North Texas Daily

DeLong era now underway, fall softball season begins

DeLong era now underway, fall softball season begins

DeLong era now underway, fall softball season begins
October 03
16:55 2018

There is a new and exciting energy around Lovelace Stadium this fall. New head softball coach Rodney DeLong is starting to implement his culture to this Mean Green softball team.

North Texas finished the 2017 season with an overall record of 25-27 and finished conference with an 11-12 record, which got them third place in the Conference-USA West Division.

After the 2018 season, former North Texas head coach Tracey Kee resigned. In five years with the Mean Green, she posted a record of 122-144. It was time for a change in a softball program that had just endured their third consecutive losing season.

That change was made on June 13 when athletic director Wren Baker announced new head softball coach Rodney DeLong was hired.

Coach Rodney DeLong explains a drill at softball practice last Wednesday. Delong came to the all-new coaching staff at UNT with an 11 year coaching career. Jordan Collard

DeLong was the head coach at Cameron University before stopping at Georgia Tech during the 2016-2017 season as the hitting instructor and infield coach. After that season, he took the head coaching job at Austin Peay State University where he led the Governors to their first winning season in 24 years with a record of 39-19.

When DeLong heard about the North Texas job opening, he said the position appealed to him because there were so many advantages North Texas brings to the table.

“UNT is very close to a Power Five conference situation with the big-school feel,” DeLong said. “At this point in my career, I felt like this was a great place to establish a reputable program. I love the area, and I feel like there’s a lot of potential to build something great here.”

The Mean Green started fall practice on Sept. 17 and have national competitors on their schedule this fall. North Texas will host Oklahoma on Oct. 11 before heading up to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State on Oct. 17.

DeLong said the tough fall schedule was set to see how his team will respond against elite Power Five programs — such as Oklahoma — who has won three out of the last six national championships.

“We want to see how kids compete and how they handle adversity,” DeLong said. “Playing Oklahoma this early is definitely going to show us where we are and what we need to get better at.”

The Mean Green have a few key components returning from last year’s team, including junior center fielder Katie Clark.

Clark transferred to North Texas from Stephen F. Austin after her freshman year and immediately made an impact on the Mean Green. She was named 2018 C-USA Newcomer of the Year after ranking No.6 in batting average (.375) and finished with the second-most steals (18) in program history.

Clark said the best part of the Mean Green right now is that they are rallying around each other to push one other to improve their game.

“We just have to find a way to get better every day,” Clark said. “We have a great coaching staff this year that is very different than any coaching staff I’ve ever been with, along with a great group of girls that are really supportive of each other.”

The North Texas has their slugger Lacy Gregory back, adding to this season’s strong lineup. In 2018, she had a .329 batting average, 10 home runs and 40 RBIs.

Gregory said listening to DeLong and his staff will pay exponentially when the time comes around for her to continue her successes from last year.

“I just need to keep working hard and embrace the new coaching staff, which I am extremely excited about,” Gregory said. “Everything they’re implementing into this program is very exciting. It’s a breath of fresh air, and they are completely changing our culture. We’re all excited to come out here and practice, and we’re all learning and just trying to get better.”

The latest addition to the Mean Green is junior transfer Jenna Goodrich. She transferred from Georgia Tech early in August and is looking to be one of the top arms on the North Texas pitching staff this year.

Goodrich has been at a Power Five school for the past two years and thinks this is an opportunity for her to guide a young, but strong North Texas pitching staff to success.

“I’m looking to bring some leadership to the pitching staff,” Goodrich said. “I know our pitching staff is fairly young, and I just want to be a good member of this team and add a little something different.”

Finishing under .500 for the third consecutive season can take a toll on some programs, but Gregory said the energy and confidence this North Texas team has right now could get them even further than getting over the hump of a .500 record.

“I really just think it’s our mindset,” Gregory said. “We brought a few extra pieces in this year, but I really just think it is mental, and I think we’re ready to get over that hump and get over .500 — but not even that, I think we’re ready to win the conference this year.”

Goodrich agreed with Gregory that the Mean Green have a lot of expectations for the upcoming season and said winning conference is the main goal. However, she also said there may be another tournament that isn’t too far out of reach for North Texas.

“We have some very high expectations,” Goodrich said. “Our goal is to always win conference. After that, we’ll take it game-by-game. I think we have a fantastic team and great opportunities this year to make it to the NCAA tournament. That would be something that would be really awesome for all of us, and that’s definitely the end result.”

Featured Image: Junior Lacy Gregory bats at practice last Wednesday. Gregory earned Second Team All-Conference status last season. Jordan Collard

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Bronte Hermesmeyer

Bronte Hermesmeyer

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