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Softball splits Marshall doubleheader, earns first conference win

Softball splits Marshall doubleheader, earns first conference win

The North Texas Softball team stands at home plate to congratulate junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) after hitting a home run against the Univeristy of Tennesee-Martin during the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Softball splits Marshall doubleheader, earns first conference win
March 19
19:05 2016

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

Coming off a stretch of four losses in its past five games, Mean Green softball got back on track Saturday, splitting a doubleheader with Marshall University.

North Texas (15-10, 1-4) struggled in multiple facets in the first game against Marshall (15-10, 3-1), but beat the Herd at its own game later in the afternoon, finally earning the conference victory it has been craving since being swept by the University of Texas at San Antonio last weekend.

“We talked about UTSA, how to play with an edge and how to really take advantage of other team’s mistakes,” head coach Tracey Kee said. “I thought the first game they did that to us, but we were able to turn it around and flip the script in the second game.”

Marshall 4, North Texas 1

A misplayed routine ground ball by junior infielder Kelli Schkade began game one of the doubleheader, which set the tone for a rough game for the Mean Green.

Marshall capitalized on the mistake, beating out a sacrifice bunt and hitting a line-drive RBI single to get on the board first. The Herd utilized a suicide squeeze to score its second run, putting North Texas in a hole before getting its first plate appearance.

The Mean Green elected to keep starting pitcher Stacey Underwood in for the full 7.0 innings. The junior found herself in fourth and fifth inning jams with two runners on and no outs, but managed a line of 10 hits and four runs (two earned) with seven strikeouts.

Senior outfielder Kaelynn Greene was the spark that fueled the Marshall fire, going 4-for-4 with three bunt singles. She also added her 29th steal of her season, the most in Conference-USA.

Even with Greene, the Herd scored its runs in unorthodox fashion. With runners on the corners in the fifth inning, a double steal put a run on the board, and in the fourth, an error from junior outfielder Danielle Gregory brought in a run after throwing out a runner at home the previous play. It was one of three errors committed by the Mean Green in the game.

“I thought we made a lot of uncharacteristic errors that we typically don’t make as a squad, and we addressed that,” Kee said.

C-USA co-pitcher of the week Jordan Dixon kept the North Texas bats cold throughout the contest, allowing five hits and adding 10 strikeouts in a complete game effort. Her chance at a shutout was shot down when freshman utility player Rhylie Makawe ripped a solo home run in between the flags in left field in the seventh inning.

“We needed to make more adjustments, move outside the box and on the plate,” Schkade said. “Her velocity was pretty good, and she had good movement today, so that made it harder.”

Marshall 1, North Texas 7

The opening play from Schkade foreshadowed how the rest of the game went once again, and this time, the Mean Green was on the right end of the stick. Schkade crushed a home run off the left field light post for the game’s first run, and an RBI double from Makawe later in the inning extended the lead to 2-0.

“Even without the home run, we would have been just fine,” Schkade said. “Our contact in the second game was so much better. We were hitting the ball hard in the gaps and making things happen on the base paths.”

North Texas stranded three runners after adding another run in the third, but made up for its missed opportunities soon after. The Mean Green took a 4-0 lead in the fourth and exploded for three runs in the fifth. However, with a chance to earn end the game and earn a run-rule victory, senior utility player Karly Williams was picked off by the catcher at third to end the inning.

Through all the rallies at the plate, junior pitcher Jessica Elder delivered a dominating performance on the mound. The southpaw turned in a complete game of 7.0 innings with just seven hits to improve to 8-4 on the season. She nearly had her first shutout of the season, but Marshall plated a run with two outs in the final inning.

“We’ve been wanting a shutout for all our pitchers since day one,” Elder said. “We were so close, but it just came down to the nit-and-grit, and we just pulled through.”

Overall, a balanced offensive performance made the difference for the Mean Green. The team notched four steals, drew five walks and only struck out once, all while getting two-hit performances from four different hitters.

“We just wanted to put the game in motion,” Kee said. “They did that to us in the first game, and we didn’t respond well. For us to swipe some bags and be aggressive on the base paths, that was key for us. We ran ourselves into some runs. We didn’t sit around and wait for our hitters to drive them in.”

North Texas will complete the weekend series versus Marshall tomorrow. First pitch will be at 12 p.m.

Featured Image: The North Texas Softball team stands at home plate to congratulate junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) after hitting a home run against the Univeristy of Tennesee-Martin during the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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