Texas is bashing the softball this spring. The Longhorns have slugged 36 home runs, and their team batting average is a glossy .285.
Yet the Longhorns are only a half-game ahead of weak-hitting Kansas in Big 12 Conference standings.
Pitching. Texas will be without its top two pitchers when the Longhorns meet the Jayhawks at 2 p.m. today and at 1 p.m. Sunday at Arrocha Ballpark.
"This sport is so pitcher-dominated," KU coach Tracy Bunge said, "that when you have to rely on your No. 3 and No. 4 pitcher, it gives you a whole different outlook."
Cat Osterman, UT's best pitcher, is with the U.S. Olympics team, and Amy Bradford, who had moved into Osterman's role as No. 1 this spring, went down three weeks ago with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
"Texas is better overall than they were last year. They're very good offensively," Bunge said, "but if we took Kara Pierce and Kassie Humphreys out of the mix, what would we be like?"
Humphreys and Pierce both rank in the top 10 in Big 12 earned-run average listings at 1.55 and 1.85. The Jayhawks' team ERA is 1.88. Compare that to Texas' team ERA of 3.21.
Kansas is coming off perhaps its most impressive victory of the season -- a 3-0 blanking of Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb., the Cornhuskers' first league defeat after 12 consecutive wins.
Humphreys, one of the conference's best freshmen hurlers, went all seven innings for the victory, her second over the Huskers this season. In early March, she tossed a one-hitter against NU at Arrocha Ballpark.
KU grabbed a 1-0 lead when third-baseman Nettie Fierros snapped out of season-long slump with a solo home run.
"That was her first hit in about a month," Bunge said. "She's really been struggling, but she looked like a different player up there."
Still, KU managed only three hits, and the Jayhawks' team batting average sank to .200. Only two KU regulars -- Destiny Frankenstein (.276) and Nicole Washburn (.254) -- are hitting over .250.
"We know Texas can hit, so we need good pitching and good fielding this weekend," Bunge said.
In league standings, Texas is 5-10, and Kansas 4-10, so the Jayhawks could leapfrog the 'Horns and climb into seventh place with a win today.
Arrocha Ballpark's official dedication is scheduled at noon today. The first 500 fans will also receive a commemorative mini bat.