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Softball opponents pitching around infielder Schkade

Softball opponents pitching around infielder Schkade

North Texas junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) hits a ground ball into the infield against Sam Houston State. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Softball opponents pitching around infielder Schkade
April 18
17:02 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

Since her first at-bat of the season, junior infielder Kelli Schkade has been the anchor of Mean Green softball’s offense. However, her performance over the course of the season has created a new challenge.

When facing Schkade in a tight situation, opposing teams have begun to pitch around the North Texas slugger, giving her a free base and moving on to the next batter in the lineup. Schkade is the only hitter for the Mean Green to be intentionally walked this season, and it’s happened four times.

“It’s frustrating in the sense that I want to do something for my team and help my team win,” Schkade said. “But I know that another runner on base is helping the team in the long run, so I can’t get mad about that.”

Schkade’s prowess at the dish has been undeniable. She has started every game this season and leads North Texas in batting average (.406), hits (56), home runs (12), RBIs (37) and walks (20). So when she’s due up at the plate with multiple runners on base, opposing pitchers have avoided her bat as much as possible.

Schkade said she expected a switch to the middle of the order this season, but has accepted her role as the first hitter in the order.

North Texas junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) runs to first base after hitting a ball into the shallow part of the infield against the University of Texas at Arlington. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) runs to first base after hitting a ball into the shallow part of the infield against the University of Texas at Arlington. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

“It’s just something I took, and I ran with it,” Schkade said. “I’ve tried to be the most successful at that position. The coaches believe in me there, and I am comfortable there. I’m fine with wherever they want to put me.”

Batting leadoff has limited Schkade’s opportunities to drive in even more runs than she already has, but senior utility player Karly Williams said keeping her at the top of the order has plenty of benefits.

“She’s definitely a good leadoff,” Williams said. “She gets on a lot when she leads off an inning or even a game. It’s kind of a punch to the other team if she hits a bomb in her first at-bat.”

After starting the season on a school-record 19-game hitting streak, Schkade quickly became a force to be reckoned with in Conference USA. As the season went on, the walks began to pile up.

In a doubleheader against C-USA foe Florida International University earlier this month, Schkade was walked five times and hit by a pitch once in eight at-bats. Yet, the Mean Green lost both games, mustering only one run combined.
“We weren’t able to respond when people were working around Kelli,” head coach Tracey Kee said. “When you have one person not hitting in the lineup, you can deal with it. But when your whole front half isn’t swinging it, then typically things aren’t going to go your way.”

While Schkade has a knack for getting on base to start innings, Williams said the hitters who follow shouldn’t overthink at the plate.

“We shouldn’t put pressure on the other eight people in the lineup besides Kelli,” Wiliams said. “It’s an opportunity for everybody else to step up and get the job done.”

Despite the team’s positive mindset, success hasn’t been easy to come by. The Mean Green has lost 11 of its past 13 games, averaging less than two runs per game over that span.

North Texas junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) looks at assistant coach Natalie Kozlowski after making it to first base against the University of Tennessee-Martin. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) looks at assistant coach Natalie Kozlowski after making it to first base against the University of Tennessee-Martin. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

In an effort to mix things up, Kee moved Schkade to second in the lineup Sunday against the University of Southern Mississippi, but North Texas lost 3-2. No matter where she hits in the lineup going forward, Schkade said keeping her approach consistent is what’s most important.

“I’ve got to be patient,” Schkade said. “I can’t chase balls out of the zone. I can’t force something to happen. I have to be as selfless as I can. If they want to walk me, that’s one more runner we have on base to be able to score.”

Featured Image: Junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) hits a ground ball into the infield against Sam Houston State. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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