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‘Something you can’t practice’: Texas veterans giving young players idea of what’s in store at WCWS

‘Something you can’t practice’: Texas veterans giving young players idea of what’s in store at WCWS

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas senior infielder Alyssa Washington is one of a handful of players on this year’s team that helped the Longhorns get to the Women’s College World Series championship series as an unseeded team in 2022. Even as a well-known program, that Texas team wasn’t exactly expected to do that. Two years later, however, it’s the complete opposite for the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Washington said she’s sharing her experiences from that run with the younger players on the roster to help them prepare as much as they can for the big stage — and that’s not easy.

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“It’s such a unique environment and it’s something you can’t practice,” she said. “There’s so much energy and people there who just love the game. It’s amazing to step on the field and play there. The environment is loud, but it’s kind of weird. It’s so loud that you don’t really hear it, in a way, once you’re on the field.”

Texas opens its seventh trip to the WCWS at 6 p.m. Thursday against No. 8 Stanford in Oklahoma City at a ballpark the Longhorns are familiar with, OGE Field at Devon Park, located at the USA Softball Hall of Fame facility. It’s not only where they made the incredible 2022 run to the title series, it’s also where the Big 12 Conference tournament is held. That brings some familiarity, but when it’s World Series time, the venue turns into something far bigger than a patch of dirt and grass to play a game on.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – JUNE 09: The Women’s College World Series patch is shown on Alyssa Popelka #16 of the Texas Longhorns during the Division I Women’s Softball Championship held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on June 9, 2022 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – JUNE 09: The Women’s College World Series patch is shown on Alyssa Popelka #16 of the Texas Longhorns during the Division I Women’s Softball Championship held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on June 9, 2022 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Isaiah Vazquez/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The key is to treat it as just another game, Washington said.

“This is the game we’ve played since we were little,” she said. “It’s like taking a step back and realizing this is something we’ve done our whole lives and we’re prepped for this moment.”

Freshman center fielder Kayden Henry, one of the young players the Longhorns have relied on all season, said others have told her the WCWS is “a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” During the Longhorns’ 2022 run, Henry was in high school and already committed to Texas. She said she was “full-on yelling for her girls,” watching the tournament, and now she gets a chance to play in her first year on the team.

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“It puts me in awe,” she said. “I’m just truly grateful to not only have this opportunity but to do it with the girls who are by my side.”

It’s also the first WCWS trip for sophomore shortstop Viviana Martinez. She’s already one of the best in the country at her position and she’s quickly learning that this trip to OKC will be much different than the one the team made a few weeks ago.

“This past week we’ve been talking about it and saying how crazy it is,” she said. “The Big 12 tournament, it’s different from that. It’s like 10 times the environment, so I’m really excited and I can’t wait.”

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