North Texas Daily

Softball still relying on defense-first approach

Softball still relying on defense-first approach

North Texas freshman infielder Rhylie Makawe (21) fields a ball between home plate and the pitchers mound and prepares to throw it to first base against Marshall. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Softball still relying on defense-first approach
April 04
19:42 2016

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer

@ReeceWaddell15

In a day and age where Stephen Curry drains 40-foot three pointers on a regular basis and college football offenses have converted to high-octane attacks, it’s easy to see how the mantra “defense wins championships” has gotten lost.

That is not the case for North Texas softball or head coach Tracey Kee.

Last season, the Mean Green had the best fielding percentage in Conference USA at .978 percent, a trend that carried over into 2016. Through 34 games, North Texas continues to flash the leather with a fielding percentage of .980 while committing just 17 errors, the fewest in C-USA.

“[Defense] has always been something I’ve prided myself in – building teams that are defensively strong,” Kee said. “We spend a lot of time on it. We teach a system that’s very black and white.”

To build those teams, Kee stresses the importance of fielding, throwing and catching to ensure her players are fundamentally sound. During a practice last week, junior pitchers Jessica Elder and Stacey Underwood, and freshman pitcher Lauren Craine spent well over 30 minutes working on the same drill.

After fielding a ground ball from the circle, each would fire a throw to first, second or third base, where another pitcher would catch it and occasionally apply a tag to an imaginary runner.

“We come out and work really hard on defense,” junior infielder Kelli Schkade said. “It’s always been our strong suit. You can’t win games if you don’t have good defense. It’s as simple as that.”

But in order for the defense to have a chance to make plays, pitchers must keep the ball in the yard and not give up hits.

North Texas junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) cocks her arm back to throw a ball to first base to try and throw a Marshall runner out. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Junior infielder Kelli Schkade (9) cocks her arm back to throw a ball to first base to try and throw a Marshall runner out. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

For the game plan to work, Kee teaches her pitchers to “pitch to the defense.” Instead of focusing on striking every batter out, Kee prefers for pitchers to hit their spots and let the defense make the necessary plays behind them.

So far, the strategy has worked. Along with having multiple web gems to its credit, North Texas has also turned eight double plays this season and ranks sixth in C-USA.

“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Schkade said. “The pitchers believe in us, too. They’re comfortable on the mound because we’re comfortable behind them.”

A shortstop who patrols the middle of the infield, Schkade is responsible for fielding ground balls in the hole, covering second base and reining in throws from senior catcher Bryana Wade – something that is not always an easy task.

Wade has thrown out 59 percent of runners attempting to swipe a bag this year, gunning down 13-of-22 opposing baserunners before they’re able to slide in safely.

“[Wade] is hard to catch,” Kee said. “She gets rid of it so quickly. I think her timing this year with [Schkade] is a lot better than it was last year. Together, those two are doing a great job of shutting down running games.”

North Texas senior catcher Bryana Wade (23) fields a ball right in front of home plate and gets ready to throw it to first base against Nicholls State. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Senior catcher Bryana Wade (23) fields a ball right in front of home plate and gets ready to throw it to first base against Nicholls State. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Schkade and Wade are no strangers to Kee’s defense-first approach, having spent multiple years in her program. But according to Kee, even the Mean Green’s newcomers have bought into Kee’s tutelage, which was crucial considering the high volume of newcomers.

“We have a lot of freshmen and junior college kids that have really bought into the system, and we’ve played some tough teams,” Kee said. “So I’m pleased with our defense all the way around.”

Featured Image: Freshman infielder Rhylie Makawe (21) fields a ball between home plate and the pitchers mound and prepares to throw it to first base against Marshall. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

About Author

Reporter

Reporter

Related Articles

0 Comments

No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Twitter Feed

North Texas Daily @ntdaily
OPINION: Children deserve kindness, even if you are not fond of them📝 @rachel_m_card 🖼️ @ooopsrobynn https://t.co/dViTPSoGgb
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
OPINION: The difference between gentrification and revitalization📝 @ShelbyLStevens3 🖼️ @ooopsrobynn https://t.co/WMOj2VG7RY
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
OPINION: Domestic terrorism needs to be America’s first priority📝 @JBobbieNA 🖼️ @GishhyOrange https://t.co/kMSL2EdS69
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
@lat2049: Very happy @OberkromJaden and I ended the semester on a high. @tarpwill and @Tzac24 were amazing to talk to about this show and all things MCU, from favorite installments to fondest memories to what we’re most excited to see. Hope you guys have fun listening to this one. https://t.co/6mbkMeqSvw
h J R
North Texas Daily @ntdaily
@tarpwill: Sorry I didn’t promote this last night, but @Tzac24 and I joined @OberkromJaden and @lat2049 to discuss #FalconAndWinterSoldier on the Daily’s DOSE podcast! We talked about what worked, what didn’t and our excitement for the future of the MCU!@ntdaily https://t.co/tCdDhHOHw3
h J R

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad

Instagram