It was a storybook beginning for Tegan Kavan in her Texas debut. The 6-0 righthander shined under the bright lights on Friday night at Easton Stadium. Kavan tossed five innings for the Longhorns, earning her first top-10 victory of the season in a 3-2 win over UCLA. The West Des Moines, Iowa, native seemed unfazed appearing on ESPN for the biggest televised event of the weekend.
It wasn’t all roses as the rookie ran into some trouble in the sixth inning. After walking in the Bruins’ first run of the game, head coach Mike White went to the bullpen. Citlaly Gutierrez entered with the bases loaded and forced three straight ground outs to limit the damage. UCLA scraped across two runs in the sixth.
Notes: Kavan’s presence on the mound is one of a seasoned veteran rather than a rookie. It’s no wonder Cat Osterman commented “Kavan is IT.”
Kavan is IT!! So excited to have a front row seat the next 4 years
— Cat Osterman OLY (@catosterman) February 10, 2024
Let’s not forget about UCLA’s Taylor Tinsley. As question marks loomed regarding the Bruins’ pitching staff during the offseason, it’s safe to say Tinsley has the chops. Taking on the Longhorns’ lineup on day one is no easy task. The sophomore righthander struck out eight batters on the evening, throwing 80.7% strikes. There were a few mistakes but it was an all-around promising performance. Looking back at the film, it’s no surprise Reese Atwood cleared the netting over the scoreboard in the second inning. Tinsley threw a rise on the inner half and Atwood unloaded.
According to our friends at Synergy Sports, Atwood batted .385 a season ago on balls up and in.
There were other hard hit balls on the evening, as the Longhorns collected seven total hits, but the key to scoring three runs was less about hard hit balls (minus Atwood’s home run) and more about taking advantage of the Bruins’ defensive miscues.
The Texas offense is methodical. They chip away, have a ton of coverage in their swings, and are very aggressive on the base paths. Texas scored single runs in the second, third and fifth innings.
Let’s take a look at the play in the third inning.
speeeeeeeeeeeeed 🏃♀️ pic.twitter.com/CLvHf8NWyN
— Texas Softball (@TexasSoftball) February 10, 2024
With a runner at second and one out, Bella Dayton bunted and caught the UCLA defense off-guard. Either the infield was in slapper defense and Woolery needed to stay back or Curo was late getting to the bag. Either way, Malau’ulu’s play to first was going to be close with speed at the plate. The third was the start of Texas applying pressure on the defense.
It happened again in the fifth inning after another defensive miscue. Joley Mitchell led off the inning with a lined shot to second that tipped off Curo’s glove and almost made it into Savi Pola’s glove in right. The next batter rolled over a ground ball back to Tinsley, and she couldn’t get the ball out of her glove to get the out at second. After the Longhorns walked to load the bases, Mia Scott hit a bloop single to right field to score an insurance run. Aggressive base running popped up again as Texas sent the trail runner, who was thrown out at the plate.
Bruins rally in the sixth
Kavan hit Maya Brady for the second time to lead off the sixth inning. Jordan Woolery followed with a laser shot to center field hit that was hit so hard it became a long single. Let’s take a look Woolery’s chart…yes she does damage all over of the zone.
With runners on the corners, Megan Grant drew the walk to bring Sharlize Palacios to the plate. Palacios’s seven pitch quality at-bat felt like it might break open the game for the Bruins as Kavan walked in the first run of the game. Gutierrez entered in relief and picked up her first save of the year. The right-hander rolled five ground ball out of the six batters faced.
Here is the postgame interview with Texas head coach Mike White:
The teams will face off again on Saturday at Easton Stadium at 4:00 PM Pacific.