Clutch hitting could help UTA softball overcome Appalachian State University’s tough pitching

Senior third baseman KJ Murphy throws the ball for an out during a game against Troy University on March 14 at Allan Saxe Field.

The softball team (14-28, 7-10) is coming off a stretch of eight straight road games and is scheduled to play their final home games of the season against Appalachian State University, ranked fifth in the Sun Belt Conference, this weekend at Allan Saxe Field.

The Mavericks are currently riding a four-game losing streak but are looking to break that against an Appalachian State team that they have won the last seven games against, dating back to 2018.

Here are three keys to the series against the Mountaineers.

1. Scoring in the clutch

In last weekend's series against Coastal Carolina University, the Mavericks offense struggled to bring runners home.

In game one, the Mavericks stranded five runners the whole game, and in game two, they doubled that and stranded 11 base runners. An example of a squandered opportunity was in game one of Saturday's doubleheader. With the bases loaded in the first inning and no outs, the Mavericks failed to score a run, striking out twice and ending the inning on a fly out.

The trend continued in game two of the doubleheader, with UTA stranding 10 base runners. One positive that came from the second game was the 12 hits collected. The Mavericks are finding ways to get on base.

2. Strikeout less, get on base more

UTA ranks ninth in batting average in the Sun Belt Conference at .257. Another area the Mavericks struggle in is strikeouts with 215, the fourth-highest amount of strikeouts in the conference.

A main source of base runners for the Mavericks comes through base-on-balls. UTA currently ranks fifth in the conference with 117 walks through 42 games.

Senior infielder KJ Murphy is an offensive juggernaut for UTA with a batting average of .413, ranking her second in the conference, along with her team-leading five home runs. Only freshman infielder Jessica Carreon, batting average of .330, joins Murphy on the list of Mavericks batting over .300.

Sophomore outfielder Reagan Hukill may not have a batting average over .300, but she swings a big bat. She is tied with Murphy with five home runs and ranks fourth on the team with 18 runs batted in.

Hukill carried the offensive load for the Mavericks in the series finale over Coastal Carolina, finishing 2-4 at the plate and driving in the team’s two runs.

3. The Mountaineers’ tough pitching duo

The Appalachian State duo of senior pitchers Kenzie Longanecker, 2.19 ERA, and Sydney Holland, 3.21 ERA, rank in the top 15 of the conference in ERA. Longanecker has collected 12 of the 24 victories from the circle for the Mountaineers, good for sixth in the conference.

Longanecker is leading in several categories in the conference, including strikeouts with 62, ranking seventh, and innings pitched with 112, ranking sixth.

Longanecker pitched a complete game in her last outing versus second place Troy University, allowing three runs in a 3-2 loss.

Game one of the doubleheader against the Mountaineers will start at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Allan Saxe Field, followed up by game two at 4 p.m.

@sportsestrada

sports-editor.shorthorn@uta.edu

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