Softball Hits the Road for Easton Crimson Classic

Feb. 27, 2014

Easton Crimson Classic
When Feb. 28 - March 2
Where Tuscaloosa, Ala.
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Game Notes UHCougars.com

HOUSTON - Houston Softball heads on the road for the first time this season as they take part in the Easton Crimson Classic hosted by Alabama. The Cougars will face the host the host No. 11/10 Crimson Tide, No. 9/11 Florida State and Purdue over their five-game trip to Tuscaloosa.

UH opens the tournament on Friday at 11 a.m. facing Florida State and take on Alabama at 6 p.m. Houston plays twice on Saturday at 4 and 6 p.m. vs Alabama and Purdue before wrapping up the tournament with a Sunday contest vs. the Boilermakers at 11 a.m.

Friday, Feb 28
11:00 a.m. Florida State vs. Houston
1:30 p.m. Florida State vs. Purdue
4:00 Alabama vs. Purdue
6:00 Alabama vs. Houston
Saturday, March 1
11:00 a.m. Purdue vs. Florida State
1:30 p.m. Alabama vs. Florida State
4:00 Houston vs. Alabama
6:00 Purdue vs. Houston
Sunday, March 2
11:00 a.m. Houston vs. Purdue
1:30 p.m. Florida State vs. Alabama

The Cougars have hosted a pair of tournaments to begin the year and came out of each set of games with a single loss. This marks the first time Houston leaves the friendly confines of Cougar Softball Stadium to play in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Cougars lead the American with a .371 batting average, .616 slugging and .457 on base percentage en route to scoring a league-best 94 runs this season. The team ranks first in the conference in 10 offensive categories at this point in the year while sporting the second-best team ERA at 2.30.

The first four batters in the UH line up are all swinging above .400 with shortstop Selena Hernandez leading the pack with her .488 clip. Hernandez has also collected multiple hits in a team-best eight games this year. Those same four Cougars (Hernandez, Haley Outon, Katie St. Pierre and Kayla Holland) also rank No. 1-4 in the league in runs scored with 14 runs for St. Pierre, Outon and Hernandez while Holland has scored 13 runs.

Diedre Outon has compiled a 0.44 ERA over her five starts to hold a 4-1 record on the season. Two of her games have been shutouts and she's held the opposing batters to a .205 batting average.

During the Houston Hilton Plaza Invite, Houston posted three-run rule victories on their way to a 4-1 weekend record. UH toppled Nicholls State (15-1, 12-4) and Columbia (17-0, 5-4) with the only loss coming to North Dakota State (1-3). Houston outscored their opponents 50-12 over the five games. Houston had a scheduled game with Texas A&M on Feb. 26 postponed to April 2 due to the threat of bad weather.

It was a big weekend at the plate for Haley Outon, the most recent American Player of the Week, as the senior catcher moved into first place on the school's career home run record list with her 48th of her lifetime. The fifth home run of the year came against Nicholls State (Feb. 23) and she now holds the career and single season (22) school home run records.

Alabama has won four of their last five games as they hosted the Easton Bama Bash last weekend posting a 4-1 record during the homestand. The Crimson Tide have advanced to the NCAA post season 15 straight seasons after making it to the Knoxville Super Regional last year, falling 2-0 to Tennessee.

A deep lineup featuring eight batters above .333 buoyed by Haylie McCleney's .595 average has helped carry Alabama to 121 runs scored during their 16 games this season. McCleney has totaled five home runs, 18 RBI and 10 steals to lead the team in those categories as well.

Alabama has used three pitchers this year with Leslie Jury receiving the bulk of the work with her 40.2 innings pitched. She carries a 6-1 record with a 1.55 ERA.

Florida State has the best record of the four teams heading into the tournament with their 14-1 mark. FSU started the year with a 4-3 loss to No. 9 Nebraska and have since won 13 straight games including rebounding vs. the ranked Huskers and posting another win against a ranked team beating Auburn 5-4 on Feb. 26. FSU advanced to the Austin Super Regional during the 2013 season falling to No. 7 Texas, the site of Houston's Regional.

The Seminoles has three batters above .350 with Maddie O'Brien leading the charge with her .463 clip and also has the team lead for home runs (6) and RBI (28). Tiffani Brown is a perfect 12-for-12 in steals this season as she's the third member of the .350+ club for FSU. As a team, FSU is batting .342 and is 25-for-31 in steals.
Florida State has been nearly unhittable from inside the circle as four hurlers have combined to allow only 61 hits in 94.0 innings of work translating to a 0.74 team ERA. Lacey Waldrop has made nine starts and possesses an 8-1 record with 65 strikeouts over 56.0 innings of work. Teammate Jessica Burroughs's ERA 1.27 and she's a perfect 6-0 on the season in her 27.2 innings pitched.

ON PURDUE (5-7-1)
Purdue is led by first-year head coach Kim Schuette who comes to West Lafayette, Ind. after spending the past eight seasons at Eastern Illinois. The Boilermakers went 23-32 in 2013 and are the only team in this tournament who did not see NCAA postseason action last year.

Ashley Burkhardt and Andie Varsho are the team-leaders in batting average with their .450 and .421 marks. Burkhardt has also hit a team-best four homers and driven in 18 RBI on the year. The Boilermakers love to run as evidenced by their No. 4 ranking as a team in the NCAA last season and have swiped 24-of-28 bags this year with Varsho the top thief with her nine steals.

Inside the circle, Lilly Fecho has received the most starts and has a 3-4 record with a 4.46 era in her 42.1 innings of work. She's thrown over half the innings and eight of 13 starts for Purdue.

This is the first time the Houston program has travelled to Tuscaloosa, Ala. and will also be the first meeting against Florida State. Houston faced both Alabama (L, 3-6) and Purdue (W, 3-1) last season at home. The Crimson Tide owns a 3-0 record against Houston with all three games coming in the Bayou City. Purdue and Houston has split the all-time series at 1-1 with UH earning the win during the 2013 Striking Out Breast Cancer game.

Alabama 0-3
2005 L 4-7
2005 L 2-5
2013 L 3-6

Purdue 1-1
2010 L 3-4
2013 W 3-1

USA Softball TOP 50 "WATCH LIST"
Houston's Haley Outon is one of 50 student-athletes that has been named to the "Watch List" for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award awarded by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball. This is the second-straight season the senior catcher has been named to the Preseason Watch List. Outon is one of four American Athletic Conference student-athletes named to the list along with Katie Keller (Louisville), Sara Nevins (South Florida) and Stephanie Pasquale (Temple). The Top 25 Finalists for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award will be announced April 9.

Kendra Cullum was a three-sport athlete at Conroe High School but dodgeball was not one of those. Cullum has taken a beating on her way to first base as she's totaled 68 hit by pitches in her career including 62 while wearing the Red and White. She set a school record with 21 bean balls in 2012 and then broke her own mark in 2013 with 38 bean balls. The 38 bean balls rank as the third-most in a NCAA single-season.

Cullum moved into second place in the NCAA history for career hit by pitches (1. 92 Mariah Gearhart, Oklahoma State) when she took three balls to the body against Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 16, 2013. The three times she was hit by a pitch is the 15th time she's been plunked multiple times in a game and the record-setting beanball was the second of the inning she received. Against Northwestern (May 19) in the 2012 NCAA Regionals, Cullum was hit by a pitch four times to set another program record in the category.

Houston was recognized as one of the 2013 NFCA Top Ten All-Academic Teams. UH ranked eighth in the nation with a 3.53 cumulative team GPA which was an all-time record for the Cougars. Houston softball tied for the UH sport program lead with a fall semester GPAs of 3.48 while sporting the second-highest cumulative GPA behind the tennis team. Haley Outon earned the Team's Academic MVP and was named to the Conference USA All-Academic Team.
Ten Cougars earned NFCA All-American Scholar Athletes in 2012-13 (Holly Anderson, Jaime Edwards, Reina Gaber, Sydney Gerbracht, Ashleigh Jones, Diedre Outon, Haley Outon, Katie St. Pierre, Tess Soefje and Bailey Watts)

Head coach Kyla Holas always strives for points of emphasis on manufacturing runs during the offseason. In 2012, Houston put an emphasis on base running and the Cougars were off to the races with a program record 111 steals. Last season, the Cougars stretched singles into doubles to the tune of 90 two-base hits, another program record. Houston looks to bolster their home run production in 2014. UH has 18 long balls through the first games and will look to challenge the 73 bombs hit in 2008.

Haley Outon moved into first place in the school's record books with her 48th career home run against Nicholls State on Feb. 22. Outon's fifth home run of the year added to her impressive weekend where she went 6-for-13 (.462) with three home runs, nine RBI and seven walks. Outon now holds the career and single season (22, 2011) Houston records. Outon also shares two NCAA records due to her power prowess. She became the fifth player in NCAA history with home runs in six-straight games (May 1-11, 2012) and the eighth to hit two grand slams in a single game (April 13, 2013 at UTEP).

Leadoff batter Katie St. Pierre has reached first base safely five of the first six games this year and twice has scored during the first inning this season. Houston is 3-0 on the year when St. Pierre scores and 5-0 as a team when leading 1-0 after the first. UH has used the first two innings to set the tone of games outscoring their competition 24-2 on the year. A big reason for the successful starts is the top two batters in the UH line up - St. Pierre and Selena Hernandez. St. Pierre carries a 10-game hitting streak into this weekend with the No. 2 batter Hernandez having reached base safely via a hit in all 11 games this year.

Houston carries a 3-0 record against fellow Texan Teams this season with wins over Sam Houston State (11-5, 13-5) and SFA (7-3). The Cougars have 11 games remaining against teams from the Lone Star State.

Houston went 41-20 advancing to their third-straight NCAA Regional for the first time in program history. Houston competed in Conference USA for the 13th and final season while finishing second during the regular season (19-5) and tournament. Houston went 1-2 in the Austin Regional earning a win against Army while falling to South Carolina twice while posting a 12-14 against tournament teams during the year.

The Cougars continue tournament action next weekend at the Judi Garmen Classic (March 6-8) hosted by Cal State Fullerton. Before heading west to Fullerton, Calif., UH and North Texas will meet in Houston for a doubleheader on Tuesday, March 4.



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