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Can Reese Atwood get hot at plate? Texas softball needs slugger against Oklahoma at WCWS.

OKLAHOMA CITY — By almost any metric, Reese Atwood has enjoyed the best offensive season in Texas history. The sophomore catcher, a finalist for USA Softball’s national player of the year award, is hitting .425 and has set school records with 23 home runs and 90 RBIs this season.

But Atwood and the Longhorns (55-9) would trade all those lofty numbers for a timely hit in the Women's College World Series championship series, especially as they stare at a possible end to the season against Oklahoma in Thursday night's Game 2.

Texas catcher Reese Atwood stands in the on deck circle as she prepares to bat against Texas A&M in the Austin Super Regional at McCombs Field on May 24. Atwood, one of three finalists for USA Softball's player of the year award, has struggled at the Women's College World Series.
Texas catcher Reese Atwood stands in the on deck circle as she prepares to bat against Texas A&M in the Austin Super Regional at McCombs Field on May 24. Atwood, one of three finalists for USA Softball's player of the year award, has struggled at the Women's College World Series.

A pivotal at-bat in Oklahoma’s 8-3 win Wednesday typified the WCWS struggles for Atwood, who has gone 2-for-9 without an RBI in four games at Devon Park. After the Sooners sprinted out to a 5-1 lead, she had a chance to cut into that lead in the bottom of the third inning with two outs and Bella Dayton and Mia Scott perched eagerly on the bags. But Oklahoma pitcher Kelly Maxwell induced a weak grounder back to the circle for an easy out, and Atwood could only grimace and slap her hands together in frustration as she jogged back to the dugout.

“This game, it's tough,” Texas coach Mike White said. “It can be awfully humbling sometimes when things happen.”

More: Texas softball faces a big uphill battle after getting rolled by OU in WCWS final | Bohls

Offensive struggles also affecting fielding

The things happening at the plate may be affecting Atwood behind the plate as well. In the sixth inning, Atwood seemed to forget the number of outs when she flipped a pitch high in the air back toward pitcher Estelle Czech after a strikeout by Jayda Coleman. But that strikeout was only the second out, which allowed Avery Hodge to steal third base and then score on a subsequent two-out single from Tiare Jennings. In the seventh, Alyssa Brito scored from third after Atwood threw an errant ball toward third base in the slim hopes of picking off Brito.

White, himself a former player for the national men’s teams in the U.S. and in his native New Zealand, understands how slight misfortunes can snowball into prolonged struggles.

More: Texas softball legend Cat Osterman praises freshman Teagan Kavan for talent, composure

“There's not always a big fix for those things,” he said. “That's why slumps happen, and you get people that can't throw from second base to first base, those kind of things. Who knows what goes on in the mind?”

But White also knows Atwood still serves as the centerpiece of a fearsome Texas lineup that ranks second in the country with 7.86 runs per game. Texas' lone National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American has been the No. 3 batter almost all season, and White doesn’t expect to change a formula that’s worked for the nation’s top-ranked team.

“All we can do is address it and say, ‘Hey, look, give your best effort,’” White said. “I'm hoping she's going to have a better game for us (on Thursday). She's been there for us the whole time. She's been the one that's got us through the season.”

More: Anyone else up for a Texas-Oklahoma war, this time for the WCWS softball title? | Bohls

Erratic hitting a team issue in WCWS

Atwood has plenty of company in her struggles at the plate at the WCWS. As a team, Texas is hitting .255 with 18 total runs in Oklahoma City, numbers inflated by a 10-0 win over Florida that included a 10-for-21 hitting performance.

Of course, those numbers have come while facing elite pitchers such as Maxwell and Stanford All-American NiJaree Canady. Senior utility player Joley Mitchell, who has a hit in each of the past two games, says the Longhorns have the capability to quickly turn things around, starting in game two of the championship series.

“I think we've done a good job of shifting the momentum (in 2024),” Mitchell said “We've done it regular season series (and) against Texas A&M in the super regionals. We're a tough team. As long as we stay together, do the job, we'll be just fine the next two games.”

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Can Reese Atwood get hot at plate? Texas softball needs slugger against OU