North Texas Hosts FIU For Alumnae Weekend
Saturday Doubleheader Starts At 1 P.M., Sunday Series Finale At 11 A.M.
DENTON -- Nearing the halfway point of league play, the North Texas softball team returns home for a big Conference USA series against the FIU Panthers. The Mean Green (18-13, 3-6 C-USA) are coming off their first league series win of the season, a 2-1 series win at WKU, handing the defending regular season and tournament champions their first league series loss since joining Conference USA for the 2015 season.
The Mean Green, currently tied for ninth in the Conference USA standings, dropped two of three to Marshall in its first conference home series and have remaining conference home series against Louisiana Tech and UAB and remaining conference road series at Southern Miss and UTEP.
"We understand that when you get games at home, you need to take advantage of that because it's difficult for the road team," head coach Tracey Kee said. "We have been playing well at home, but we have to be able to finish a series."
North Texas and FIU (18-17, 4-5 C-USA) present a matchup of similar teams. FIU hits for a better average (.327-.311) and gets on base at a higher clip (.399-.386), but North Texas hits for more power with more home runs (31-21) and a higher slugging percentage (.479-.458). They also have identical stolen base numbers with 49 stolen bases in 59 attempts.
The Panthers boast three of the league's seven best hitters by batting average in junior Ashley Leon (.411), sophomore A.J. Belans (.390) and freshman Jackie Schoff (.390). Leon and Schoff are both speed threats with a combined 21 stolen bases in 23 attempts, while Belans is a power threat with four home runs and a .580 slugging percentage.
In the circle, FIU has the edge in earned run average (3.30-3.68), but North Texas fields the ball at a much better clip with a .980 fielding percentage and just 17 errors, compared to FIU with a .950 fielding percentage and 50 errors. Like North Texas, FIU mixes and matches different pitchers, led by freshman Megan Kugelmann, who enters the weekend with a team-best 6-3 record and 2.02 earned run average in 55.1 innings.
"They're a quality team," Kee said. "They have very good pitching. They have some of the most dangerous hitters in conference. For us, it's coming out here, playing our game and doing the positive things that we're capable of. If we do all of that, it should be a good weekend."
It will also be alumnae weekend at Lovelace Stadium, as North Texas welcomes back alumnae from the first 12 years in program history. Alumnae are invited to a breakfast for current and former players before Saturday's doubleheader, and they will also be recognized in between the two games on Saturday.
"I'm excited to have all the alumni back this weekend," Kee said. "I want them to see how the program has changed and see how the facilities and overall atmosphere have changed. They laid the foundation, and we respect that. We talk about being `Team 13,' but we also understand that there were 12 teams before us."
Live stats are available for all three games, and a free live stream will be available for both games on Saturday on MeanGreenSports.com. Saturday's doubleheader begins at 1 p.m., while the series finale on Sunday is set for a first pitch of 11 a.m.