AUSTIN, Texas — With just over a month until the Texas softball season is expected to begin, 2020 NCAA Player of the Year Miranda Elish announced her decision to opt out of the 2021 Texas softball season.
The decision came as a result of the senior pitcher's concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision marked a reversal for Elish, who announced in April that she would return for a fifth season of college softball last March.
“After all my years of playing the game I love, this message comes with deep sadness and a very heavy heart," Elish said in a statement released through the Texas athletic department. "It was a decision that I’ve thought long and hard about, and unfortunately due to situations surrounding me, I feel it is in my best interest to not participate in the 2021 season because of my concerns over Covid-19.
"Thank you for all the love and support now and in the past, it will be forever remembered. Thank you to all my fans, friends, teammates, coaches, especially Coach (Mike) White, and most importantly, my family. Your support through all the years has made my softball career so much more special. I wish Longhorns nation nothing but the best. Hook 'em forever!”
The loss of Elish is a major blow for the Longhorns, who transferred from Oregon prior to the 2019 season, was an all-America candidate and had been UT's centerpiece both in the circle and at the plate over the past two seasons.
In a shortened 2020 campaign, she posted an 11-3 record in the circle with an earned run average of just 1.25, striking out 96 batters over 84 innings of work. Elish also hit .370 with 11 extra-base hits and 19 runs batted in. Softball America named her Player of the Year.
Elish's statement suggests her time on the Forty Acres is over, though she does have an additional year of eligibility, after the NCAA extended a blanket waiver to all spring-sport athletes last spring.