Softball Hosts Houston Hilton Plaza Invite
HOUSTON - The University of Houston softball program will serve as host for the Hilton Houston Plaza Invite this weekend as they welcome DePaul, Illinois and Texas to Cougar Softball Stadium.
The Cougars (4-2) faces DePaul (4-1) and Illinois (3-2) on Friday, DePaul and Texas (6-0) on Saturday and the final game of the tournament against the Illini on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Both Friday and Saturday's sets are back-to-back with first pitch scheduled for 3 p.m. both days.
LAST TIME OUTThe Cougars opened the season with a 4-2 record last weekend at the Houston Hilton Plaza Classic with three wins coming against the Texas State Bobcats and the other victory against the Lipscomb Bisons. UH split the action, going 1-1, on Friday and Saturday, before the offense found its rhythm and erupted for 17 runs in only 10 innings of work.
Houston struggled in the field over the first two days of the tourney, committing eight errors in four games before shoring up the defense in the final day and making only one mistake in the field.
Four pitchers threw for the Cougars over the weekend and Summer Groholski led the crew with a 2-0 record and 11 strikeouts in 12 innings of work. Freshman Julana Shrum threw a shutout against Texas State in her first appearance in the circle wearing the UH letters.
The Houston hitters are batting .279 as a team with Holly Anderson (.471) and Reina Gaber/Katie St. Pierre (.350) leading the way. Three home runs with Haley Outon, Kendra Cullum and Kayla Holland each chipping in one.
ON THE COMPETITIONTwo teams from the Prairie State will make the trek south to the Lone Star State Houston and Texas welcome DePaul and Illinois. Three teams in the tournament, including the host Houston, DePaul and Texas, advanced to the NCAA postseason last year and finished ranked in the top 50 RPI (Texas No. 8, DePaul No. 26, Houston No. 46).
DePaul (4-1) opened their season with just one run allowed in their four wins, while falling 8-2 to No. 18 Louisville at the Sportco Kick-Off Classic. The Blue Demons picked up wins over UCF, UNLV, Minnesota and Texas Tech, outscoring their opposition 26-1 in the victories. Kristen Verdun leads the team in batting average (.533), hits (8), total bases (14) and is the ace in the circle for the demons with a 3-1 record.
Illinois (3-2) took on No. 1 Alabama in their opening game of the 2013 season and suffered a 2-7 setback against the defending national champions at the UNI Dome Tournament hosted by Northern Iowa. The Illini picked up wins against North Dakota State, Green Bay and Northern Iowa inside the dome while falling to Drake as well. The Illini have are a perfect 19-for-19 on the base paths this year.
Texas (6-0) began their season hosting the Texas Classic and won all five games played at their own park. The Longhorns snuck in a 6-0 win over Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday this week. UT has put up 37 runs while only allowing five so far this year. Brejae Washington leads the team batting .500 with 10 steals, tied with Kim Bruins in the team lead in the same category. Bruins hasn't allowed a run while pitching.
ALL-TIME SERIESHouston is 4-17 all time against the Longhorns with their last win coming in a 1-0 win at the 2011 NCAA Regional held at Austin. Texas began the series winning the first 11 games but the in-state rivalry has tightened up since the teams have met at least once a year (2008). Over that nine game stretch, Houston is 4-5 with UT enjoying the last two victories, coming home and away, in 2012.
Against the former Conference USA foes, DePaul, Houston is 4-14. UH won the 2008 series 2-1 the last time these two teams faced off. Houston is 0-2 all-time against Illinois with a 2004 loss (2-3) to the Illini knocking Houston out of the Waco (Texas) NCAA Regional.
ABOUT 2013 HOUSTONFive position starters, all four pitchers and 14 letterwinners return the majority of production from last year's 35-24 (15-9 C-USA) team. Five newcomers join preseason Conference USA Player of the Year Haley Outon and first-team all-conference selections seniors Holly Anderson and Reina Gaber.
The junior Outon led the team in batting en route to establishing new school records in the home run (22) and RBI categories while the trio combined for a .360 batting average, 188 hits and 133 RBI.
Freshman Jaime Edwards made the C-USA All-Freshman team batting .325 with and RBI every five at bats before her rookie campaign was cut short with an injury. The native of Austin (Texas) returns healthy and rejoins starters fellow infielder Kendra Cullum who made 51 starts at shortstop in her first year with the program. Cullum's claim to fame in 2012 came the hard way as the Conroe (Texas) native took first base care of the bean ball 21 times to set a school record.
Junior Bailey Watts, a 2010 C-USA All-Freshman selection, leads Houston in the pitching circle bolstered by a young but experienced pitching crew including junior Diedre Outon, sophomores Summer Groholski and Ty'ara Law. The group threw every pitch last year and welcome freshman Julana Shrum to the mix.
Mizzou transfer and Pearland (Texas) native Taylor Duplechain, freshman Katie St. Pierre (Flower Mound, Texas), Jessica Snyder (The Woodlands, Texas) Tess Soefje (Frisco, Texas) are set to earn their first UH letters this year.
SEASON TICKETSHouston season tickets are now available online at UHCougars.com or by calling 713-GO-COOGS. Houston Cougar Softball season tickets are flex tickets which allows a single admission for every home game, or the entire lot of 35 for a one-time price of $75.
FOLLOW THE COOGSFollow along with Houston Cougar Softball this season on Facebook (HoustonCougarSoftball), Twitter (@UHCougarSB) and Instagram (houstoncougars). Stay tuned to UHCougars.com for live stats and news on the program.
PRESEASON ALL CONFERENCE USA TEAMHaley Outon - Preseason Player of the Year, Preseason First Team (C)
Holly Anderson - Preseason First Team (IF)
Reina Gaber - Preseason First Team (DP)
2013 C-USA Preseason Poll (1st place votes)
2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch ListHaley Outon was one of 50 student-athletes named to the ASA/USA Softball watch list for Player of the Year honors. The Pflugerville (Texas) native was one of four catchers and the only player from C-USA named to the watch list.
IN THE POLLSThe 2012 National champions Alabama Crimson Tide and runner up Oklahoma Sooners hold the top two spots this year and Houston has a game on the schedule this year with both including a home game against the champions March 27. The Cougars also face (as of Feb. 14) No. 6 Texas, No. 15 Louisiana, and three teams receiving votes (Baylor, DePaul and Tulsa) this year. Houston received three votes in the 2013 NFCA Preseason Poll after being voted to their first preseason poll in 2012 at No. 20.
UP NEXTAfter five games at Cougar Softball Stadium this weekend, Houston returns next week to host a pair of Texas, Houston Baptist on Feb. 26 and face UTSA the next day.