A matchup with No. 1 the University of Oklahoma looms for softball as the Sooners visit Denton on Wednesday night for a midweek showdown.
North Texas (25-10, 13-5 Conference USA) is in the midst of a 7-for-10 stretch in which the team dropped its first conference regular season series since 2019. Oklahoma (38-1, 8-1 Big 12 Conference) had a 40-game winning streak dating back to last season snapped. The Sooners’ streak came to an end on April 16 against then-No. 18 University of Texas (31-12-1, 7-2 Big 12) as they lost 4-2 to the Longhorns.
“[Oklahoma’s] a great team, probably one of the best teams I’ve ever seen,” head coach Rodney DeLong said. “It’s a great opportunity, that’s all there is to it. Regardless of what happens, it’s going to make us better.”
It is unknown whether graduate right-handed pitcher Hope Trautwein will take the circle versus North Texas in a matchup with her former team. Trautwein joined the Sooners following last season and now leads the nation with a 0.11 ERA over the course of 62.1 innings pitched this season.
Wednesday will be the first time Trautwein returns to Lovelace Stadium since her final start on senior day last season.
“[Trautwein] did great things for us, we had a good time” DeLong said. “We were disappointed seeing her go, but I’m happy for her getting to experience what she’s experiencing and getting to experience that team. It’s pretty cool for her.”
Offensively, the Sooners possess the highest-scoring lineup in the country (9.4 runs per game) highlighted by redshirt senior utility player Jocelyn Alo. This season, Alo overtook former Sooner Lauren Chamberlain for the most home runs in NCAA softball history, sitting at a mark of 110 career home runs after mashing 21 so far this season.
“[Oklahoma’s] a great team, they’re great hitters, it’s like any other team that has great hitters except they have nine of them,” DeLong said. “Literally every hitter in their lineup is going to challenge you and you got to make some pitches. The thing about it is that you can throw the perfect pitch and they can still get a hit.”
The Mean Green have been limited to using two pitchers on staff since March 6 due to injuries. Freshman right-hander Skylar Savage and junior left-hander Ashley Peters have started every game since then, preparing to face the highest-powered offense in the country, Savage and Peters come in off a series in which their opponent, Louisiana Tech University (29-17, 9-6 C-USA) scored 17 runs.
North Texas’ offense has been led by sophomore first baseman Kailey Gamble, who leads the team in home runs (13) and RBIs (40) while tied for the team-high with 36 hits. Redshirt sophomore Molly Rainey has seen an increase in offensive production, getting 14 hits in her last 10 games. Rainey was the final out in Saturday’s contest in which the Mean Green nearly completed a six-run comeback.
She said while the team lost, the near comeback provided momentum going into the Oklahoma game.
“[The near-comeback] kinda just shows the heart and fight that we have,” Rainey said. “Especially going into the games this week and the games that we have, it’ll be good to know that we can make a comeback when needed.”
Facing off with the Sooners is the first of four Big 12 games for North Texas this week as the team travels north to Lawrence, Kansas, to face the University of Kansas (14-25, 2-10 Big 12) in a three-game weekend series.
“I have experience in playing Big 12 teams,” senior third baseman Tayla Evans said. “So, [I] just explain to the girls that it is a game, nonetheless.”
Featured Image: Senior Amarys Miller-Godsey throws a ball during practice on March 8, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane