in the second, putting runners on the corners with one out. Junior Mandy Ogle doubled down the leftfield line and senior Torie Schmidt reached on an infield single, but Creger struck out Ceo and junior Karina Scott to retire the side.
In the top of the sixth, Tulsa managed its biggest scoring threat. Junior Shelby Blanton led off with a single and senior Caitlin Everett dropped a one-out bunt single to put runners on first and second. Luna struck out junior Jill Barrett and Cobb to end the threat.
In the bottom of the inning, the Longhorns put runners on the corners. After senior Taylor Hoagland’s second walk of the day, junior Taylor Thom beat out the throw from the second baseman for an infield single, sending Hoagland to third with senior Kim Bruins up to bat. But Creger forced Bruins into a groundout to the end the threat.
After both teams went out in order in the seventh, the international tie-breaker rules were used in the eighth, giving Tulsa a runner on second, junior Cierra Hughes, to start the inning. Hughes advanced to third on senior Cassidy Bowen’s sacrifice bunt but was stranded when Luna struck out junior Shelby Blanton and freshman Jodi Edmiston.
In the bottom of the eighth, Ceo was placed on second for UT and moved to third on Scott’s sacrifice bunt. With Tulsa’s infield pulled in for the potential play at the plate, Smith stroked a single up the middle to plate Ceo with the game winner.
The Longhorns’ next action comes Friday, March 1, at the Citrus Classic Tournament in Kissimmee, Fla. Texas opens the event at 10 a.m. CT Friday against Louisville.