March 6, 2014
|JUDI GARMAN CLASSIC|
FULLERTON, Calif. - Houston Softball looks to rebound this weekend as they travel to Fullerton, Calif. for the Judi Garman Classic. A stacked field awaits the Cougars in Southern California with two more Top 10 opponents and all five teams (Texas, Long Beach State, No. 5/4 Michigan, Fresno State, No. 8/7 Arizona) owning winning records this year.
The Cougars open up with Texas on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. CST and follow with a pair of games each day on Friday and Saturday. UH faces Long Beach State and No. 5/4 Michigan on Friday and take on Fresno State and No. 8/7 Arizona on Saturday to conclude the tournament.
WEEKEND SCHEDULE (All times CST)
Texas vs. Houston 7:30 p.m.
Houston vs. Long Beach State 12 p.m.
Houston vs. No. 5/4 Michigan 2:30 p.m.
7:30 p.m. Houston vs. Fresno State 7:30 p.m.
10 p.m. Houston vs. No. 8/7 Arizona 10 p.m.
LAST TIME OUT
The Cougars posted a 6-1 loss to North Texas on Monday evening taking their fifth loss in six games. Selena Hernandez hit a solo home run in the first inning to supply Houston’s lone run of the game. Over the weekend, UH went 1-4 against Purdue, Florida State and Alabama, splitting the weekend series with Purdue. Katie St. Pierre and Tiffani McKnight were named to the All-Tournament Team.
ON HOUSTON (10-7)
After starting the season with a 9-2 record, Houston has hit a slide lately going 1-5 over the past week. Facing a competitive field and playing three straight Top-10 opponents (Alabama, Florida State), the Cougars posted a 1-4 record at the Easton Crimson Classic over the past weekend and most recently fell 6-1 against North Texas on Monday night.
Houston ranks No. 2 in the American Athletic Conference in team batting average (.313) and on base (.400) while holding the top slugging percentage (.493) in the league. The Cougars rank first or second in 14 offensive categories including leading the league with 20 home runs. Houston also has a league-leading nine double plays turned on the year including two games with two apiece. Tiffani McKnight earned weekly distinction by being named to the American Honor Roll after batting .533 over the weekend (8-for-15).
Diedre Outon (4-3) has received the call to start in seven games this year and owns a 2.29 ERA for the best on the staff. Summer Groholski (4-2) and Julana Shrum (2-2) have pitched in to fill the rest of the innings for the Houston pitching staff.
ON ARIZONA (18-1)
Arizona has currently run-ruled seven straight opponents for a first time in the storied program’s history. Arizona has four wins over ranked teams so far this year. They are one of five PAC 12 teams ranked in the Top 10 according to the ESPN.com/USA Softball Poll with their only loss coming to No. 18/15 Missouri.
The Wildcats have a deep lineup having nine batters about .327 buoyed by Kelsey Rodriguez’s .487 average that has helped carry Arizona to 188 runs scored during their first 19 games this season. Rodriguez leads the team with 19 hits and eight doubles while Kelie Fox has nine home runs and 31 RBI for the team best in both categories.
Arizona has used five pitchers this year with all enjoying similar results - wins and not many runs allowed. The pitching staff combines for a 0.72 team ERA with Esteal Pinon owning the lowest mark at 0.35.
ON FRESNO STATE (10-5)
Fresno State carries a 10-5 record into the weekend with a close 5-4 loss to No. 2 Tennessee their last time out. The Bulldogs have faced five Top 25 teams this year posting an 0-5 mark against the ranked competition for all of their losses.
Vonnie Martin owns Fresno’s top batting average at .341 and has drawn a team-best 13 walks for a .500 on base percentage. The top power threat from the Northern California squad is Brooke Ortiz with four home runs, half of Fresno’s team total of eight.
Jill Compton has a 6-3 record with a 2.39 ERA during her 52.2 innings of work to lead the Bulldogs efforts from the pitching circle.
ON LONG BEACH STATE (11-6)
Long Beach State enters the weekend on a four-game winning streak sporting an 11-6 overall record. The team collectively hits .331 with Ashley Holmes leading the team in average (.457), home runs (6) and RBI (20). Shayna Kimbrough, the reinging Big West Player of the Year, has a .368 batting average.
Erin Jones-Wesley (5-3) and Amanda Hansen (6-3) work from inside the circle the bulk of the time for 49ers and have combined to throw four shutouts.
ON MICHIGAN (13-2)
No. 5/4 Michigan started the year with a loss to currently ranked No. 1 Florida before stringing together 12-straight wins before falling to No. 4 UCLA this week, while also handing the Bruins their first loss of the year.
The Wolverines have been a handful to opposing pitchers with a .340 team batting average. The team has combined to hit only seven home runs with three by Sierra Romero who has a .548 batting average on the year. Five other starters enjoy averages above .300 as they have outscored their opponetns 93-29 on the year.
Michigan looks to Haylie Wagner (8-0) and Megan Bertsa (5-0) inside the circle with both pitchers ERAs under 0.90.
ON TEXAS (13-9)
Texas won five-straight games as the host of the Texas Invitational last weekend after starting the year 8-9. This is their second trip out to California this year after attending the Mary Nutter Classic the previous record posting a 2-3 record while at that tournament.
Four Longhorns are hovering over the .400 batting average line led by Stephanie Wong’s .450 clip. Lindsay Stephens is just behind at .446 and leads the team with seven home runs and 34 RBI. As a team, Texas is hitting at a .353 average and slugging .496. Texas has two base thieves in Braejae Washington (18-for-18) and Taylor Thorn (14-for-18).
Gabby Smith has received the call to start nine times this year owning a team-best 2.06 ERA while dealing 46 strikeouts. Tiarra Davis has seven starts with a 2.62 mark and 48 strikeouts
Houston has never met Arizona in softball and only possesses a winning record over Fresno State (3-0) against the field of teams they will meet this weekend. After knocking Texas out of their own NCAA Regional in 2011, the Longhorns have posted three straight wins over UH to bump the series history 18-4 in their favor. Michigan and Houston (2-2) have halved the four times they’ve met on the field with Michigan claiming the last game 10-3 in 2011. Long Beach State posted a 3-0 win over Houston in the Campbell/Cartier Classic held in San Diego in 2011.
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.
DODGE, DUCK, DIP, DIVE, DODGE...OR DON’T
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 70 hit by pitches in her career including 63 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 body shots 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)
EYES ON THE PRIZE
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 20 long balls through the first 17 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).
LEADING THINGS OFF
Leadoff batter Katie St. Pierre has reached first base safely 10 of the 17 this year and three times has scored during the first inning this season. Houston is 3-0 on the year when St. Pierre scores and 5-1 as a team when UH leads after the first inning. St. Pierre had a 13-game hitting streak come to an end recently that started the second game of the year.
FACING TEXAN COMPETITION
Houston carries a 3-1 record against fellow Texan teams this season with wins over Sam Houston State (11-5, 13-5) and SFA (7-3) and the lone loss coming to North Texas (1-6). The Cougars have nine games remaining against teams from the Lone Star State.
LOOKING BACK TO 2013
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.