March 2, 2018
DENTON - An eighth-inning comeback fell short as the Mean Green softball team dropped its first game in the North Texas Invitational to Tulsa, 4-3, in extra innings on Saturday afternoon at Lovelace Stadium.
After the Golden Hurricane plated three runs in the top of the eighth, Harley Perella wasted no time in sparking a rally, blasting a two-run home run to dead center to cut the deficit to just one. However, Tulsa retired the final three batters in order.
"It was a little different situation because usually, we want to bunt that person over," Perella said. "We were down by a lot so we needed a swing to get it in. We felt the pressure and it's good to get that before conference. This game was just like a conference game. It helped better prepare us, even if it wasn't the outcome we wanted.
Emily Watson (6-2) threw all eight innings for the Golden Hurricane and struck out 11 Mean Green batters. Maria Priest (4-4) suffered the loss after being on the hook for all four runs in her 7 1/3 innings.
The Golden Hurricane struck first in the opening frame after Priest allowed back-to-back doubles to begin the game. Priest shook it off, allowing just three more baserunners through the fifth inning and retiring 10 straight batters into the sixth.
"As a pitching coach, you have to kind of feel what the hitters are going to do," Kee said. "It took me the first inning to figure out the best way to have Maria approach them. Once we talked, she settled in. She kept a very dangerous team off the scoreboard for a long time."
A week removed from averaging 6.75 runs per game and hitting .365 with 15 extra-base hits, the Mean Green offense was held to just one hit until Katie Clark tied the game with a solo home run that just cleared the center-field wall.
"You feed off of that," Kee said. "Every time an inning ended 1-0, I knew we were one swing away. When you look at this lineup and the distribution of power, I felt it could come at any point. It was a matter of keeping them at one and it paid off late."
In the top of the eighth, Tulsa drove in their international tiebreaker runner on a single off the bat of Morgan Neal to take a 2-1 lead and force Kee to make a pitching change for Hope Trautwein. The Golden Hurricane took advantage of a wild pitch and a fielding error to tack on two more runs and extend their lead to three.
"Defensively, we opened the doors for them," Kee said. "You can't have that in extra innings. It's one thing to get the runner on second across, but to get three makes it hard."
The Mean Green will take on UT Arlington and Nicholls at 2:30 and 4:30 p.m., respectively, on day two of the North Texas Invitational.
• Perella's eighth-inning home run was her first long-ball since March 11, 2017 against UTEP.
• The Mean Green, whose leadoff hitters reached at a 50 percent clip entering the game, went 1-for-7 in the loss.
• North Texas is now 0-2 in extra-inning games in 2018.