HOUSTON - The University of Houston softball team stayed red hot as the Cougars knocked out six homeruns to run rule UTEP for the third-consecutive game at the Helen of Troy Complex in the series finale Sunday afternoon, 15-0.
After battling strong wind gusts on Saturday, Houston (28-12, 11-4) faced a nearly 20-degree drop in temperature on Sunday. Despite the elements, Houston was nothing short of smoking hot in the series finale as the Cougar hitters scored in every inning, shelling out 15 runs on 17 hits against UTEP (16-26, 1-11).
"I'm glad this late in the season to see us swing like that," head coach Kyla Holas said. "For us, it's been such a long, tough season that for us to be hitting like this will only continue to do good things for us."
Sunday's victory completed the first run-rule sweep in a conference series in Houston softball history.
Senior Amanda Crabtree (15-6) provided another solid effort, tossing her seventh complete-game shutout of the season. She struck out nine and scattered four hits over her five innings of work.
The senior starter had run support to spare on Sunday, as her lineup exploded for six homeruns. The six long balls tied UH's single-game team record set against Texas Southern in 2005.
Sophomore shortstop Brooke Lathan had a monster day, blasting her ninth and tenth homeruns of the season on Sunday. After being ejected in the second game of the series on Saturday, Lathan showed no lasting effects following the emotional situation.
She collected six RBI during a 3-for-3 performance in the series finale, just one shy of tying the Cougars' all-time record of most RBI in a game.
"That was a situation that she, or our program, has ever found itself in," Holas said. "I was proud to see us come out and focus on the controllables. What we were able to do today, and her performance in particular, is a testament to her focus and our focus as a team."
Lathan wasn't the only one going yard. Redshirt junior second baseman Jennifer Klinkert hit her seventh, while freshman catcher Haley Outon tagged her second of the season. Coming in off the bench, senior outfielder Angela Spittler and freshman designated player Erin Martin each whacked one out. Martin's marked her first collegiate homer.
"I'm really glad that we were able to go to the bench and get some people that good feeling that the starters are having," Holas said.
Houston sprinted out of the gate, jumping on UTEP starter Megan Atchison (3-7) for four runs before she could gather two outs.
Senior right fielder Katy Beth Sherman continued her hot streak, leading off the game with a solid base hit up the middle before sophomore third baseman Holly Anderson sac bunted her over. Sherman finished the weekend on a tear, going 7-for-10 with seven runs scored against UTEP.
With a runner in scoring position, RBI machine Melissa Gregson went to work. She smacked a line drive to center to bring Sherman home for her ninth RBI of the weekend.
Gregson was just the start, as she got a front row seat for Lathan's ninth homer of the season. Her long ball put Houston ahead, 3-0.
Going back-to-back, Klinkert chipped in to the early outpouring of offense when she slammed her seventh homer of the season off the mountain beyond the centerfield fence. With a 4-0 lead, Klinkert's bomb finished Atchison's start and reliever Joanna Krienitz stepped in to get the final outs of the opening frame.
In their next at bat, the Cougars wasted no time adding to their lead. Sherman drew a one-out walk while Anderson and Gregson rattled off back-to-back singles to load the bases for Lathan. However, with two homeruns already on the weekend, Krienitz walked her, bringing home Sherman in the process.
A sharp lineout to the right fielder from Klinkert scored Anderson before sophomore designated player Reina Gaber knocked an RBI single to center, giving Houston the convincing 7-0 advantage.
In the meantime, Crabtree quietly racked up four strikeouts through the first two innings, keeping UTEP off the board while letting her offense work for her.
And work they did. Outon crushed a solo shot off of the scoreboard in right-center field to lead off the top of the third. Back-to-back infield singles for the speedy sophomore centerfielder Ashleigh Jones and Sherman ended Krienitz's outing for UTEP's third pitcher of the game, senior Courtney Auger.
Unfortunately for the Miners, Auger didn't fair much better as she ran into the buzz saw that the Cougars were bringing to the plate. Anderson welcomed her to the game with an RBI single while Gregson reached on an error. Both would score when Lathan unleashed her second homerun of the game - and third of the weekend - propelling Houston to a 12-0 lead.
The bottom of the third saw several defensive changes for the Cougars, including moving Spittler into the outfield. She made the most of her playing time by blasting an opposite field homerun in her only at bat of the day to push the Cougar lead to 13-0.
Working on a one-hit shutout, two loopy infield singles fell in against Crabtree in the bottom of the fourth. Crabtree quickly disregarded them, tossing two more strikeouts to stop the threat.
In the Cougars' final at bat, Lathan roped a single, her only hit of her 3-for-3 day that was not a homerun. With one runner aboard, Martin connected on her first collegiate homerun, bouncing her bomb off of the rocks past the right field wall. Her round-trip effort turned out the final score, 15-0.
A double and two walks would go without scoring, as Crabtree struck out two and got the final Miner of the game to pop-up to Outon to seal the five-inning shutout.
Houston will play host to No. 17 Baylor on Tuesday, April 12 in a doubleheader at Cougar Softball Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.