North Texas Set To Host Schutt Classic
Mean Green Face Prairie View A&M At 7 P.M. Saturday
DENTON - The North Texas softball team has to go up against more than Mother Nature as it hosts the Schutt Classic at Lovelace Stadium this weekend. After games have been postponed and rescheduled due to continued rains in the area, the Mean Green will face Prairie View A&M in the long-awaited home opener at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"Anytime you can play at home and be in your familiar surroundings, it's exciting" North Texas head coach Tracey Kee said. "I know these kids are looking forward to it. Going on the road early is always a challenge, but I thought it was something this team needed."
North Texas will cap the first day against Grambling at 9 p.m., then turn around on Sunday to play Grambling and Prairie View at 1 and 3 p.m., respectively. UNT has won all three meetings with PVAMU and has never faced Grambling in the program's 15-year history.
The tournament begins a stretch of 16 straight games at Lovelace Stadium for the Mean Green, the longest home stand since the team played 18 consecutive at home in 2011.
"For us, routine is very important with this young group," Kee said. "In the first two weekends, we were on the road and weather was a huge factor on the time or opponent we played. Hopefully we can settle in and continue to try and put our game together on all cylinders."
In addition to experience battling the elements on the road in the first couple weeks of the season, North Texas has had its fits with Mother Nature at home during practice.
"I'd like to think it gives us an advantage," Kee said. "Plus we've practiced in rain, 20-degree temperatures and high winds. It's an outdoor sport so you have to learn to adapt."
Coming off the first seven games, Kee believes the pieces are there, but the team needs to be able to hit on all cylinders for an entire game to string wins together.
"We'll get great hitting one game, great pitching in another or a lack of defense," Kee said. "We're just trying to get balanced. We're firm believers in being fundamentally sound. We just need to mature, and the only way that's going to happen is by playing more games. Everyday they're seeing the progress we're making as a group."
Perhaps the biggest learning this team has done is a result of a variety of outcomes and situations. Among the first seven games, the Mean Green have had a 12-10 slugfest, a 3-2 pitcher's duel in extra innings and a 5-4 loss in which they blew a lead in the bottom of the seventh.
"We've seen just about every scenario we possibly can," Kee said. "Everything's a learning experience and we've just got to take it, learn from it and move forward. Those are things we can't implement in practice."
One piece of the offense that has been consistent so far this season has been sophomore catcher Nicole Ochotnicki, who's tied with Lacy Gregory for the team lead in hits (8) and batting average (.364).
"I've just been coming in, doing extra work and taking as many reps as I can," Ochotnicki said.
Ochotnicki has set a pair of career highs in her two multi-hit games this year with three hits against Louisiana Monroe and five total bases against Rhode Island, which included her second career home run.
"I've been making sure to make adjustments really quickly," Ochotnicki said. "I've still got some work to do for the rest of the season."