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Softball completes undefeated weekend at Mean Green Spring Fling

Softball completes undefeated weekend at Mean Green Spring Fling

North Texas freshman utility player Harley Parella (3) hits a ground ball into the dirt against Nicholls State during the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Softball completes undefeated weekend at Mean Green Spring Fling
March 06
15:32 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

North Texas softball capped off the Mean Green Spring Fling with wins over Nicholls State University and Houston Baptist University on Sunday afternoon.

The Mean Green (13-6) now have a five-game winning streak, which is exactly what head coach Tracey Kee was looking for after dropping its final two games at home last weekend.

“The sense of urgency and them just being able to get their minds in a better spot [was something] I thought they did,” Kee said. “Their energy level was up. When this group is playing loose, then we tend to swing the bats.”

Nicholls State 2, North Texas 3

Despite a dominating performance from junior pitcher Jessica Elder through the first six innings, the Mean Green had its backs against the wall in the final frame.

After allowing an infield single in the top of the first, Elder headed into the seventh shooting for a complete game on a streak of 16 consecutive outs, keeping Nicholls State (13-9) off-balance with change-ups throughout the contest. Elder allowed two runs three hits and a walk in the last inning, but freshman Lauren Craine was called upon in relief and got two clutch outs with the bases loaded to seal the victory.

North Texas freshman utility player Harley Parella (3) slides into second base on a stolen base against Nicholls State during the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

North Texas freshman utility player Harley Parella (3) slides into second base on a stolen base against Nicholls State during the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

“It was mostly important to keep the ball low, spin it tight and let my defense take care of the ground balls and fly balls,” Elder said.

Offensively, the Mean Green played a balanced game. Danielle Gregory’s first inning at-bat was cut short on a failed steal attempt, but the junior outfielder started the second with a home run blast to left field to put North Texas on the board first. Just four pitches later, a nearly identical solo shot flew over the wall, coming off the bat of freshman utility player Harley Perella to take an early 2-0 lead.

Nicholls State tried to ignite a rally with a bunt attempt to start the third, but the Mean Green had it sniffed out. North Texas used the same strategy successfully in the bottom half of the inning, as junior infielder Kelli Schkade extended her school-record hitting streak to 18 games with a bunt single.

A sacrifice bunt moved her to second, and a single on a two-strike count from Gregory drove her in to extend the lead. North Texas went on to strand a runner on third in both the fifth and six innings, but ultimately had enough breathing room to survive the late run from the Colonels.

“I was assuming we’d be in [a pitcher’s duel] much like we were,” Kee said. “We had a couple timely hits, and when you’re not putting double digit hits on the board, you need timely hits left and right.”

North Texas 15, Houston Baptist 1 (5)

The latter matchup of the Mean Green double header wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the first. An offensive explosion gave North Texas its highest scoring game of the season and third output of 10 or more runs, activating the mercy rule after five innings.

The Mean Green hit .500 as a team with just one strikeout, and its offensive outburst of 15 runs was the highest in a game since Feb. 21, 2014.

“Hitting is contagious,” Kee said. “When one kid gets a hit, you pass that information down, what you saw and what the pitcher did to you. It’s a whole information battle, and I thought our kids did a good job of communicating with each other.”

North Texas senior utility player Karly Williams (11) stands in the batters box as a pitch comes in during a game against Nicholls State in the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

North Texas senior utility player Karly Williams (11) stands in the batters box as a pitch comes in during a game against Nicholls State in the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

The Mean Green’s bats were stymied in the first inning, but an RBI single from sophomore infielder Lauren Miller scored the team’s first run in the second. Then, the afternoon matchup turned into a nightmare for Houston Baptist (8-8).

North Texas plated five runs in the third inning, the first two coming on a Schkade home run to straightaway center field, her eighth home run of the year. Senior utility player Karly Williams followed it up with a solo shot to left to give the Mean Green its second back-to-back home run of the day, and senior catcher Bryana Wade capped off the inning with a two-RBI single.

After adding two more runs on the board in the fourth, North Texas went off in a seven-run fifth inning, fueled by a pair of three-run homers. One came from Williams, who finished the game with two HRs and four RBIs.

“I was struggling the whole week,” Williams said. “I was just trying to make good contact on the ball there at the end, just to get some confidence with it.”

Junior pitcher Stacey Underwood improved to 5-3 on the season with 4.0 shutout innings, allowing three hits and one walk. Craine came in for the final inning with a big cushion but couldn’t complete the shutout, giving up one run on two hits and a walk.

The Mean Green will be back in action Wednesday on the road versus the University of Texas. First pitch will be at 6 p.m.

Featured Image: North Texas freshman utility player Harley Parella (3) hits a ground ball into the dirt against Nicholls State during the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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