May 28, 2011
STILLWATER, Okla. - The University of Houston softball team refused to accept back-to back deficits as the Cougars rallied within one run of reaching the Women's College World Series before falling to No. 25/22 Oklahoma State at the NCAA Stillwater Super Regional, 6-5.
After falling behind 3-0 in the first inning, Houston (44-18) rallied to put two runs on the board in the Cougars' half of the first and scored two more on a Jennifer Klinkert homer in the third to take a 4-3 lead. A three-run fifth for OSU put the Cowgirls back in front before a solo shot from senior Baillie Lott in Houston's final at bat nearly retook the lead once again.
Down by a single run, time ran out on the Cougars' NCAA Tournament run, as the only school from a non-BCS conference to reach the Super Regionals finished its Cinderella season on Saturday. Head Coach Kyla Holas earned her 399th victory of her career in the first game of the day.
"First of all, I want to congratulate Oklahoma State," Holas said. "They played a great series. When you're a college athlete and you can't be satisfied by getting this close, but our girls showed so much fight."
The Cougars and Oklahoma State (44-18) made up for offensively quiet games one and two to combine for five runs off of seven hits in the first inning, setting the tone for an action-packed third and final game. Fittingly, the offensively powerful Cougars blasted two homeruns in its final game of the season, finishing with 67 homers in 2011 - the second most in school history.
At the plate, redshirt junior second baseman Jennifer Klinkert powered the Cougar comeback that saw Houston erase a 3-0 first-inning deficit and turn it into a 4-3 lead by the bottom of the third inning. In her final at bat as a Cougar, senior Baillie Lott did all she could - knocking out her sixth homer of the season over the left field wall to bring her team within one run in the bottom of the seventh.
Sophomore shortstop Brooke Lathan also powered the Cougar offense, posting her second 3-for-3 effort of the weekend. She went 6-for-8 in her first NCAA Super Regional appearance.
For the second time of the day, senior Donna Bourgeois took the circle for the Cougars. After tossing her seventh complete game shutout of the season in the first game of the afternoon, the Cowgirls had seen what they needed to see. After surrendering two hits and three runs in the top of the first, Bourgeois was relieved by freshman Diedre Outon (6-3).
Bourgeois finished her Houston career on a 13-0 run in her final 13 decisions. Outon suffered the loss, allowing three runs on five hits in her 4.0 innings of relief. Bourgeois returned to the game in the fifth, shutting down the Cowgirls in the sixth and seventh.
Outon entered the game in the top of the first and gave up an RBI single to left fielder Tamara Brown for the third run of the inning, but a ground out ended the Cowgirl rally and turned the game over to Houston's hitters.
The Cougar lineup ran with the opportunity, using four hits and a sacrifice fly to take back two of the runs. The only runner to score in Houston's game two 1-0 victory, senior right fielder Katy Beth Sherman led off the Houston first with an infield single and took second using the patented Holly Anderson sac bunt.
Conference USA Player of the Year Melissa Gregson stepped to the plate and cranked out her team-leading 47th RBI of the season - and her first of the Stillwater Super Regional - to put the Cougars on the board. Gregson would come home after sophomore shortstop Brooke Lathan moved her to third with her 12th double of the year.
Lathan's second double of the day finished starter Simone Freeman's outing for senior reliever Sarah Odom (4-2). With runners on second and third, Klinkert sent a long sacrifice fly to left, bringing home Gregson and narrowing the deficit, 3-2.
Odom kept the Cougars quiet in the bottom of the second, but the silence was brief. With two outs, Houston went to work in the bottom of the third. Lathan's single put her on board for Klinkert's 10th bomb of the season. Her blast was the second of her career in Super Regional play, and also marked the second time in Houston's history that three Cougars have posted double-digit homerun numbers in one season (2008).
For the first time since the first inning, Outon ran into a rough patch in the top of the fifth when designated player Ari Morrison drew a one-out walk. Second baseman Alysia Hamilton singled up the middle before Outon put lethal first baseman Julie Ward on with four-straight balls.
With the bases loaded, Garcia hit a grounder to Lathan who quickly tossed over to first to get the out, but gave Morrison room to get home and tie the game. After Outon's stellar performance, it was an unfortunate wild pitch that allowed Hamilton to score and return the lead to Oklahoma State. Brown's double to the left field wall was the last batter Outon would face as she knocked in Ward to wrap up the three-run inning, and OSU surfaced with a 6-4 lead.
With three outs left to work with, Lott was called upon to pinch hit in the bottom of the seventh. In her final trip to the plate, Lott crushed reliever Kat Espinosa's delivery over the fence in left to pull the Cougars within one, 6-5.
Espinosa retired the next three Cougars in order, however, to end the Cougars' impressive season. Houston earned its 13th victory against a team ranked in the top-25 or receiving votes before falling in the third and final game of the NCAA Super Regional.