photo courtesy of Rick Yeatts
2012 Softball Season In Review
The 2012 Mean Green softball team won eight of its last 10 games to record its second winning season in school history at 28-26-1. Faced with one of its toughest schedules, North Texas struggled against the nationally-ranked teams but won the majority of its games at home and set a program best in conference play.
North Texas entered the conference tournament in Florida on a six-game winning streak as the No. 4 seed. After dropping the opening game against WKU, North Texas responded with two wins and lost in the semi-finals to top-seeded Louisiana-Lafayette. The third-place finish tied a program best.
The 28 wins were the second-most victories compiled in a single-season in school history and the 26 losses the second fewest. Only the 2010 team accomplished more than the 2012 squad. In conference play, North Texas set a program record with 13 wins.
North Texas capped the regular season with a bang. The team ended the season on a six-game winning streak, a season high, and set a school record with 17 runs against Northwestern State. In the 17-8 win, North Texas came back from an 8-0 deficit to run-rule the Demons. The Mean Green also tied a program best with 14 RBI.
The Mean Green set four team records in 2012: runs scored, RBI, walks and strikeouts. The records epitomized the team's season. Head coach T.J. Hubbard emphasized patience at the plate in 2012, and the result was a lot of walks and more at-bats, which led to more runs and RBI.
The pitching squad had one of its best seasons, recording the most strikeouts in a single-season and the second-lowest ERA. Ashley Kirk was named to the all-tournament team at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, leading the Mean Green to its two wins.
The sophomore finished the season with a 13-12 record, a 2.39 ERA and 163 strikeouts. The13 wins were a personal best and tied for the third-most wins in a single season at North Texas. She broke her own school record for strikeouts in a single-season and tied her single-game strikeout record twice. She also picked up conference player of the week honors and was named tournament MVP of the Fairfield Inn and Suites Classic.
The workhorse of the squad, Brittany Simmons, had a standout junior season. She jumped out to a 9-6 record, then went 2-5 in the second half of the season, before finishing the season strong at 11-11. The 11 wins is a personal best as is her 94 strikeouts in 2012. She moved into the top five of most career pitching statistics at North Texas, including second in lowest career ERA.
Known for its offensive power, the North Texas team continued that tradition in 2012. North Texas set team records with 253 runs scored, 221 runs knocked in and finished third in program history with 48 home runs.
Maddelyn Fraley produced one of the top single-season performances at North Texas. She capped her season by receiving first-team All-Sun Belt honors at designated player. She finished her senior season by leading the team with a .322 batting average, 13 home runs and 47 RBI. Fraley knocked in the second-most RBI in school history and third most home runs.
Caitlin Grimes also had a standout senior season. She finished third with a .317 batting average and recorded 10 home runs, the sixth-most long balls in school history. Brooke Foster was one hit shy of moving into the top five for most hits in a single-season with 60. She finished the season second with a .319 batting average and fourth with seven home runs.
Lesley Hirsch set personal bests as a junior. She was one of the Mean Green's hottest hitters down the stretch, hitting .500 the last 10 games and finished 2012 with a .304 batting average. She was fourth on the team with 51 hits and second with 25 walks.
Hubbard's emphasize on patience at the plate led to a school-record 192 walks, almost 50 more than the No. 2 team. No one bought into the idea more than senior Lisa Johnson. Already a patient hitter who often lets the first strike go by, Johnson broke her own record in 2012 for walks in a season with 36. She had already set the career record as a junior but surpassed the 100-walk mark as a senior.
Many Mean Green players also were more than content to draw a walk to get on base. Hirsch was second on the team with 25, which was third on the single-season walk list, and Fraley was right behind her with 24. Grimes finished with 21, which is tied for fifth on NT list. Overall, four of the top five marks in the single-season walk list were set in 2012.
North Texas was also known for its walk-off wins in 2012. One of the most dramatic of the season was a walk-off grand slam by freshman Dani Hoff against Middle Tennessee. North Texas also posted two walk-off hits against Western Kentucky; a pinch-hit double by Jordan Terry and a two-run homer by Grimes. In the 3-2 win against Stephen F. Austin, Lisa Johnson hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to secure the victory.
The Mean Green cemented its No. 4 seeding in the conference tournament with a three-game sweep on the road against Troy in its final conference weekend. North Texas also swept the series against Middle Tennessee. The six wins contributed to the Mean Green's 13 conference wins, a program best.
North Texas also experienced a few lows in 2012. The coaching staff put together a competitive schedule for the Mean Green full of nationally-ranked and Big XII opponents. In 2012, North Texas was unable to get over the hump against the top teams. The Mean Green went 0-11 against nationally-ranked teams, including four losses to ULL, three to Baylor and two against OU.
North Texas also struggled in extra-inning games, going 2-9 in games past seven innings. The Mean Green often came back to tie the game in the sixth or seventh inning but then faltered in the eighth and ninth innings.
The Mean Green continued its great play at home at Lovelace Stadium. North Texas posted a 15-5-1 record in Denton and a 14-4-1 mark at Lovelace Stadium. The five losses are the fewest at home in program history and the 14-4-1 is the best winning percentage at its home stadium.
North Texas opened the home schedule with a 3-0 mark and the tournament title at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Classic. Kirk was named tournament MVP and Caitlin Grimes and Megan Rupp were named to the all-tournament team.
North Texas also had a record number of players receive conference player of the week honors. Kirk, Grimes and Fraley all received honors in 2012 for their play.
North Texas loses five seniors but will bring in seven newcomers in 2013. The team will have to replace holes in centerfield, second base and behind the plate, and a bulk of the offense is gone. The pitchers remain intact, however; and most of the returning field players had career high seasons in 2012.
The Mean Green will play its final season in the Sun Belt in 2013 and will begin play in Conference USA in 2014.