North Texas Daily

Mean Green softball determined to avoid another conference collapse

Mean Green softball determined to avoid another conference collapse

April 05
15:07 2017

This time last season, the Mean Green softball team was close to making history – and not in a good way. That’s because on April 13, 2016, North Texas went on one of the worst losing streaks in program history, dropping 14 consecutive games.

The losing skid ultimately cost them a shot at the Conference USA tournament that was being hosted on their own home field. With their season having gone off the tracks, the Mean Green were forced to watch other teams compete for the title in their own backyard.

And they are determined to not let history repeat itself.

“We’ve really grown as a team,” senior pitcher Jessica Elder said. “Our mental toughness has really been one of our biggest improvements. It allows us to be gritty and go attack other teams.”

After 34 games this season, North Texas sports an 18-16 record – the same record they had in 2016 after just as many games. Before the nearly month-long losing streak began last year, the Mean Green had better statistics than most of their conference foes.

They were batting .301 as a team, had a run differential of plus 20 and the pitching staff had an ERA of 3.88 compared to their opponent’s 4.26 ERA. Despite stats that showed a strong team, North Texas managed to win only five games in C-USA.

A stat that ultimately buried them.

“Last year I don’t think [the players] quite understood how it worked in regards to conference format,” head coach Tracey Kee said. “I think now they understand the importance of [playing strong in conference] and that everything up until the first conference game is just a warm up.”

Compared to this point last season, North Texas is 6-6 in C-USA as opposed to 3-9. And although they are undefeated at home in conference play, the Mean Green have yet to snag a victory on the road.

Sophomore first baseman Rhylie Makawe believes the difference in play this year is all about how they respond after defeats.

“Last season we had rough patches that we just couldn’t seem to get out of,” Makawe said. “I believe we’re getting better at bouncing back after losses. Last season if we lost the first game, everything went downhill from there.”

In 12 conference games this season, North Texas has only four losses by three or more runs. In 2016, that total was six, and grew to 12 games by the end of the year.

The Mean Green are also plating runs more effectively in 2017.

Last year in conference North Texas’ run differential was minus 14. This year the Mean Green have cut that in half to minus seven. This has become vital to their improvement in C-USA play, because unlike 2016, North Texas limits the damage in big innings and does not let games get away from them.

The Mean Green will play four more conference series this season, with two coming at Lovelace Stadium and two coming on the road. Three of the four upcoming opponents have winning records, with the lone exception being Southern Mississippi University, who they play this weekend.

And Kee knows just how important it is to protect their home field.

“Based on the fact that we’ve been swept twice on the road, [being undefeated at home] is crucial,” Kee said. “It’s all about winning the series. If we could get a little more consistency and put a couple wins in the win column on the road, we would be in a much better situation.”

Finding consistency will be arguably the most important factor if North Texas hopes to avoid another conference collapse. While the Mean Green have rattled off two four-game win streaks this year, those win streaks have been followed with four and three-game losing skids.

“We hit spurts where we’re playing really well and then we sometimes just can’t get that clutch hit,” Kee said. “Some days people are like ‘are you ready?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t know, it depends one what team is going to show up.’”

With their season entering the home stretch, North Texas is determined to not suffer another losing streak that costs them a chance to compete for a conference title.

Because come May, the Mean Green want to be on the field – not on the couch.

“We try to have them as prepared as best as we can,” Kee said. “This group right now is relaxed, having fun and settling in so hopefully we’ll have some positive results.”

Featured Image: At the 12 p.m. softball game versus UTEP on Saturday, March 11, Head Coach Tracey Kee directs the UNT players that are next to bat. UNT won both of the C-USA opening games versus UTEP, 2-0 and 8-6. Katie Jenkins

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Morgan Price

Morgan Price

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