DeLong says with focus, softball has potential to do things that “have never been done”

DeLong says with focus, softball has potential to do things that “have never been done”

Rodney Delong. Jordan Collard

DeLong says with focus, softball has potential to do things that “have never been done”
January 11
18:19 2019

With less than a month to go before Mean Green softball starts their season against Northern Colorado in the Texas A&M Tournament, head coach Rodney DeLong said he is ready to bring an excited energy to the Mean Green softball program that hasn’t been felt in previous years.

“First and foremost, I’m excited to be at this university,” DeLong said. “We’re ready to go. There’s still a lot of unknowns and I’m ready to compete and figure out what we’re made of.”

In the fall season, North Texas faced larger schools, scheduling big-time opponents in Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Nothing has changed in DeLong’s approach for the spring season, as he scheduled road games against No. 14 Texas A&M and No. 16 Baylor and a home matchup against the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners on March 20. The Mean Green will face five teams ranked in the top 50 in RPI.

“The thing about playing some of those blue blood programs is they tell you exactly where you’re at,” DeLong said. “We want to be a perennial NCAA tournament team and eventually get our program to a World Series. For that to happen, we have to beat elite teams like them.”

The Mean Green wanted to prove they were ready to compete against elite programs during the fall season with their games against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. They lost to Oklahoma 4-2 and blew an early lead to lose 8-6 against Oklahoma State.

Although the Mean Green lost both games, players said they felt they were close to joining the country’s elite programs.

“We can compete with these teams and we’re right there with them,” senior outfielder Hannah Gerecke said. “That’s why we’re here. Having those big opponents sets us up for the conference tournament and the only people that are going to stop us is us.”

Junior infielder Lacy Gregory is looking to be the primary offensive weapon for the Mean Green this season after finishing fifth in Conference USA in RBIs (40) and home runs (10). She started in all but one game for North Texas last season and led the team in seven different offensive statistics, including RBIs, doubles, triples, home runs and total bases.

“I’m feeling confident,” Gregory said. “We’ve put in a lot of work and with the new coaching staff, we made a lot of progress as a team. I’m very excited and bought into this new program.”

Junior catcher Nicole Ochotnicki started all 52 games last season and has started at catcher since her freshman year. She ranked second on the team in walks and third in hits. Ochotnicki is coming off of a fall season that showed her offensive improvement for this lineup, hitting multiple home runs and driving in runs at the cleanup spot for the Mean Green.

North Texas will be relying on returning sophomore Hope Trautwein and junior transfer Jenna Goodrich to lead the pitching staff. Trautwein earned a spot on the All-Conference USA Second Team and All-Freshman team after finishing third in the conference in strikeouts (168) and batters struck out looking. She also ranked fourth in C-USA in wins (15) and innings pitched.

Goodrich transferred fall 2018 from Georgia Tech, where she finished 10th in the Atlantic Coast Conference in batters struck out looking. Her career-high strikeouts in a single game came against North Texas on April 10, 2016 when DeLong was her assistant coach in Atlanta.

The Mean Green will welcome back junior outfielder Katie Clark, who was named the 2018 C-USA Newcomer of the Year after ranking 6th in the league in batting average (.375) and eighth in stolen bases (18).

DeLong said that Clark’s ability to steal bases compliments his strategy to constantly keep pressure on the opponent and forcing the opponent to make mistakes and errors.

“Whatever our strength is, we want to be great at that,” DeLong said. “We’re going to try and be good at all phases offensively, but I really want to keep pressure on whoever we’re playing.”

DeLong ended the interview at media day with an air of confidence, saying this year has a chance to be something special for North Texas softball fans.

“I think if we take the first part of our schedule on with the right mindset of daily growth, we have the potential to do things that have never been done here in year one,” DeLong said.

Featured Image: Rodney Delong. Jordan Collard

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Bronte Hermesmeyer

Bronte Hermesmeyer

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