SB: Year 1 of Sun Belt a learning experience

Nina Villanueva was named first team all-conference after leading the team with a .348 batting average, including .442 in Sun Belt action.

May 13, 2014

ARLINGTON, Texas – UT Arlington softball coach Kristie Fox continued to lay the foundation for future success after her second season and the program's first in the Sun Belt Conference.

The Mavericks concluded their season with a 1-1 run in the Sun Belt Conference Championship. After defeating in-state rival Texas State 5-1, UTA fell to the No. 4 seed WKU to end the season.

UT Arlington completed the season with a 21-33 record, including 4-16 in the Sun Belt Conference. The SBC was the third conference for the Mavericks in three years.

"The Sun Belt was really eye-opening for us. It's a very strong conference, the teams are very athletic and they play the game the right way," Fox said. "I think it was good for us to get a year under our belt and experience the conference tournament."

Callie Collins is the only graduating Maverick and has made her way into the UT Arlington softball record book. She is second all-time in games started (109), third in games pitched (126), fourth in strikeouts (552), fourth in career strikeouts (552), fourth in shutouts (12), fifth in complete games (68) and seventh in innings pitched (661.1)

Nina Villanueva, Meagan Michele and Jasmine Tanksley will be next season's senior class, with Michele being a four-year Maverick.

"We look to them to lead by example," Fox said. They know what to expect. Nina did a really good job for us offensively this year. She struggled early defensively, but everything came together the more confident she became."

Villanueva was named first team all-conference after leading the team with a .348 batting average, including .442 in Sun Belt action. The junior also lead the team in doubles (12), total bases (96), hits (56), RBI (39) and home runs (8).

The Mavericks will return all five sophomores who now have two complete seasons under Coach Fox.

"The sophomores are who I look to for a leadership role in terms of being more vocal," Fox said. "They have the type of personality that the current freshmen and incoming freshmen are able to relate to. Overall, they've gotten a lot better and embraced the challenge in their time here."

Britnea Barilli led the sophomores with a .269 batting average and 28 runs. Fellow sophomore outfielder Jolene Schaefer led the team defensively with no errors in 63 putouts and three assists.

Freshmen Kacey Everett and Marisa Datko made their way into the starting lineup. Everett caught all but one game for the Mavericks, and led the Sun Belt in batters caught stealing with 17. Datko found her role at second base, and totaled 16 hits and 10 runs.

"Kacey did a really good job for us this year," Fox said. "Being a freshman in this conference where everyone has speed and everyone runs, she was able to lead the conference and handled herself and the amount of games she caught very well."

Redshirt freshman Brittany May will be the only pitcher returning for the Mavericks this season. May made five starts in 17 appearances with nine strikeouts. Kayla Donaldson from Lorena, Texas, and Taylor Simmonds from Round Rock will join May next season.

"Our pitching staff will be going through a bit of a change," Fox said. "It's going to be a transition period with these two young pitchers. We're looking for them to be a one-two-punch in terms of how we're going to pitch next spring."

Haley Henson, Sandra Mendoza, Jade Jameson and Bryanaa Datko will also be joining the 2014 signing class.

"Every year you're trying to get better and you're trying to recruit better than you have," Fox said. "That really pushes your current student-athletes to continue to work hard and never become complacent."

After two years as a head coach and one year in the Sun Belt Conference, Fox is pushing her team to their summer workouts to the next level.

"We learned a lot about ourselves and there will be a lot of self-evaluations that go on this summer," Fox said. "Everybody has something to work on and we're excited to get back to work here in the fall. We know what we need to get better at now that we've experienced the Sun Belt."




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