March 16, 2013
HOUSTON The University of Houston softball team split its home Conference USA opener against UCF, falling 4-3 before coming back on the strength of Bailey Watts' 11-strikeout, one-hit pitching performance to win 4-0 in the second game of the day.
Batterymate Haley Outon made the most of her only official at bat in the second game by taking a nine-pitch at bat deep to right center for her sixth home run of the year. The Knights elected to intentionally walk the slugger her final plate appearances, giving her four IBB on the day, but the damage was already dealt as she helped Watts to her third shutout of the season.
"We played a little flat in the first game and I was glad we changed our mentality heading back onto the field in the second game," said head coach Kyla Holas. "We needed Bailey to step up after how we threw in the first game and she did a great job for us. If Bailey can be consistent like she was today, and all of our pitchers, then big things can happen for us."
The Cougars left 11 runners on base in game one and surrendered the lead in the sixth inning after reclaiming it the previous frame.
GAME 1 - UCF 4, HOUSTON 3
UCF used two two-run home runs to supply all of their runs and take the first game of Saturday's 4-3 over Houston.
The Knights got on the board first in the third inning off a two-run homer by Farrah Sullivan and chased Summer Groholski out of the game after giving the sophomore gave up five hits in 2.1 innings of work. Diedre Outon came to be the pitcher on record (1-3) and gave up the go-ahead shot in the sixth inning by Hayley Barrow.
Houston answered UCF's two-run inning in the third by adding a run through a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Sydney Gerbracht to score Kendra Cullum. Houston would be unable to convert the bases-loaded one-out situation into any more runs and had to settle for a 2-1 deficit.
Katie St. Pierre gave the Cougars a brief lead in the fifth inning when she battled during a 10-pitch at bat with two outs before driving in the go-ahead-run on a single up the middle to score Gerbracht. Julia Pecina had tied the game with a double to plate Gerbracht who slid ran all the way from first and slid around the catcher for the tying run.
Houston stranded two runners in each of the first three innings and left the bases loaded in the fifth and sixth. Houston tied a season-high with 11 runners left on base.
GAME 2 - HOUSTON 4, UCF 0
Bailey Watts (8-2) tied a career high with 11-strikeouts and gave up a hit for her first base runner in the sixth inning as Houston took game two 4-0.
"I was really focused on hitting spots and keeping the ball low," said Watts. "We learned that lesson in the first game to keep the ball low. Over the past two games, I've really tried to focus on that location. I was hitting my spots the way I should today."
UCF and Mackenzie Audas (6-8) elected to walk Outon the next two times but the gamewinner was already dealt as Watts threw her third shutout of the year.
Houston manufactured an insurance run in the fifth as Kayla Holland was hit by the pitch and advanced to third on consecutive sacrifice bunts by Watts and Pecina. St. Pierre stepped up again with a big hit to give Watts some breathing room.
Watts' perfect game fell in the sixth in inning and she immediately found herself in a jam. A blood single, error and a walk gave UCF the go ahead run at first but Watts threw a strikeout to end the threat.
The Cougars added more to their lead in the bottom half of the inning with Reina Gaber's single skirting through the legs of the Knights right fielder allowing Kendra Cullum to come around from first base. Gaber scored on Jennifer Hooker's single down the left field line to give Houston their final tally, 4-0.
Houston returns to host UCF Sunday at noon for the final game of the series.