It’s a new season and new team taking the field as UTA opens its season on the road at the Kajikawa Classic hosted by Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz.“We’re really excited,” UTA coach Kristie Fox said. “The girls are just ready to play against some competition that’s someone other than themselves. All of the pieces are there but now we’ve got to see how we match up playing other teams.”The Mavs face a tough test right out of the gate with all five teams recording at least 20 wins in 2016. UTA opens the tournament with a 32-game winner a season ago in UC Riverside before playing New Mexico in the night cap on Friday.Saturday’s match up with Saint Mary’s will be the first meeting between the two. The Mavs wrap up Day 2 of the Kajikawa Classic against host Arizona State, who is receiving votes in both the USA Today/NFCA Coaches and ESPN.com/USA Softball polls.UTA closes out the tournament with perhaps its toughest opponent on the nonconference schedule in No. 17 Utah. The Utes put together one their best seasons in program history, reaching an NCAA Super Regional for the first time.“This weekend is definitely going to be a challenge,” Fox said. “But that’s what we want to do. We want to prepare for that really tough Sun Belt Conference. It’s really going to be about figuring out how we are going to use our pitching staff and getting to see some live pitching that we haven’t seen in a while. This weekend is a really good opening weekend for us because we really get to test ourselves right out of the gate.”
2016 Recap: UTA put together the best season under head coach Kristie Fox, finishing 29-20 with an RPI of 85 out of 253 teams. The Mavs won their first 19 games, the best start in UTA Athletic’s history. The start helped UTA receive votes in the national Top-25 polls.UTA’s season included its first win over a ranked opponent since 2003 when it knocked off No. 5 Louisiana at Allan Saxe Field. The game featured a dominant pitching effort from freshman Sam Clakley and a two-run blast from Kacey Everett that proved to be the game winner.Starting all 49 games at the leadoff spot, Sandra Mendoza set UTA’s single-season hits (76) and batting average (.461) records, finishing 10th in Division I in batting average and 25th in on-base percentage (.528). Krista Rude hit .385, good for ninth in the Sun Belt and fifth on the Mavs single-season batting average list.Mendoza and Rude became only the third and fourth UTA softball players to be named to an NFCA All-Region team, earning second and third team honors, respectively. Mendoza garnered First-Team All-Sun Belt Conference honors, while Rude and Sam Clakley picked up second-team honors.Watch List: Leading up to the season opener, Mendoza has been awarded for her play in 2016, being named to USA Softball’s Collegiate Player of the Year and D1SoftballNews.com’s Player of the Year Watch Lists, naming the Top-50 players in consideration for the 2017 Player of the Year for each organization.“I just try and stay focused,” Mendoza said. “I try to have the same mindset every game and that’s to come, have fun and play the best that I can for myself and my team. We have one goal and that’s to stay focused, win every game and have as much fun as we can everyday.”Mendoza has also been named a Preseason Division I All American by FaspitchNews.com and to the Sun Belt Preseason All-Conference Team.Milestone Watch: With 10 career home runs, Kacey Everett is three away from tying Mya Anderson (15-16) for 10th on the Mavs career home run list. Mendoza, Shelbi Sikes and Everett are all approaching UTA’s career top-10 list in extra base hits with 30, 29 and 27, respectively. Kristi Bryant (90-93) and Katy Hermann (80-83) sit ninth with 40.Tied with 23 doubles, Sikes and Mendoza are four shy of tenth on the career doubles list. As the Mavs single-season RBI record holder (45), Sikes is 16 away from ninth on the career list. Sikes has already cracked the top-10 in career walks, currently sitting eighth with 70. She is three walks away from tying Paula Mann (85-88) for seventh.Newcomers: The Mavs have 10 newcomers to this year’s squad, highlighted by FloSoftball’s 24th-best recruit in Mariah Denson and an NJCAA National Champion Gracie Bogle. Both will be a boost to this year’s pitching staff.Up Next: The Mavs remain on the road, playing in the Lions Classic II hosted by Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, La. Feb. 17-19. UTA opens its home slate hosting the UTA Invitational Feb. 24-26.
Streaming on UTAMavs.com: All home games are video streamed at UTAMavs.com/collegesportslive.com. Subscriptions are available for $9.95 per month and $99.95 per year.
Can’t Make a game? If you are unable to catch UTA Softball action in person, follow on twitter @UTASoftball or on facebook via UTA Athletics for live in game updates.Tickets: Single game tickets and season tickets are available at UTATickets.com and by calling 817-272-9595. Parking is free for all games at Allan Saxe Field.