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Tough non-conference scheduling not phasing softball team

Tough non-conference scheduling not phasing softball team

The North Texas softball team stands at the edge of the infield for the playing of the alma mater after a win against the University of Tennesee-Martin during the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Tough non-conference scheduling not phasing softball team
April 15
13:35 2016

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

When head coach Tracey Kee sits down to make the schedule for her team, she could always pad it with easy non-conference teams to help the squad’s overall record.

Instead, she schedules some of the toughest opponents she can find, hoping it will help her team build for conference play.

“I don’t see where it can hurt us at all,” Kee said. “We face some great pitching. Once you’re in season, you no longer hit live off your own pitchers. Any time you get to hit live off somebody else, that’s a positive.”

The Mean Green set up one of their toughest schedules in the Tracey Kee era this season. Kee lined up six opponents who advanced to at least the regional round of postseason play in last year.

Scheduling tough is not a new trend for North Texas softball. Last season, North Texas faced eight Top 25 teams, but North Texas was 1-7 in those games. The Mean Green has improved in its tougher games this season, knocking off No. 21 Baylor twice in one weekend. Overall, North Texas is one game under .500 in games against Top 25 opponents so far in 2016.

The prospect of playing good schools is part of what drew freshman infielder Rhylie Makawe to Denton.

“It’s definitely very appealing,” Makawe said. “We have the opportunity to play against these good teams and prepare us for conference.”

While the plan is to prepare the team for Conference-USA play, it hasn’t paid off yet this season. The Mean Green currently sit dead last in C-USA with a 3-9 conference record.

North Texas has only won one conference series – a three-game set against Western Kentucky University in late March. Junior shortstop Kelli Schkade said North Texas’ skid in conference play is somewhat shocking.

“It’s not all about stats. But if you look at people’s stats, we’re putting the ball in play and we’re making things happen,” Schkade said. “But it’s just not falling in our favor.”

While the Mean Green has posted a .500 record against ranked opponents, the 3-9 record against C-USA opponents shows an interesting trend. Kee said in the past, North Texas played to the level of its opponents.

“We have the tendency to play to the level of who we’re competing against,” Makawe said. “If they’re really good, we’ll play to them and sometimes we play down. We just have to find our game, and play to our level.”

North Texas lost another tough non-conference game Wednesday night to No. 9 Oklahoma University, furthering the Mean Green’s struggle against top-tier talent. North Texas now enters the final stretch of conference play in the push for eighth place in C-USA.

Should the Mean Green not get to eighth place, it will miss the conference tournament, which is hosted in Denton this season.

“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best,” Kee said. “I think playing schools that don’t challenge you give you a false sense of where you stand. I’d rather play the best than someone who would give you an ego boost.”

Featured Image: The North Texas softball team stands at the edge of the infield for the playing of the alma mater after a win against the University of Tennesee-Martin during the Mean Green Spring Fling Tournament. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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