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Home runs haunt softball pitching in blowout loss

Home runs haunt softball pitching in blowout loss

North Texas freshman infielder Rhyle Makawe (21) tags out a Florida International runner. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Home runs haunt softball pitching in blowout loss
April 03
16:12 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

After scoring only one run on five hits over two games on Saturday, Mean Green softball looked to bounce back in a big way in the final game of its series against Florida International University.

But things did not go how North Texas (18-16, 3-9) had hoped they would, falling 12-3 in six innings to the Panthers (21-17, 7-5). It was the second time this season the Mean Green have been swept in a three-game series versus a Conference USA opponent.

“For us as a team, you tend to hit a spurt in the 56 game schedule where you just bottom out,” head coach Tracey Kee said. “We couldn’t do anything right this weekend no matter how hard we tried, no matter how much energy we tried to put into it.”

North Texas fell into a deep hole in the top of the first inning. Junior pitcher Stacey Underwood could not seem to find her rhythm, allowing two singles and a three-run home run the first pitch after a meeting at the mound to make the score 4-0.

Junior infielder Kelli Schkade responded with her 12th home run of the year in the bottom half of the inning, but Florida International was nowhere near done at the plate.

The Panthers opened the second with two singles and did not miss out on driving them in. A two-run home run from Stephanie Texeira extended the deficit to 8-1, forcing Kee to bring in junior Jessica Elder in relief.

“They’re a really good hitting team, and today they made adjustments,” Underwood said. “They were hitting really good pitches. Usually Sundays are hitting rallies, and they obviously hit more than we did.”

North Texas softball head coach Tracy Kee looks on as her team is on defense against Florida Internationa. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Softball head coach Tracy Kee looks on as her team is on defense against Florida Internationa. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

At the plate, the Mean Green missed out on multiple scoring opportunities in the third and fourth innings. An infield single from freshman utility player Harley Perella with the bases loaded put another run on the board, but the team left two runners on base in the third and were shut down with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth.

“We couldn’t really string anything together,” Schkade said. “Their pitchers were shutting us down left and right.”

Pitching around Schkade proved to be a successful strategy down the stretch, as the shortstop finished 1-for-2 with two walks.

“I go in there not thinking about it. I want to see good pitches and hit,” Schkade said. “I feel confidence in Karly behind me. If they continue to do that, Karly knows what her job is, so we’ll be fine.”

Elder put up two zeros in her first two full innings of work, but allowed back-to-back solo home runs in the fifth. With freshman pitcher Lauren Craine unavailable due to a right forearm injury and mechanical issues, Underwood was brought back in for the sixth inning, giving up two more runs.

The Hico native gave up a season-high 10 earned runs on nine hits, two walks and no strikeouts over 2.1 innings of work.

“As soon as we started off that first game yesterday, it was apparent. Nothing was working,” Underwood said. “I just think all good teams go through this and hopefully our [skid] is just three games and we’re over it.”

With a run-rule loss looming, freshman outfielder Hannah Gerecke capped off her 3-3 day with a single in the sixth inning. But North Texas was unable to score, as Schkade struck out looking to end the game.

The Mean Green have just 12 conference games on the conference schedule and will need to make up ground to be one of the eight teams that qualify for the C-USA tournament in May.

“I’m glad we’re stepping out of conference for the next six games,” Kee said. “As difficult as those games are going to be, I think it will give us some time to get our game back in check.”

North Texas will look to end its season-high four game losing streak versus the University of Texas at Arlington on Wednesday in Denton. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.

Featured Image: Freshman infielder Rhyle Makawe (21) tags out a Florida International runner. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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