Houston Busts Up No-Hitter to Defeat No. 16 LSU in Extras, 1-0
Feb. 20, 2011
HOUSTON - The University of Houston softball team put on a display of pitching and defensive talent to knock off the No. 16 LSU Tigers for the second time in Hilton Houston Plaza Classic finale Sunday afternoon, 1-0.
A crowd of nearly 1,200 was on hand to watch Houston (8-1) hit a milestone at Cougar Softball Stadium. Combined with Friday's win against No. 20 Oklahoma State, Sunday's victory marked the first time the Cougars have taken down three nationally ranked opponents in program history.
"To win five games when three of our five games were against ranked opponents is (exciting for us)," head coach Kyla Holas said. "Offensively, today wasn't the way we'd like it to go, but we found a way to win. Sometimes in tough games that's all you've got to do, find a way to win. I was proud of them for that."
A pitcher's dual in every sense of the word, the Cougars and Tigers (9-3) combined for just four hits. LSU starter Rachele Fico (3-3) carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning when sophomore Reina Gaber stepped in and drove a perfectly placed single to left field to break up the no-hit bid and win the game in walk-off fashion.
"That's one of the toughest things to do, to come in and pinch it in that situation," Holas said. "With that amount of pressure on you, to be able to do that is a feat that we appreciate very much. I know that (Amanda) Crabtree pitched a heck of a game and for us to find a way to get that one hit at the right time to make a difference is the one thing we were missing on last year's team. I'm very happy we were able to find a way to do that."
Senior Amanda Crabtree (4-0) threw a gem in the circle, allowing just three hits - two of which were infield singles - and striking out 11 to shut out the SEC perennial power.
As Holas has remarked in the past, shutouts do not come via the pitcher's effort alone, and Crabtree had the benefit of a strong defense behind her. A failed pickoff attempt was the only error charged to the Cougars as both teams played brilliant defense in the thrilling contest.
Crabtree set the tone with a 1-2-3 first inning, tallying a pair of strikeouts. She struck out the side in her next trip to the circle to bring her total to five through the first two innings.
Both pitchers kept the hit column empty through the fourth when Crabtree surrendered the first two Tiger hits of the game. Unfazed, the senior right-hander coaxed a pop out to freshman catcher Haley Outon and caught LSU catcher Morgan Russell looking at the third strike to leave both runners in scoring position.
Locked at 0-0, Crabtree sat the Tigers down in order, racking up her ninth and 10th strikeouts of the game while building the game's suspense. In the meantime, the Cougar defense rolled along with their starting pitcher. Third baseman Holly Anderson made an earlier hit-by-pitch runner irrelevant when she nearly dove into the Tiger dugout for a popped up foul ball, surfacing with the third out of the inning.
In the other dugout, however, Fico was working on a big game of her own when she forced the Cougars to go down in order in the bottom of the sixth.
The top of the seventh got dicey for Crabtree and Co., when a leadoff walk put a Tiger runner on base, and a failed pickoff attempt moved her to third base with nobody out. Anderson nabbed a popped up bunt for the first out. Crabtree's 11th strikeout of the game accounted for out number two before sophomore shortstop Brooke Lathan charged on a ground ball and fired a perfect throw for the third out.
Unable to score in their half of the seventh, Crabtree and the Cougars left another Tiger runner on third base in the top of the eighth before taking the game for good in the following at bat.
Sophomore centerfielder Ashleigh Jones took her spot at second via the International Tie Breaker Rule. Coincidentally, it marked the second time Jones was the winning run against LSU, as she was the runner on second during the Cougars' extra-inning comeback against the Tigers in the previous day's game.
With two outs, Holas called upon Gaber to pinch hit in in the high-pressure situation. Gaber responded in a big way, belting a single to left to break up Fico's no-hitter and bring home the winning run.
"She's one of those kids who is just so mentally tough," Holas said. "She's a laid back person, but you just can't rattle her offensively. That's a kid who takes pride in being a DP (designated player) and I don't think there are many out there who get it done better than her."
Houston will travel to Huntsville, Texas to face Sam Houston State in its first road game of the season Wednesday. The first pitch of the doubleheader is scheduled for 4 p.m.