North Texas Daily

Softball sweeps opening tournament behind strong performances from Peters, Smith

Softball sweeps opening tournament behind strong performances from Peters, Smith

Softball sweeps opening tournament behind strong performances from Peters, Smith
February 14
17:43 2023

In its debut tournament of 2023, softball swept the Buzz Classic hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology. 

Taking its first D1 Softball preseason ranking into Atlanta, North Texas (4-0) won its first four out of four contests. The Mean Green were rewarded for their efforts by D1Softball, as the publication raised the team two spots to No. 22 in its poll.

“It’s great to get four wins on the road to open the season,” head coach Rodney DeLong said. “I am happy with how we played but we still have a ways to go. I am, however, excited about the potential of this group.” 

Senior left-handed pitcher Ashley Peters won Conference USA pitcher of the week for her efforts in the tournament. In two starts, Peters — the C-USA preseason pitcher of the year — pitched two complete games, gave up zero earned runs and struck out nine batters. 

North Texas’ offense was led by junior second baseman Mikayla Smith. Smith hit four home runs during the entirety of 2022, but showed a stroke of power at the Buzz Classic, hitting three in the tournament. The third-year infielder took 11 at-bats, reaching base in seven of them.   

The team’s debut game was on Feb. 10 against the University of Illinois-Chicago (0-3). Sophomore right-handed pitcher Skylar Savage started, pitching a brief 1.2 innings before being relieved by junior right-handed pitcher McKenzie Wagoner. 

In her debut in relief for the Mean Green, Wagoner pitched 4.2 innings, striking out 10 and surrendering three hits. North Texas won the contest 5-0, with Wagoner picking up the win and sophomore outfielder Lexi Cobb hitting her first home run of the season to leadoff the contest. 

Saint Francis University (2-2) opposed the Mean Green in the second game of Friday’s double-header. Peters made her season debut in the circle, pitching a five-inning complete game shutout and striking out six Red Flash batters.

North Texas’ offense jumped on Saint Francis starter and senior right-handed pitcher Rachel Marsden early, scoring three runs in the first inning. Following a leadoff Cobb double, redshirt freshman third baseman Tatum Sparks hit her first RBI for the Mean Green on a 4-3 groundout. Freshman outfielder Jodie Epperson added to the early North Texas lead with a two RBI single. 

A two RBI double off the bat of junior catcher Kalei Christensen extended the lead to 5-0 in the second. Junior right fielder Molly Rainey hit her first home run in 2023 in the fourth as she jumped on the first pitch she saw and drove the ball over the right-centerfield wall. 

A shutout top of the fifth for Peters led to a game-winning two RBI double by senior infielder Saleen Donohoe in the bottom half. Donohoe’s hit completed an 8-0 run-rule victory for the Mean Green. 

North Texas won its only game on Saturday over the University of Connecticut (1-2) in six innings as the offense capitalized on a big fourth inning. Savage took the circle for the Mean Green, picking up her first win of the season by going four innings, earning one run and striking out five. 

Once again taking an early lead, Smith hit her first home run of the season in the third inning, a three-run shot. A quiet third inning for North Texas led to a fourth inning which saw all nine batters take an at-bat. 

Smith hit the first RBI of the inning with a single and was followed by her middle infield teammate, sophomore shortstop Cierra Simon with a two RBI double. A Sparks RBI groundout and Rainey walk ended the five-run frame. 

Junior infielder Jana Sanden hit in the first UConn run of the contest in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single. The Mean Green responded in the following frame with junior first baseman Kailey Gamble’s first home run of the season and an RBI single by Simon to make it a 10-1 game. 

Needing two runs to keep the game alive, the Huskies got just one, a home run by freshman catcher Grace Jenkins off Wagoner. After another single, Wagoner struck out the final UConn batter of the contest, securing a 10-2 victory. 

After Saturday’s second game was canceled, North Texas faced Georgia Tech (2-2) in its tournament closer on Sunday. A pitcher’s duel between Peters and senior right-handed pitcher Blake Neleman was won by the former as the lefty pitched her second complete game of the weekend. 

Three home runs defined the contest. The first was Smith’s second in as many days to give the Mean Green a one-run lead in the second inning. Her third in the sixth inning was followed by Rainey’s second home run as North Texas forced Neleman out of the game. 

Peters ran into trouble in the sixth after an error at third, with a sacrifice fly later bringing in an unearned run. In a tight two-run contest, DeLong stuck with his senior as she retired the Yellow Jackets in order to end the game 3-1 in the seventh. 

The Mean Green return home to Texas on Friday as they begin the Tracy Beard College Classic in Celina. The team heads into the tournament with an undefeated record.

Image Credit UNT Athletics

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Reed Smith

Reed Smith

sports editor

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