Cat Osterman dominated a team sport more than anyone at Texas -- male or female -- had ever done before. Part of that was the nature of softball, where a hard thrower with a variety of pitches always holds the upper hand against the hitter.
Still, the career numbers were staggering: 2,265 strikeouts, 85 shutouts, seven perfect games, 20 no-hitters. Her closest analog of recent years was Vince Young. Both were physically gifted, supremely confident, and fiercely competitive.
If Cat was Longhorn softball's Vince, then Blaire Luna is its Colt McCoy. Like McCoy, she's smaller in stature than her more well-known predecessor, she's been thrown into the mix as a youngster, and she has the Longhorns on the way back to the top of the heap.
Luna is in her second season as the Texas ace. After winning 30 games as a freshman, she's rolled up a 21-2 record this season as the Longhorns have climbed to a No. 3 ranking. They've won 21 of their last 22 games and face Texas Tech this weekend in Big 12 play.
Osterman stood so far above the competition during her reign that it may not be particularly fair to make comparisons to someone with not even two full seasons under their belt. But when people begin looking at you like you're The Next One, it comes with the territory. Since Osterman left, no Texas pitcher had reached the 30-win total until Luna did last year, and her collegiate debut was an eight-inning no-hitter against a Top 20 school, North Carolina. That was enough to start the comparisons, fair or not.
To begin with, there's little resemblance between Osterman and Luna physically. Cat was tall and rangy at 6-foot-2 and threw left-handed, while Luna is six inches shorter and right-handed. Osterman racked up strikeouts in bunches and rarely walked anyone. Luna struggled with control issues last year, walking 101 batters in 242.1 innings, but the Austin Bowie grad has improved that stat this year, with 53 walks through 152.2 innings. She even threw her first perfect game back in March, against fourth-ranked and previously unbeaten Washington, one day after being selected to try out for the US women's national team.
An improved mental game and the steadying presence of senior catcher Amy Hooks have been the biggest factors in Luna's improvement year-to-year. Luna is already tied for fourth in career victories at Texas, and her projected four-year totals put her ahead of everyone but Osterman in nearly every major pitching category. But a more important accomplishment would be to carry the Longhorns back to softball's College World Series for the first time post-Cat.