Comets blast through softball opponents

Rory Moore | Mercury Staff



While a home sweep against an ASC rival gives the Comets confidence heading into April, the season remains about more than just softball.  

This week, UTD’s softball team crossed the halfway point in the season. After bonding through the loss of their coach last fall, they have continued to play as a tight-knit unit — and, buoyed by a historic pitching performance from junior McKenzie Cutbirth, this has largely translated into success on the field. Over spring break, the team bonded further over a trip to Arizona to play in the Tucson Invitational, where they won four of five games and “had a blast,” according to Head Coach Kelly Archer. 

“We got to play teams we’ve never seen…students didn’t have to worry about class, and 16 of our players had family travel out there with us,” Archer said. “We went up into the mountains one night and took a bunch of sunset pictures. [The team] absolutely loved it, appreciated being in the moment and spending that time together.” 

After their trip to Tucson, the Comets returned to Richardson and competed in three games at Sul Ross State on March 22 and 23. While Archer said that the Comets are still seeking more offensive output, the team’s pitching and defense was sufficient to carry them through the weekend.  

A major contributor was Cutbirth, who won ASC Pitcher of the Week honors as she went 2-0; she struck out 13 batters and only allowed one run in 14 innings. Cutbirth became the first UTD pitcher to start a season 9-0 since Lauren McLeod started the 2017 season with 11 consecutive wins, which Archer said is considered the greatest pitching season in program history.  

“So far, that’s the high point of the season,” Archer said. “She’s working hard, using every resource available, from trainers to strength coaches, and working to get better. [Cutbirth] does what you hope every college athlete would do.” 

The Comets have rallied around Cutbirth’s consistently outstanding performance. This shows in her run support, as the Comets average more than 6.5 runs per game in Cutbirth’s starts this season. Archer said that when she takes the mound, the team reflects the same competitor’s mentality in their offensive approach.  

“McKenzie’s success this year has come from a deliberate shift in mindset,” Archer said. “In the past, she was her own worst enemy, but now she goes out there and just keeps competing … and when McKenzie is on the mound, offensively, we’re different.”  

Between the sweep of Sul Ross State and going 4-1 at the invitational in Tuscon, the softball team has built a lot of momentum going into a 4-week stretch of back-to-back-to-back-to-back ASC divisional matchups. The month of April will largely determine the Comets’ playoff seeding for the end of season tournament. Following a trip to Austin to face off against Concordia, the Comets’ next home series will be April 5 and 6 versus the Howard Payne Yellowjackets. 

“We haven’t qualified for the postseason yet,” Archer said, “but we’ll have a five week stretch of routine to prepare. We feel like we’re in a good spot.” 

As they prepare for a playoff run, the Comets have not forgotten that they dedicated this season to beloved coach Abby Sterling. They have designated the last game versus Howard Payne, on Saturday April 6, to be “Abby Day.” Sterling’s sister and brother will be in attendance for what is sure to be an emotional game for the softball team. According to Archer, the players have made shirts that say “Abby Strong,” which they intend to wear in honor of the coach, whose untimely passing has made this particular season so much more meaningful.  

“We’re four months removed from Abby passing away, and I would tell you that the team has not lost sight of their priorities,” Archer said. “Every day we’re together, working to get better, but also playing with a renewed appreciation of why they’re here. From that standpoint, the season is beyond successful — they have all come through a tragedy together.” 



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