North Texas Daily

Softball looking to recover from dismal second half

Softball looking to recover from dismal second half

May 05
03:03 2016

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

When the North Texas softball team entered conference play, it was riding the high of a five-game winning streak. The team had received votes to become nationally ranked and was sitting on a 13-6 record – the second best start in school history.

However, the opening weekend of Conference USA play set the tone for what was to come for the Mean Green. After the University of Texas at San Antonio swept North Texas in its first C-USA series, the Mean Green could not get back on track.

Since then, North Texas has posted a 3-18 record in C-USA with just one conference series remaining. Head coach Tracey Kee said the grind of a 55-game season caught up to her young team.

“I’ve seen it more so physically and mentally,” Kee said. “They’re just tired. I don’t think the UTSA series set up what was to come more than it just put us behind the eight ball.”

When North Texas began to skid after the sweep at the hands of UTSA, North Texas could never quite get out of its funk, even with wins in non-conference games that were sprinkled in. After C-USA play began, the Mean Green were 4-5 in non-conference games.

“We were definitely surprised [at poor conference start],” Schkade said. “Ever since this season started I felt we had a good chance. Everyone was clicking on and off the field. So when we didn’t start performing in conference I was shocked, and I think everyone else was too.”

Junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) drives a ball off of her bat against Louisiana Tech. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) drives a ball off of her bat against Louisiana Tech. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

After being mathematically eliminated from postseason play with a sweep at the hands of the University of Southern Mississippi, the Mean Green shifted its focus to sending the team’s two seniors out on a high note.

Senior catcher Bryana Wade and senior second baseman Karly Williams’ days have become numbered in North Texas uniforms, and their teammates are doing their best to finish strong. Williams said she realized how few moments she had left after last weekend’s games against the University of Texas at El Paso.

“At this point in the season, everybody is feeling it,” Williams said. “We only get so many off days, and it’s definitely a struggle.”

Wade and Williams are the only two players on the squad who experienced Kee’s first year in charge and the mass exit of a lot of their teammates last year. While the team has put in work this offseason to make sure they were physically fit to the best of their ability, Williams said she’s felt the wear and tear as well.

One of the areas where fatigue seemed it would be easiest to infect was the pitching staff, as the rotation featured just three pitchers. Two of them, juniors Stacey Underwood and Jessica Elder, have notched more than 120 innings each, and freshman Lauren Craine has more than 60 innings under her belt.

Kee said a fourth arm would not have been much help, as her pitching staff seemed to struggle together. In the current stretch of a 13-game losing streak, the staff has allowed a combined 76 runs, or just under six per game.

“I think not having three pitchers off at the same time would have helped,” Kee said. “We went through a stretch where none of the three were throwing well.”

During the current 13-game losing streak, North Texas has been outscored 76-28 and has been shut out three times. After a blazing hot start where she was hitting well over .400, junior shortstop Kelli Schkade has cooled off, but not by much, as she is now sitting at .389.

With just two seniors, the Mean Green will be returning a majority of this year’s squad that started so hot. And with the disappointment of missing the C-USA tournament hosted in Denton, the Mean Green have begun to look forward.

“We didn’t really have anything to lose this season because we were new,” Schkade said. “We wanted to prove ourselves, and we might not have done that, but we know next year could be completely different. I hope we remember how it feels to be in this situation. I think that bitter taste in our mouth will help us next season.”

Featured Image: Freshman utility player Harley Perella (3) fouls off a pitch against the University of Tennessee-Martin. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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