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Rotating softball line-up keeping team on its toes

Rotating softball line-up keeping team on its toes

Junior infielder Kelli Schkade swings for the ball during practice. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Rotating softball line-up keeping team on its toes
February 18
00:07 2016

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

When the North Texas softball team opened play last weekend at the Hillenbrand Invitation in Arizona, the starting line-up was largely still up in the air.

Head coach Tracey Kee hopes to continue keeping that fluidity and choose her line-ups based on what she sees in practice each week. In Arizona, Kee changed her starting line-up three times and switched the batting order in all five times.

“We’re so athletic that it’s going to be a rotating line-up. And they understand that,” Kee said. “They also understand that they’ve got to swing the bat to be in the lineup. I think for us, having so many new people, the key was to get them in games and try and get some of those nerves off of them as quickly as possible.”

One youngster who seemed to shake the nerves off when put in the line-up was freshman utility player Rhylie Makawe. She started out playing in the outfield in the lead-up to the season but was moved to first base after Kee experimented with her there.

As a utility player, Makawe can play multiple positions on the field. The freshman was dropped into her first collegiate game at first base and batted eighth in the order on opening day against the University of Arizona. Makawe’s defense was also on display with seven put-outs against Arizona.

Freshman pitcher Lauren Crine throws the ball towards the plate during team pratcie. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Freshman pitcher Lauren Crine throws the ball towards the plate during team practice. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

She appeared in every game over the weekend for the Mean Green, hitting .385 on the season with four RBIs, but is still never sure where she might end up on the field on a game-to-game basis.

That’s not to say she isn’t prepared for whatever may come her way.

“I’m not really sure what position I’m playing until coach sends the line-up out,” Makawe said. “Last weekend I played at first, and I’d been practicing at first and as well as outfield. Since I’ve been doing both, I was prepared for whichever one I was going to play.”

Kee does her part in making sure each of her players are prepared for whatever role they could see during the run of play. To do so, Kee gives her players reps in various positions, making for a very active practice with players bouncing around from spot-to-spot.

The concept isn’t as prevalent in most other sports.

“We spend as much time working our secondary positions as we do our primaries,” Kee said. “For us, they understand that we’re going to give them all the looks they need at both positions to feel as comfortable as possible.”

Senior utility player Karly Williams can attest to Kee’s philosophy. As a senior, Williams has racked up 119 starts between second base, shortstop and third base.

Williams became a middle-infield aficionado last season, starting 46 games between second and short with the majority of her starts being at second. She racked up a .982 fielding average, helping turn two double plays and committing only three errors.

Williams welcomes the rotating line-up citing and the competitiveness it brings.

“It makes it more competitive every single day knowing that no matter where you are somebody is going to be behind you fighting for that spot,” Williams said. “It keeps everybody working hard and having that intensity every day.”

Freshman pitcher Lauren Craine throws the ball during a bullpen session before team practice beings. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Freshman pitcher Lauren Craine throws the ball during a bullpen session before team practice beings. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Kee doesn’t plan on changing her philosophy and plans to always keep her options open with her line-up, especially considering she has a vast array of options to choose from with five utility players. For Kee, the unpredictable nature of her line-up is a way to keep opponents on their toes.

“It’s exciting,” Kee said. “I think a lot of it is that’s what we’re built on. We want the athleticism, we want the versatile kids and we want the kids that are going to complete. And I think as long as they know that line-up is not set for 56 games, they’ll continue to work hard.”

Featured Image: Junior infielder Kelli Schkade swings for the ball during practice. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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