BATON ROUGE, La. -- The University of Houston Softball team shutout No. 21/22 Louisiana, 1-0, in the opening game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional on Friday night at LSU's Tiger Park.
With the win, the Cougars, who are receiving votes in the latest USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll, improve to 37-20 overall and advance into the winner's bracket, while the Ragin Cajuns fall to 38-15. The win is Houston's first in NCAA Regional play since a 7-6 decision over Northwestern State in the Waco Regional on May 17, 2014.
Sophomore second baseman Arielle James lifted the Cougars to victory with a solo home run down the left-field line in the top of the fourth inning. James turned on the first pitch of the frame for her fourth long ball of the season.
In the circle, junior Savannah Heebner improved to 26-9. The native of Sedalia, Colo., walked three and struck two in her 13th shutout of the season, breaking her tie with Angel Shamblin (2007) for the second-most all-time at Houston in a single season. Overall, the victory is the 50th of her career, strengthening her hold of the second most all-time in program history.
Junior catcher Brooke Vannoy made her 107th-consecutive start behind the plate dating back to Houston's 7-3 win over Boston College on Feb. 12, 2017, at Cougar Softball Stadium.
The game, which started at 3:04 p.m., had a 4:19 delay and resumed at 7:40 p.m.
4th | Leading off the fourth inning, James hit a solo home run down the left-field line for what proved to be the 1-0 final.
Savannah Heebner (W, 26-9) | 7.0 IP, CG, SHO, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 2 K
2018 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional
Game 1 - #3 Houston 1, #2 Louisiana 0
VESELY OPENING STATEMENT:
VESELY: You know what, we want to start with saying our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the Santa Fe area, the tragedy today. We want to say you guys are in our thoughts and prayers and we wish luck, love, to deal with a tough situation.
ARIELLE, TELL US ABOUT THE HOME RUN. OBVIOUSLY, (UL-LAFAYETTE PITCHER) SUMMER ELLYSON HAS HAD A GREAT YEAR AND THAT WAS A HUGE HIT.
JAMES: I was really excited. When I went in, I was looking for a base hit and ended up getting a home run. I was really excited. It was my first hit in the tournament and my first hit in regionals. I was just really excited.
FELT LIKE A PITCHERS' DUEL, IS THAT THE KIND OF GAME YOU WERE EXPECTING AND LOOKING FOR?
HEEBNER: I wasn't expecting to have it all on my shoulders. I knew my team was going to be behind my back and my defense was definitely there tonight, and offense came through, had a lot of hits and Arielle started us off really well with her home run and got the rest of the team involved and excited to play. They just played their hearts out tonight. They left it all on the field.
TALK ABOUT SAVANNAH'S PERFORMANCE TODAY, PRETTY EFFICIENT PERFORMANCE, TWO HITS, ONLY THREE WALKS, TWO STRIKEOUTS.
VESELY: She was very effective in the circle. I thought that she could actually throw better, and we're looking forward to her and potentially the rest of our staff stepping up tomorrow facing another quality opponent and trying to come out with a W.
QUICK TURNAROUND TOMORROW. JUST TALK ABOUT THE GAME PLAN AND REST OF THE WEEKEND.
VESELY: Our goal as a staff was to get to regionals. Now that we are here, our objective is to stay in the winner's bracket. So that's something, we're going to stay and watch this game, kind of make sure both opponents look like they looked on film. We'll do notes and have a game plan for tomorrow.
LONG DELAY TODAY, STARTING THE GAME AND HAVING TO WAIT SO LONG. HOW DID YOU HANDLE THAT SO WELL?
VESELY: We've been in quite a few rain delays this year to be honest, and I thought the girls handled it with maturity. They showed some of their experience and their age, and it's something you cannot prepare for, but I thought the girls handled it very well.
COUGAR SOFTBALL STADIUM UPGRADES
Thanks to a record year for the Diamond Club, Houston Softball announced the addition of an LED, Daktronics video board (completed) and indoor practice facility as major upgrades to Cougar Softball Stadium.
According to Daktronics, the new outfield video board is the sixth largest at an on-campus softball stadium in the country and the second largest in the state of Texas. The board, which sits just beyond the left-field wall, stands 29-feet-3.1-inches tall and measure 24-feet-4.0-inches wide with 576 square feet of space (24-feet by 24-feet) for live video, instant replays, statistics and scoring information, graphics and animations, and sponsor messages. The display features a 13HD pixel layout for crisp, clear imagery for a great view from every seat at the stadium.
The indoor facility, which will replace the current batting cage down the right-field line, will measure 70-feet by 80-feet. The 5,600-square-foot space will feature five batting cages, measuring 60-feet long by 15-feet wide each, with retractable nets for the space to be used in a variety of ways. The facility will have a synthetic turf floor and will be temperature controlled.
In total, the two capital projects represent $1.2 million in upgrades.
The Houston Athletics Ticket Office is once again proud to offer the Shasta Pass for the 2017-18 season. For just $80, Cougar fans can purchase one Shasta Pass, which allows season-long general admission entrance to all Houston Volleyball, Soccer, Women's Basketball and Softball home games.
The Shasta Pass offers Houston fans a substantial saving as single-game tickets start at $5 for all four sports. To purchase a Shasta Pass, call 713-GO-COOGS or CLICK HERE.
JOIN DIAMOND CLUB
Fans can help support the Houston Softball program by joining the Diamond Club. To find out more information about the Diamond Club, visit UHCougars.com or call Cougar Pride at (713) 743-GoUH. For more information, CLICK HERE.