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Second half of season provides optimism for club baseball team

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Rebounding from a three-game skid with roughly half its season left has the club baseball team optimistic as it continues navigating its first full season since the pandemic began.

Members of the National Club Baseball Association, the Mean Green compete in the Gulf Coast-North Conference against other club teams from Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Tech University and Oklahoma State University. After a 2-3 start to its season, North Texas is looking toward a three-game home series against Baylor beginning on April 15.

“We started off slow and lost a couple games, but we’ve started to pick it up and win a couple more,” sophomore pitcher and outfielder Grant Hardisty said. “Now we just need to finish the season strong.”

At the helm for the Mean Green is senior pitcher and head coach Ben Russell. He has thrown for the most innings on the team (12.0) and sports a team-best 3.75 ERA.

North Texas is coming off a 6-3 win against SMU on March 27 where Hardisty went 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs while also swiping a bag and scoring three times. Russell threw eight innings of two-run ball and struck out nine Mustangs en route to his first win of the season. The win also ended the Mean Green’s three-game skid, the team’s first win since knocking off Texas Tech 9-3 in the season opener.

SMU was ranked tied for No. 11 in the NCBA prior to the game but the loss pushed the Mustangs out of the top 20.

Hardisty helps lead the hitting core along with senior first baseman Michael Brookshire and sophomore center fielder Josh Marcellus. Accounting for the lone home run on the team, Hardisty also has a team-high slugging percentage of .667. Brookshire leads the team with six hits and four RBIs while maintaining a .375 batting average. Marcellus’ slash line includes a .333 batting average, .444 slugging percentage and .500 on-base percentage.

Wins and losses have seen two different North Texas offenses. It averages 7.5 runs per game in victories and 0.66 runs in defeats. Graduate third baseman Christian Julius said the team needs to improve on consistency inside the batter’s box.

“We’ve had some games where we string some hits together and put pressure on the other teams,” Julius said. “In other games, we don’t come alive. […] The other team gets out ahead and we don’t do anything.”

Russell, Hardisty and fifth-year pitcher and shortstop Noah Trevino are the three primary pieces of North Texas’ pitching staff. Hardisty said the rotation has been a strong suit this season and it opens up the offense.

“If we keep pitching well and keep [opponents] down, we can get the momentum and start to hit,” Hardisty said. “Defense wins games. If you don’t have good pitching, you aren’t going to win games.”

North Texas has not fielded an official baseball team since 1988. There were official talks and plans of reviving the team in 2014 which never materialized. Texas Christian University and Dallas Baptist University are the only Dallas-Fort Worth area schools with Division I baseball teams.

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Julius, who grew up 20 miles away from Denton in Flower Mound, said he hopes an official baseball team is created soon.

“There is a lot of talent in North Texas that is just untapped,” Julius said. “I think [North Texas] could get a lot of talent that slips through the cracks.”

The team is looking to make the regional tournament as the regular season’s end nears. After the series against Baylor on April 15-17, North Texas will have four games left before the postseason. The series between North Texas and Baylor will be held at Mack Park in Denton with the first game on Friday. Game times have yet to be announced.

This season marks the first time the Mean Green have taken the field for spring baseball since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team went 0-9 in the shortened 2019-2020 campaign, finishing last in the conference. Russell and Trevino are the two remaining members from that squad.

“It’s definitely a better team than we’ve had in the past,” Russell said. “Normally there are one or two holes out in the field that people aren’t necessarily meant to be playing. This year everyone is where they should be.”

Featured Image: A Mean Green baseball club member slides to a base during practice on April 7, 2022. Photo by Sonia Huerta

Article Originally Published by Tyler Luker on North Texas Daily

Source: North Texas Daily

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