North Texas knew it would be tough to keep its offense rolling this weekend, when the Mean Green welcomed in a team with one of the better pitching staffs in Conference USA.
What UNT didn’t expect was to struggle quite as much as it did Saturday against UAB in a doubleheader to open a three-game series at Lovelace Stadium.
Leigh Streetman and Lannah Campbell each allowed just one run while throwing complete games. UAB won the first game 9-1 behind Streetman before coming back to complete the sweep with a 5-1 win behind Campbell.
The series will conclude with a single game at noon today.
“We were just completely outplayed today,” UNT coach Tracey Kee said. “Credit to UAB. They outpitched us, outhit us, played better defense and capitalized on our mistakes, which was uncharacteristic on our part.”
UNT (22-12, 8-3 C-USA) entered the day nipping at the heels of Tulsa, the last unbeaten team in the conference, and had been tough at home. The Mean Green was 13-5 at Lovelace entering the series.
UNT fell three games behind Tulsa, which swept UTEP, and suffered a pair of home losses largely because it couldn’t solve two of C-USA’s top pitchers.
Campbell came in with a 1.78 ERA that ranked among the league’s best, while Campbell wasn’t too far behind with a 3.12 ERA.
The two are a big reason UAB (19-14, 7-4) enters today’s game with a shot to move into a tie with UNT in the league standings.
“You have to give their pitchers credit,” UNT shortstop Brooke Foster said. “They are both really good and have completely different styles. The first pitcher [Streetman] has a natural rise on her balls. We popped her up. The second pitcher [Campbell] had a dropball that falls off the table. We didn’t adjust well.”
It didn’t help UNT that it played from behind all day.
Ashley Kirk walked two batters in the first inning of the opening game before Heather Pearson capitalized by launching a three-run home run to left field. UAB scored multiple runs in four of the six innings before the game was cut short by the run rule.
“We talked all week about setting the tone,” Kee said. “UAB came out and punched us square in the mouth. We issued two walks and then a shot over the fence that put us in a hole.”
Third baseman Jordan Terry walked, moved to third when center fielder Kat Strunk doubled and scored on a sacrifice fly from Jackie Miller for UNT’s only run in the first game.
The second game followed a similar script. UAB scored single runs in the second, third and fourth innings before UNT broke through in the fourth when Foster doubled and scored on a Terry single.
Strunk went 4-for-5 on the day and was the bright spot for UNT, which managed just 10 hits.
“They have two of the best pitchers in our conference,” Kee said. “We knew coming in that we were not going to put 10 or 12 up and were going to have to manufacture runs and get people on. We just didn’t make it happen today.”
Failing to win a game on the opening day of the series will make it all the more important for UNT to salvage a game and not be swept. A win today would push UNT’s lead over UAB in the conference standings back to two games.
“One at this point would be huge,” Kee said. “It would keep us ahead of UAB. We need to do a lot of mental work and come out and understand that we have to play better.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.