Sun Belt series, part VIII: Mean Green softball

Sun Belt series, part VIII: Mean Green softball

April 23
21:31 2013

Brett Medeiros / Staff Writer

In recent years, the Mean Green softball team has been right in the middle of Sun Belt Conference standings, behind annual nationally-ranked teams such as Western Kentucky University, the University of South Alabama and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

When the team transitions over to Conference USA for the 2014 season, the result of the season could be the same for UNT.

This year the SBC has three teams in the nation’s top 50. C-USA also has three teams representing the conference in top 50.

“If anything, this change is going to be a positive move for us,” junior outfielder Jackie Miller said. “As long as we continue to play our brand of softball, the change will be welcomed and enjoyed.”

One aspect of the conference change that could favor the Mean Green is the team’s ability to put runs on the board. Power hitting and offensive production have always been a staple of Mean Green softball. In C-USA, pitching is king and the primary factor in wins and losses.

“I feel that this will be a lateral move for us,” head coach T.J. Hubbard said. “The conference is very similar talent-wise and in rankings. For us I like our opportunities moving into the C-USA as far as the type of softball we play and our ability to push lots of runs across the plate.”

The biggest difference for the Mean Green will be the change in the post-season format.

Unlike the Sun Belt, the C-USA has a single elimination tournament that spans three days.

The SBC tournament takes four days and has a consolation bracket for the losers in day one and day two. All the teams that start the tournament continue to play all the way trough day three.

In the last ten years, the C-USA has sent more than two teams to the NCAA tournament six times. In 2004 and 2011, five C-USA teams were invited the national tournament.

“When we prepare for our first year, we are not going to have that prior knowledge of the opposing teams, and that would make it tough,” junior pitcher Ashley Kirk said. “We will have some idea of course, but certainly not as much as what we know about the Sun Belt. Regardless, I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a good change for us.”

Since softball became a UNT sport in 2004, the program has not won any regular season titles, conference championships or NCAA tournament appearances. The team holds an 86-125 all-time SBC record.

Joining C-USA will increase its chances for post-season success and national exposure by the arrangement of the tournament alone.

“If there are three spots available in Conference USA that have the chance to go to nationals, then there is no reason that we shouldn’t be able to compete for one of those spots,” Athletic Director Rick Villarreal said.

UNT will enter C-USA with a relatively similar team. The Mean Green will lose two players to graduation after this season.

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