Stacey Underwood Finding Success In 2017
Senior Credits Better Mindset, More Confidence To Improved Numbers
DENTON – Success came easy for pitcher Stacey Underwood while at McLennan Community College in Waco.
Underwood finished her one season at MCC with a 20-4 record and a team-best .094 earned-run average, while racking-up 131 strikeouts.
But, it was something else then first-year North Texas head coach Tracey Kee noticed in a fall game Underwood threw against the Mean Green that led her to Denton.
“The thing that caught my eye the first time I saw Stacey was her demeanor,” Kee said. “Her ability to cut through our lineup in the fall proved she had something special.”
The team Underwood breezed through later went on to be the winningest team in North Texas history, recording 31 wins in the 2014 season. But once Underwood arrived in Denton, success took time. In her first two seasons, Underwood went a combined 15-22 with a 4.12 earned run average.
“I always knew I could compete at this level,” Underwood said about playing Division I softball. “It just took me awhile to get comfortable.”
Success came at the end of 2016.
Underwood tossed 10 scoreless innings in two games against UAB, picking up a win and limiting the Blazers to a .114 average. She was rewarded with Conference USA’s Pitcher of the Week honor for her performance.
With a new off-season approach designed to put her in tough situations, Underwood’s late-season success has carried over in 2017.
“Upon reviewing Stacey’s numbers over the summer, we knew we needed to improve her mindset while she was on the mound,” Kee added. “So, the way I approached her off-season was to put her into pressure situations and tough counts, so when she gets into those situations in games, she knows how to respond to them.”
The new workouts have paid dividends for the Hico, Texas, native. She holds 3-2 record with a 3.37 earned-run average across six appearances, and her latest win came against No. 23 Baylor, a game in which she tossed eight innings of two-run softball in North Texas’ 3-2 victory.
“I feel a lot more confident this season,” Underwood said. “I know my body position is better and I have been working really hard on the mental side of my game, so I’m not as nervous when I go out and take the mound and I can stay positive when things don’t go my way.”
In the season opener, Underwood was challenged early by a free swinging Arkansas team, who chased her after 3.1 innings.
“Arkansas was a good hitting team and they hit good pitches,” she added. “I think struggling versus them was good for me. I was tested right out of the gate and had to work on my composure, my mindset and everything coach Kee and I talked about in the off-season.”
She bounced back the next day against UMass Lowell, throwing a complete-game shutout, limiting the River Hawks to one hit while tallying seven strikeouts in her first win of the season.
“You are going to have days where you go out to pitch and you have your best stuff, and then you will have days with C material,” Kee said. “The thing I’ve been most proud of this year is her ability to bounce back quicker than she has in previous years.”
The senior has established herself atop the Mean Green rotation after two weeks, leading the team in innings pitched (27), strikeouts (15), appearances (six) and complete games (two).
Getting deep into games was something Underwood wanted to improve on heading into 2017. She threw at least six innings in just seven of her 36 appearances last season, but has gone at least six innings in three of her six thus far.
“I just take it pitch-by-pitch and game-by-game,” Underwood said. “I can’t think about the end result. Coach Kee told the staff that we needed to get deeper in games, and I’m glad myself, Lauren and Jessica have able to do that so far this season.”
Underwood, who added new pitches to her repertoire in the off-season, is having more fun in the circle as well.
“Last season, I only had one or two go-to pitches,” she said. “Now, it’s fun because I have confidence in all five of my pitches. I’ve always had the pitches, but I didn’t have the confidence in them. Now I do and I trust them during games. I can set up batter better and keep them guessing at what is coming next.”
As for the early success, Underwood knows the importance of maintaining it throughout the season, particularly once conference play begins.
“I just need to remain focused and continue to get better each day, whether it be at practice or in a game,” she said.
Underwood and the Mean Green softball team will be in action this weekend at the Hampton Inn University Area Seahawk Softball Classic hosted by UNC-Wilmington in Wilmington, North Carolina.