Softball: UNT splits with Roadrunners

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University of North Texas junior Dani Hoff (00) slides safe into second after a missed catch by UT-San Antonio junior Courtney Buchman (2), Saturday, March 15, 2014, at Lovelace Stadium in Denton.
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North Texas came so very close to no-hitting Texas-San Antonio while winning the opener of its Conference USA doubleheader Saturday at Lovelace Stadium.

Late in the second game, the script had been flipped and it was the Mean Green that was doing all it could to not get overpowered by the revitalized Roadrunners.

UTSA salvaged its day with 11 hits in the nightcap, including a five-run fifth inning that sparked a 10-6 win and a split. North Texas had cruised to a 3-0 win in the opener behind ace Ashley Kirk, who tossed a one-hitter and struck out 11.

“I’m highly disappointed in this team right now,” North Texas coach Tracey Kee said. “We lost the first four innings [of the second game] and had a chance to regroup with the rain delay. But we didn’t and lost the last three innings as well. They [UTSA] showed what they can do, and we’d better be careful in the next game.”

The rubber match is slated for 1 p.m. today. The three-game series features the top two teams in C-USA entering the weekend. North Texas (18-8, 4-1 C-USA) swept last weekend’s series with Middle Tennessee, while the Roadrunners (12-16, 4-1) picked up a sweep of Louisiana Tech.

UNT, however, has lost five of its last seven home games after striking out nine times in Saturday’s nightcap.

Offensively, the Roadrunners were revitalized. Siera Sproul went 3-for-4 with two home runs and four RBIs. Her second homer — a two-run shot to left field — came immediately after a 58-minute rain delay in the top of the fifth inning and gave her team a 7-4 lead.

North Texas gave up four hits in that inning, including an RBI double by Megan Low to extend the UTSA lead to 8-4. The Roadrunners capped the spree with two runs off a UNT throwing error at first base.

Madison Kinley also homered for the Roadrunners, who tallied five extra-base hits. One bright spot for UNT in the game was Kat Strunk, who homered twice and drove in four runs.

Strunk’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth pulled North Texas within one run of tying the game. But all of the Mean Green momentum disipated after the rain delay.

“In conference play, every game is important,” Kee said. “We have to do a better job of keeping the ball in the park [today], and if our hitters don’t make adjustments sooner, it’s going to be the same result.”

Kirk (12-3) likely will pitch today, which is good news for the Mean Green as it looks to rebound from its first C-USA loss.

Kirk mowed through the Roadrunners in the opener and had seven strikeouts through the first three innings. Despite finishing the game with six walks, she had a no-hitter going with two outs in the top of the seventh when UTSA’s Jolene Graham broke it up with a hard-hit single between third and short. Kirk got the next batter to fly out to end the game.

North Texas’ Dani Hoff went 2-for-3 with a double and a triple. Shelbie Smith went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer that gave North Texas a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.

“God has a better plan, and he blessed me with the game I had today,” Kirk said. “I got a shutout and a win, so there’s not much to complain about there. They [Roadrunners] came out ready to play in Game 2 and we were complacent. The good news is, there is always tomorrow.”


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