North Texas Daily

Kee’s do-it-all offense leads to dynamic numbers at the plate

Kee’s do-it-all offense leads to dynamic numbers at the plate

March 28
17:53 2018

After a four season stint in the ‘80s, North Texas softball restarted the program in 2004. Since then, there has not been a better power hitting team in the history of the program than this 2018 team.

This 2018 team has the highest slugging percentage (.478) and the most home runs per game (1.26) of any team in North Texas history, and only one other team has hit over one homer per game (2010).

This year’s Mean Green are hitting .284 overall, which is fourth in Conference USA. However, the one thing that has made the offense stand out is their ability to hit the ball far. North Texas is currently ranked first in C-USA and seventh in the nation in Division I with 38 home runs so far this season.

For head coach Tracey Kee, the power hitting is a slight stray away from her usual small-ball approach but has been a central focus in her strategy for picking up victories this season.

“I think the long ball has been kind of a surprise,” Kee said. “We’re not an overly big team, but these kids pack a lot of power and are mechanically solid.”

Even though sophomore outfielder Hanna Rebar leads the team in home runs with 10, it is Sam Rea who has recently emerged over the past couple of weeks. Six of Rea’s seven home runs have come in the last 10 games.

However, much like Kee, Rea believes hitting balls out of the park still comes in second behind executing the small-ball style that Kee has etched into her program.

“We definitely don’t like to rely on the long ball,” Rea said. “We like to get people on, get them over and get them in. We just try to string together hits as a team, rather than just relying on one person to do the job.”

Hitting coach Natalie Kozlowski stresses the importance of this kind of mindset. Kozlowski makes sure to keep that a priority both during games, and on the practice field.

“It’s huge for us,” Kozlowski said. “It’s part of our everyday routine. We make sure we work the details and the fundamentals of it every single day.”

Kozlowski enters her third year as an assistant coach for North Texas and continues to make her impact for Kee’s offense.

“Coach Kozlowski has worked a lot on the mental side of what you do on deck, in the box and what changes need to be made,” Kee said. “She just really makes them understand the small details in the game, stay ahead of the adjustments the pitcher is making and just overall smarter hitters.”

Mental focus does show to be the big key for the North Texas offense. Having confidence and making contact are what Kozlowski hopes is going on inside her player’s minds when they step up to the plate.

“We want to put the pressure on the other team’s defense, so our whole goal is just to put the ball in play,” Kozlowski said. “If we can make adjustments in the box and have solid contact, good things will happen.”

North Texas seems to have found the balance between not only hitting shots over the fence but also doing what they need to do in order to move runners around the bases. Along with being the home run leaders in C-USA, they are also tied for first in the conference in sacrifice bunts with 39.

Sophomore infielder Lindsay Gregory is second individually in that category with nine sac bunts on the season.

“It’s comforting to know if we’re down by one that one swing of the bat can put us back in the game,” Gregory said. “But at the same time, we know it is important to manufacture runs, and we use small ball to do that.”

Being a second year player, Gregory mentioned she has noticed a different type of approach throughout the team now that hitters throughout the lineup all have the potential to manage whatever task is thrown at them.

“I think last year we just kind of only used the top our lineup to manufacture runs,” Gregory said. “This year, everyone in the lineup is a threat.”

Even with the success the team has had at the plate so far this season, the Mean Green’s 15-15 record shows that there is still more room for improvement if they want to continue to make a run for the C-USA championship with still 24 games remaining on the schedule.

“You see a lot of teams collect back-to-back hits that lead to runs and not really rely on the home run ball,” Rea said. “We really just need to work on getting timely hits when we have runners in scoring position to bring across some more runs.”

Until then, Kee plans on continuing to go with her usual game plan. Get the bunts down when needed and move runners over, but if the ball happens to go over the wall from time to time, she will not complain.

“To be able to have a balance attack with power but yet a short game really puts pressure on the other team,” Kee said. “With these kids, we’re not even trying to hit home runs. They’re just squaring balls up and that takes care of it.”

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Luis Diosdado

Luis Diosdado

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