North Texas Daily

Softball in danger of missing hometown conference tournament next month

Softball in danger of missing hometown conference tournament next month

April 21
00:43 2016

Clay Massey | Staff Writer


With nine conference games remaining and a (3-12) record in conference play, North Texas softball sits dead last in Conference-USA.

The Mean Green must jump three teams if they don’t want to watch the conference tournament from the stands of their home ballpark – the first conference tournament being held in Denton since the 2009 Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

“It would be very embarrassing,” junior shortstop Kelli Schkade said. “Really, it wouldn’t be any more embarrassing to not make it anywhere else. It’s here, we don’t have to travel, and we should take advantage of that.”

Conference play has been a struggle for the Mean Green ever since it started on the wrong foot with a sweep at the hands of the University of Texas at San Antonio in its first series. North Texas has only won one conference series since, taking two of three from Western Kentucky University.

“Every series is a big series for us,” head coach Tracey Kee said. “We’ve been chasing everybody since we got swept that first outing. Each [of the] 12 series-games left is important.”

One team North Texas must jump is eighth place Louisiana Tech University (23-16, 5-7), who North Texas hosts in Denton this weekend.  This series, along with the remaining conference series has become a must win for North Texas given its current position.

But even if the Mean Green win many of its final conference games, the team will still need some outside help, needing the teams in front of them to slip down the stretch. Kee, however, said she’s not scoreboard watching.

North Texas freshman utility player Rhylie Makawe (21) swings at a ball thrown by a University of Texas at Arlington pitcher. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Freshman utility player Rhylie Makawe (21) swings at a ball thrown by a University of Texas at Arlington pitcher. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

“I haven’t looked at who can help us,” Kee said. “It’s just a matter of us taking care of our own business.”

Right in the middle of all of the final conference series are three tough non-conference games that could cause some wear and tear to a struggling North Texas. Texas Tech University comes to town for a double-header next week, and then, before the final conference series, the Mean Green travel to Austin to play the University of Texas in a match rescheduled after the March 9 rainout.

North Texas has lost four straight going into this weekend’s series with LA Tech and has only won two of its last ten. Part of the problem is a stalling offense, as North Texas has been outscored by its opponents 51-21 over the past ten games.

The pitching staff has also had trouble holding things close, posting a combined 6.22 ERA in those same 10 contests.

“I think our offense has carried us the whole year,” Kee said. “I think we just need to pitch a little better.”

Freshman first baseman Rhylie Makawe thinks her team is capable of finding their way into the conference tournament despite the uphill battle in front of them. After starting the season strong, Makawe is one of many North Texas hitters struggling to maintain their rhythm down the stretch.

While currently sitting as a .261 hitter, she is just 3-for-28 over the past 10 games with two RBIs.

“We literally have our backs against the wall,” Makawe said. “We need to go out there and do what we know we’re capable of.”

The “backs against the wall” attitude is what Kee is using to try and get her team out of its conference funk. After not winning at the beginning of conference, the time is now for North Texas to pick up the slack if it wants to be playing at Lovelace Stadium in mid-May.

“We’re dead last,” Kee said. “Our kids know that. It’s something they’ve knew from the beginning. We’ve kind of backed ourselves up against the wall, and we’re the only people who can get us out of it.”

Featured Image: Freshman infielder Harley Perella (3) pulls the ball out of her glove to get ready to throw it to first base against Marshall. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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