Ashley Kirk should own every major North Texas pitching record when her career ends after this season, but she and coach Tracey Kee weren’t going into a four-day break without seeing another record fall.
The hard-throwing right-hander further entrenched herself in the record books on Wednesday night when she set a new single-season club record for wins (20) and strikeouts (188) while leading the Mean Green to a 3-0 win over Texas-Arlington at Lovelace Stadium.
“I thought it was very important to run Ashley out there tonight,” Kee said. “I knew she’s been chasing several records all year, some of which were her own. She asked me who was pitching and I said, ‘It’s you and you are going to get this win and be done with it.’ I didn’t want it hanging around all weekend.”
Kirk (20-7), the winningest pitcher in UNT history with 59 career wins, allowed three hits while striking out 12. Kirk came into Wednesday one strikeout shy of tying a record she set last year and eclipsed that mark with two strikeouts in the top of the first inning.
The complete-game victory pushed Kirk past Kristina Fowler’s single-season mark of 19 wins — set in 2006 — giving her five team records. She also owns the program’s career record for strikeouts, which now sits at 686, and most strikeouts in a game (14). She is one start shy of tying Fowler’s career mark of 94.
“I honestly never expected to be where I am today; what I do know is I’m extremely blessed,” Kirk said. “My entire goal for my senior year was to go out and have fun. I was never focused on records.”
North Texas (28-15) is reaping the benefits and helped out its ace with two runs in the second inning and another in the third to notch its sixth win in seven games. After scoring its first two runs off a Mavericks error, Jordan Terry sliced a blooper to center field to score Kat Strunk in the bottom of the third.
UTA (16-25) could have avoided all three runs. North Texas had runners on second and third but was down to its final out in the second inning when Bryana Wade slapped a grounder to third base. The throw, however, pulled first baseman Rebecca Stokes off the bag as she dropped the throw. Both runners scored on the play.
Mavericks center fielder Jolene Schaefer looked like she was going to snare Terry’s single in the third, but the ball trickled out of her glove as she attempted the diving grab.
UTA stranded nine runners despite forcing Kirk into seven walks. With the bases loaded in the top of the first and one out, Kirk struck out the next two batters. She did the same thing after giving up back-to-back walks with one out in the fourth.
“I’ll take a tired Ashley Kirk over an overly rested one any day,” said Kee, whose ace pitched in all three wins at Marshall last weekend. “Anytime you can get a fifth-year senior in the circle with that kind of leadership, it’s a good thing.”
North Texas 3, Texas-Arlington 0
UTA 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
UNT 021 000 x — 3 4 0
WP — Ashley Kirk (20-7). LP — Callie Collins (9-10). 2B — UNT: Spencer Ferrell. UTA: Nina Villanueva. Records — Texas-Arlington 16-25, North Texas 28-15.