AUSTIN, Texas - The University of Houston softball team won 2-1 over Auburn (33-22) in the opening game of the NCAA Austin Regional. Houston (35-22) faces the winner of Northwestern and Texas Saturday at noon.
"That was a really tough game but that's what you expect at this point in the season," said head coach Kyla Holas. "Any one thing can be the difference and I was proud of the team that they kept fighting and fighting and found a way to win."
With the win, Houston has now won seven consecutive NCAA Regional games dating back to 2008 including last year's 3-0 mark in Austin.
"That's big for a school like us at Houston, a lot of people probably don't expect that from a midmajor. We have represented well and we are here to say it doesn't matter at this point, anyone can win."
Bailey Watts (16-8) earned her first career NCAA tournament win by keeping the Auburn offense at bay all day long. The righty went the distance for her 16th complete game of the year and reduced the Tiger offense to keeping the balls in the infield. She had 10 popup/ground outs in the game while allowing only two extra base hits.
"We tried to use every pitch that I had and we also changed up speeds," said Watts. "I stayed focused on one pitch at a time like we had talked about all week and it worked out today."
The Cougars took advantage of two Auburn mistakes with an illegal pitch and wild pitch leading to both Houston runs.
Houston secured their first run in the fourth inning when Haley Outon legged out an infield single to extend her hitting streak to eight games. After Reina Gaber's sac bunt moved the sophomore to second base, Outon stole third base and applied a hard slide to dislodge the ball from the Tiger third baseman to reach base safely.
The aggressive base running paid off as the native of Pflugerville, Texas, came around to score on a wild pitch and gave Houston the 1-0 lead.
Haley Outon saw her NCAA record for consecutive games with a home run (6) come to an end. She now shares the NCAA record with Dena Tyson (Washington, 2007) and Taylor Edwards (Nebraska, 2011)
The Tigers tied the game at 1-1 when Melero Branndi hit a solo home run with two outs in the top of the sixth inning.
In Houston's final at bat, the Cougars loaded the bases and regained the lead courtesy of an illegal pitch called, The Tiger's reliever Angel Brunner was called for her second illegal pitch of the inning, allowing Holly Anderson to score from third.
Anderson was 1-for-3 in the game and reached base the last at bat via a walk. The junior extended her hitting streak in the first at bat of the game lacing a double off the fence in left center field.
After allowing a leadoff hit to former Houston shortstop Brooke Lathan, Watts closed the door on the rally attempt with three straight outs to help Houston advance to Saturday's
Houston faces the winner of Texas and Northwestern Saturday at 12 p.m. Stay tuned to UHCougars.com for broadcast information.