Softball Heads To North Carolina For Elon Classic
Mean Green Face Bowling Green At 11:15 a.m. Friday
DENTON - The North Texas softball team returns to the road for the Elon Softball Classic Feb. 16-18 in Elon, N.C. The Mean Green will play Bowling Green at 11:15 a.m. Friday at Hunt Softball Park.
North Texas continues with back-to-back Saturday morning contests against Mount St. Mary's and Elon, and wraps up the weekend against Rhode Island at 9 a.m. Sunday. The Mean Green will face all four schools for the first time in program history, but UNT is no stranger to preparing for unfamiliar circumstances.
"Going into a new atmosphere and seeing new teams is only going to make us better in the long run," sophomore infielder Lacy Gregory said. "We don't know who or where we could be playing in postseason."
"We're going to play teams from all realms this year," North Texas head coach Tracey Kee said. "Schools we know. Schools that are ranked. Schools out of our conference. Our ultimate goal is to have our game ready and firing on all cylinders. If we take care of ourselves, the wins will follow."
The Mean Green went 1-2 at the Mardi Gras Classic, hosted by Louisiana Monroe. After dropping the first two games of the season against ULM and Central Arkansas, North Texas pulled out a 5-2 win over the University of Tennessee at Martin.
The offense did its part, averaging more than six runs per game and hitting .309. The Mean Green combined for a Conference-USA-leading five home runs and recorded a team OPS of .920.
"The biggest thing I was pleased with was how coach Kozlowski had our offense prepared," Kee said. "For a group to come out in the first week after not seeing live pitching for a while, it typically takes a little bit. Our hitters came out mentally and mechanically ready to hit."
Gregory, who led the offensive success, was named the C-USA Player of the Week for the first time in her career on Monday. She paced the team with 12 RBI in the first three games, headlined by a program-record eight-RBI performance in the loss to ULM.
The Kingwood, Texas, native also broke the single-game school record for total bases (11) and tied the record for hits (four) and home runs (two) in a game. Going forward, Gregory and her teammates know they can’t lean on just her production to win more games.
"The key for me is going to be not putting so much pressure on myself," Gregory said. "I can produce runs for this team and that's my main goal, but I can't do it without people getting on base before me. It's a team effort."
The pitfall for North Texas came on defense. The Mean Green committed 10 errors through the first three games for a conference-worst .888 fielding percentage, so that was the focus in practice this week.
"Defensively, we've delved in and put a lot of pressure on our kids to clean that up," Kee said.
The first three games were a learning experience for the Mean Green's freshmen pitchers, Maria Priest and Hope Trautwein. With a lot to build on from their first look at NCAA hitters in Monroe, the staff is leaning on their play-then-fix mentality as they prepare for the next tournament.
"We're looking at all the things that we didn't do quite as well as we wanted to," Priest said. "One of the things we identified is that we're giving up too many leadoff hits. We're working on making better pitches early on in counts, working ahead and working smart."
"We've used this week to get back in the bullpen, get some solid workouts in and get that third arm up," Kee said.
The third arm Kee refers to is freshman Ally Lindsey, who is expected to make her North Texas debut in Elon after missing the first week due to a minor preseason injury.