Feb. 11, 2006
HOUSTON - The University of Houston softball team opened the 2006 season splitting a doubleheader on day two of the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational Saturday at the Cougar Softball Stadium.
After having its games cancelled due to inclement weather Friday evening, Houston dropped its season opener 6-2 to No. 19 Florida. Christa Raley and Brooke Johnson scored runs for UH in the loss. The Cougars rebounded in the nightcap behind a complete-game gem from Candi Kloecker, gutting out a 1-0 victory over Kansas.
"I thought that we played a different game after getting all of those opening game jitters out of the way against Florida," head coach Kyla Holas said. "It was one of those games that was a learning curve for us.
Kloecker controlled the game in the cirle from the outset retiring eight of her first 11 batters faced. She used a variety of speeds that kept the Jayhawks (2-1) off balance all game long.
The biggest difference for us in the second game was in the circle," Holas said. "Candi kept the ball down, changed speeds and did a wonderful job of hitting her spots."
In her first Division I start, the Blinn Community College transfer threw a complete game shutout, striking out seven batters on five hits.
"I was real excited about getting the start," Kloecker said. "I knew Kansas was a tough team. I choose not to be nervous out there and just go after hitters."
Laura Durham provided the offense spark for the Cougars with a majestic solo home run to left field in the fifth inning.
Houston's (1-1) defense protected the lead with a pair of strong defensive plays.
In the sixth inning, Kansas had runners on first and second with one out. Serena Settlemier hit a ball in between third base and shortstop. From her post at third base, Durham made an outstanding play going to her left and flipped the ball to shorstop Jessica Valis who was covering the bag for the force. Another KU groundout got the Cougars out of the frame.
The Jayhawks put another runner on second base after a pinch-hit double by Nicole Washburn. Erika Simington knocked a ball deep into the hole at second base, but Jaci Gonzalez was there to backhand the ball, set her feet and fire a strike to Angel Shamblin for the out. A flyout caught by Laurie Wagner on the very next batter sealed the victory for UH.
"We made some agressive plays out there on defense," Holas said. "That's something we've been working hard on in practice. Having a young team they like to make the safe outs and I was pleased with that."
In the season opener, No. 19 Florida (1-3) jumped out to a 2-0 advantage on a two-out double by Mirelis Torres in the first inning.
The Gators added another run in the third as Kristen Butler knocked a home run to right centerfield giving UF a 3-0 lead.
Houston capitilized on two Gator errors in the third inning cutting the deficit down to 3-1 as Brooke Johnson scored the first run of the season.
The Cougars sliced another run off the deficit in the fourth inning. With one out, Christa Raley hit a base hit through the left side to start the rally. She scored all the way from first base on a double deep into centerfield by Durham.
With two outs in the fifth, Angel Shamblin ripped a double down the left field line. Elaina Nordstrom delievered a clutch two-out single up the middle. The potential tying run was tagged out at the plate as Gator centerfielder Shelly Stevens skipped a ball to the plate and Kristen Butler provided the tag to keep the game at 3-2 in favor of Florida.
The Gators added two runs in the sixth and another Butler homer in the seventh for the 6-2 win. Carla Kennimer was tagged with the loss for UH after throwing 144 pitches in seven innings.
The Cougars return to action taking on No. 22 Oregon and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in day three of the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational.
"Playing the late game and having to come back early is going to be a test of our endurance," Holas said. "We're looking forward to the challenge of taking on a Pac-10 school. We're ready to get out on the field with them."
First pitch against the Ducks is slated for 9am Sunday, while Houston matches up with the Islanders at 3pm. UH students get into the Cougar Softball Stadium for free by showing their Cougar 1 Card.
All tournament games can be followed live on Gametracker by clicking on the Wilson/DeMarini Invitational on the home softball page of UHCougars.com
Cougar Diamond Notes
Game 1: Houston falls to 2-4 all-time in season openers ... The Cougars also drop to 0-3 all-time against Florida ... Houston head coach Kyla Holas was the Gator pitching coach from 1997-1999, while Cougar assistant coach Beth McClendon played for UF under her maiden name, Beth Dieter. The right-hander still holds many Florida records, including most wins ... Five players made their Cougar debuts, four of them were in the starting lineup ... Three of the five were freshman as Jessica Valis (Shortstop), Katie Bush (Centerfield) and Elaina Nordstrom (Catcher) all got the nod in the starting lineup ... All three picked up base hits, while Valis went two-for-four at the plate ... Christa Raley started at third base after missing the 2005 season with an elbow injury ... Raley went one-for-three and scored a run ... With three strikeouts, Carla Kennimer is now seven strikeouts away from reaching 100 career strikeouts ... Jaci Gonzlalez is five hits shy of reaching 100 career hits.
Game 2: Saturday's meeting was the first for Houston and Kansas on the softball diamond ... Head coach Kyla Holas is now 13 wins away from reaching 175 career victories ... With two starts today, Jaci Gonzalez is only one start shy of reaching 150 for her career ... Laurie Wagner made her Cougar debut getting the start in right field ... Houston improved to 1-0 when scoring first, the Cougars were 24-8 a season ago when scoring first.