Texas softball: Longhorns sent to Washington after hosting snub – Austin American-Statesman
On Sunday evening, members of Texas’ softball team booked a trip to Seattle.
Seattle is usually a desirable destination this time of the year. There is plenty to do in the Emerald City. And while it reached 97 degrees in Austin on Sunday, temperatures aren’t expected to exceed the mid-60s in Seattle this week.
However, the Longhorns didn’t seem too excited about their travel plans. Going to Seattle means that Texas didn’t secure a top-16 national seed or subsequent hosting rights for the regional portion of the NCAA Tournament. Texas will instead duel with Weber State on Friday in the opener of Washington’s regional.
“I know that we were planning on wanting to host, of course,” UT shortstop Alyssa Washington said. “But I think we’re all excited.”
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The Longhorns believed they had done enough to secure one more weekend of softball at McCombs Field. Texas went 38-17-1, finished in third in the Big 12 standings and reached the semifinals of the conference tournament. One of the country’s biggest wins this season was UT’s 4-2 upset of unbeaten Oklahoma on April 16. Texas boasted a top-16 RPI and was No. 16 in the NFCA’s most recent poll.
The NCAA selection committee, though, did not think that Texas had a strong-enough résumé.
On Sunday, Washington (35-15) earned the 13th overall seed. The NCAA then awarded the final three regionals to Florida (43-16), Missouri (36-20) and Central Florida (46-12).
According to D1Softball, UCF, Washington and Missouri all have lower RPI’s than Texas. Like Texas, Washington was third in its conference, but the Pac-12 sent more teams to the NCAA Tournament than the Big 12. Missouri reached the championship game at the SEC Tournament. Central Florida swept the American Athletic Conference’s regular-season and tournament titles.
“I’ve been on committees before and it’s difficult,” Texas coach Mike White said. “It’s hard to please everybody and each year you think there’s a deserving team that deserves to be in and they do. We’re one of those teams that may have deserved to be in, but it is what it is.
“Obviously, they didn’t feel like we had the volume of work to host. We’ve got to live with that fact and go out there and do better next year and take care of business this year if we can.”
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Texas was among the schools that had a camera set up to capture the team’s live reaction to learning its postseason fate during Sunday’s broadcast of the NCAA Selection Show. While a team like Weber State celebrated with screams and hugs, Texas had a response that an ESPN2 commentator described as “interesting.”
Some of the Longhorns clapped after UT’s name was called. Others sat stone-faced. A couple of players were seen with their mouths agape.
While meeting with the media afterward, Janae Jefferson said the Longhorns were grateful that they will get to play in the postseason. The All-American infielder later conceded that the team did feel snubbed.
“I feel like in a way it is motivation just for us to go out there and be the best team that we can,” Jefferson said. “It all starts right now. Just seeing that reaction and seeing where they had us seeded and everything, it just gave us that extra push to prove people wrong.”
Texas now turns its attention to a Weber State team that won the Big Sky championship. Texas and Weber State (38-10) have only played twice before, but one of those meetings took place in 2020.
More familiarity exists between Texas and Washington. Twenty-six games exist in that all-time series. Jefferson was a freshman when Texas played in a Huskies-hosted regional in 2018. There are still a half-dozen players on the UT roster who appeared in a top-three battle between the Longhorns and Huskies during the 2020 season. White went 17-9 against Washington while he was coaching Oregon from 2010-18.
White said the team’s prep work for the double-elimination competition will mainly focus on Weber State. And “just to make sure we get the bases covered,” UT will also study up on Washington and a Lehigh program it has never faced.
“I just want to see us finish the year playing softball how we can, no matter where we finish at, whether it’s out there at the regional in Washington or it’s in the next Super Regional or it goes on to the World Series,” White said. “This team is talented. I just don’t think we’ve been consistent as we need to be.”