North Texas Hosts Marshall For Conference USA Home-Opening Series
Saturday Doubleheader Starts At 1 P.M., Sunday Series Finale At Noon
Marshall Game Notes
DENTON -- The North Texas softball team returns home for its Conference USA home-opening series, playing host to the Marshall Thundering Herd for a three-game series that starts with a doubleheader Saturday at Lovelace Stadium. The three-game home series breaks up a 13-game stretch that includes 10 road games.
The Mean Green (14-9, 0-3 C-USA) are coming off a 1-3 road swing in San Antonio that included three losses at UTSA to begin conference play, before bouncing back with a 10-2 run-rule win over Incarnate Word in five innings. The Thundering Herd (14-9, 3-0 C-USA) are coming off a 5-1 homestand that included a three-game sweep of UTEP, a two-game midweek sweep of Toledo and a midweek loss to SEC member Kentucky.
"We have accomplished a lot this week," head coach Tracey Kee said. "We learned a lot at UTSA, especially the younger kids, and we have had some good days of preparation and getting our game back in check. Some weather has pushed us inside some days this week, but we have still been able to get a lot done."
This weekend's matchup two of the league's best hitting teams in Marshall, which ranks second with a .327 batting average, and North Texas, which ranks third with a .313 batting average. Marshall also leads the league in stolen bases (84), while North Texas leads the league in home runs (27) and slugging percentage (.471).
Junior shortstop Kelli Schkade saw her school-record 19-game hit streak snapped this past weekend, but she continues to lead the league in home runs (9) and total bases (66) and also ranks second in RBI (26), second in slugging percentage (.815) and fifth in batting average (.395).
The Thundering Herd boasts the league's best and fourth-best hitter in junior outfielder Morgan Zerkle (.500) and senior outfielder Kaelynn Greene (.403). They also rank first and second in the league in stolen bases, with Greene in first with 28 stolen bases in 31 attempts, followed by Zerkle in second with 20 stolen bases in 25 attempts.
In the circle, North Texas turns to a trio of the pitchers, led by juniors Jessica Elder (7-4, 3.42 ERA) and Stacey Underwood (6-4, 3.61 ERA), while Marshall leans on junior Jordan Dixon, the reigning Conference USA Co-Pitcher of the Week. She leads the league in innings pitched (108.2) and ranks second in strikeouts (111) and seventh in earned run average (2.58).
"Marshall's a great program," Kee said. "They have a dominating pitcher and an unbelievable amount of speed on their roster. To be successful this weekend, we will have to figure out a way to hit Dixon and try to equalize the wheels that they have on their team."
North Texas has won each of its last two Conference USA home-opening series, sweeping Southern Miss in 2015 and taking two of three from UTSA in 2014. The all-time series between North Texas and Marshall is tied at 3-3, including a two-game Marshall sweep in 2015 in Huntington and a three-game North Texas sweep in 2014 in Denton.
"For every win you pick up early in the conference, it alleviates some of the pressure on the back half, and we have talked about that," Kee said. "They understand the sense of urgency and they understand that this is a very important series, and hopefully they will have the right mindset going into this weekend."