Mean Green Split Final Two Games Of North Texas Invitational
North Texas Falls To Nicholls, Walks Off Against UTA
DENTON – The Mean Green softball team split their final two games of the North Texas Invitational against Nicholls and UT Arlington on Sunday afternoon at Lovelace Stadium.
A wild ending didn’t fall the Mean Green’s way as they fell to Nicholls, 10-7, in each team’s first game of the day. The Colonels scored five runs in the top of the seventh and North Texas was unable to get a rally going in the final frame.
“They just made better adjustments,” Mean Green head coach Tracey Kee said. “There were some great-hitting teams this weekend and this one was like a heavyweight bout; whoever got the last punch was going to win.”
Maria Priest (4-5) was on the hook for Nicholls’ (10-8) last five runs in her 1 1/3 innings of relief and took the loss. A two-out grand slam by pinch-hitter Kendal Daniels put the game out of reach in the final inning.
Just an inning and a half earlier, the Mean Green erupted for six runs in the bottom of the fifth after Lacy Gregory drew a bases-loaded walk and Hanna Rebar followed with a grand slam to center. On the next at-bat, Harley Perella also took a trip around the bases to give North Texas a 7-5 lead.
“We finally got people on and over and started scoring and that’s how we want every inning played,” Rebar said.
Nicholls struck first with three runs in the top of the second inning on a two-run home run by Yasmeen Williams and a Bailey Hughes RBI single. The Mean Green’s opponents scored first in all six games of the North Texas Invitational.
North Texas cut into the Colonels’ lead after Lindsay Gregory doubled for the second time in as many at-bats to put runners at second and third. LaBure’s wild pitch allowed Katie Clark to trot home to make it 3-1.
Hope Trautwein took over on the mound for Lindsey in the third, retiring the side with three strikeouts over the next two innings, but allowed Nicholls to push the lead to four in the fifth inning on a RBI single and a sac fly.
The Mean Green redeemed themselves with a 9-8 walk-off victory in extra innings over UTA. Sally Gastelo went 2-for-3 with a career-high two home runs, including a two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh to extend the game.
“I felt like I hadn’t helped the team all weekend and I reached a point where I knew I had to help them out,” Gastelo said. “I knew I had to lock in.”
After Priest gave up three runs in the top of the seventh to put the Mavericks ahead two, Gastelo went to bat with two outs and Perella on first base. Gastelo sent a pitch over the wall in right-center to draw the game even.
“I just wanted to get on base,” Gastelo said. “Coach Kee always puts us in pressure situations in practice. I just wanted to hit the ball hard and I didn’t even know it was gone until everyone got excited.”
UTA threatened in the top of the eighth after sacrifice bunting the international tiebreaker runner to third, but Harley Perella corralled a grounder, tagged the runner at third and threw out the batter at first to pull off the 5-3 double play and end the inning.
“I’ve never seen that play made in 30+ years of coaching,” Kee said. “Everybody was shocked. Credit to Harley because she made a bad decision the previous inning that opened the gates for them.”
“We talked about how contagious winning is, as opposed to losing,” Kee said. “It was up to us to draw the line and figure out how to get one in the win column, no matter how it got done.”
Priest (5-5) tossed a career-high eight innings, riding a bend-don’t-break outing to a win. Until the seventh inning, she had given up just one run in each of the previous five innings on seven total hits.
“Maria was making good pitches,” Kee said. “We didn’t do as well in the infield behind her and the hardest thing for all the teams was keeping the ball in the park. She made the pitches we needed and hung in when her defense struggled. She could’ve easily passed it off but wanted to stay until the end.
Gastelo’s first home run came in a three-run second inning in which her and Rebar both took trips around the bases. Rebar also singled in a run in the fourth inning as the Mean Green put up another three-spot to go ahead 6-3.
“Coming out swinging the bats was our goal today,” Rebar said. “We didn’t want to be so passive in the box. We attacked strikes early and did a good job of meeting our goal.”
North Texas opens Conference USA play with a three-game home series with Charlotte, beginning with a doubleheader Saturday at 1 and 3 p.m.
• The Mean Green’s win over UTA was their first in extra innings this season (1-2).
• Among 21 combined home runs in the tournament, North Texas led all teams with eight home runs.
• Three of Rebar’s team-high seven home runs have led off an inning.