Bringing the Heat

April-UTA-Softball
UTA pitcher Brooklynne Simbeck lets loose with a fastball during a recent Maverick victory. (Photo: Sharon Ellman)
One month into the 2016 season,

there were only two undefeated teams playing college softball at the Division I level: the defending national champion Florida Gators and the University of Texas Arlington Mavericks. The Mavericks finished the first quarter of the year with a 15-0 record while outscoring their opponents 123-36.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” head coach Kristie Fox says before a recent afternoon practice. “They have been handling the success really well. I think the only people that are surprised are everybody else.”

After 10 games,

UTA was one of nine undefeated teams in the nation. The Mavericks travelled to Charleston, S.C. for the Wingate by Wyndham Invitational and won all five games in their first road trip of the season. By the end of the weekend, the Mavericks and Gators were the only two unbeaten teams still standing. It wasn’t until the 20th game of the season that UTA finally lost this year, and at press time, the Mavericks sat at 22-4. Coach Kristie Fox says:

  ”We knew what we were capable of. We’ve been focusing on controlling what we can control. We’ve been getting better every day. When you do that and take care of the ball, good things happen.”

The Mavericks are led by a mix of experience from the seniors and excitement from the newcomers. Freshman Krista Rude, an Arlington native, was a four-year letter winner at Martin High School and was selected to the Texas Sports Writers All-State team in 2015. Rude has earned a starting spot in her first year at UTA and leads her team in batting average. From Rude:

“I was really nervous coming in to it. I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. It’s so much different than high school, but I think the transition went well.”

The Maverick seniors have taken note. Senior Rebecca Stokes, a three-year letter winner at UTA who has started every game over the past three seasons, identifies with Rude and the other freshmen. Stokes says:

“They bring a lot of passion and love for the game. You can see they like being here, which is good for me. It makes me want to be here more when I see them happy to be here.”

Coach Fox sees the mix of old and young players as a major key to the program’s recent success and historic start to the 2016 season. Fox says:

  ”I think it is the team chemistry. These young ladies have done a really good job of holding each other accountable and moving forward together. There are no weak links, there is no one left behind. They’ve stuck together and I think that that kind of chemistry is something that is special and is so very rare.”

The Mavericks play nine conference home games at Allan Saxe Field in the month of April, all to gear up for the Sun Belt Championship in Mobile, Ala., in early May, followed by the NCAA Division I Softball Championship. The full schedule can be found at utamavs.com.