June 10, 2011
HOUSTON - The University of Houston softball team used NCAA-leading improvements in the circle and at the plate to post one of the most successful seasons in program history in 2011.
Houston finished the season with a 44-18 record and a 19-5 mark in Conference USA action. Their C-USA performance gave the Cougars their second regular season conference championship in program history. It also marked the first time in C-USA's history that the league crowned co-champions as Tulsa also finished its season with a 19-5 record.
Houston's 44 wins in 2011 tied the 2007 squad for the second-most victories in program history (54, 2008). For the fourth time since starting the program, head coach Kyla Holas' Cougars reached the forty-win milestone. At the conclusion of the 2011 season, Holas sits at 399 career wins.
Houston's pitching staff finished the season leading the NCAA in team ERA (1.35). Senior Amanda Crabtree spent the majority of her final season as the nation's leader in strikeouts per seven innings (12.0) and hits allowed per seven innings (2.85). In addition, Crabtree tossed three no-hitters in 2011 en route to being a five-time C-USA Pitcher of the Week. Fellow senior Donna Bourgeois brought the season total to four when she added a no-hitter of her own in late April.
Crabtree also made her mark on Houston's leaderboard. The senior struck out 17 Tigers when the Cougars faced Memphis on the road to become Houston's all-time, single-game strikeout leader. The feat helped Crabtree finish her final collegiate season with 336 strikeouts - making her the Cougars' all-time, single-season strikeout leader.
At the plate, Houston's hitters crushed 67 homeruns as a team - the second most in school history (73, 2008). Junior Melissa Gregson (16), sophomore Brooke Lathan (13) and redshirt junior Jennifer Klinkert (10) were the second Cougar trio to hit double-digit homerun numbers in the same season. Gregson's 16 bombs came just three shy of tying UH's all-time, single-season record. Prior to the WCWS, Houston's lineup ranked 28th in the country in homeruns per game (1.08).
Gregson earned the C-USA Player of the Year award, becoming the third player in Houston's history, and the first since 2007, to claim the prestigious honor. After transferring in before the start of the season, Bourgeois became the Cougars' first Newcomer of the Year.
Additionally, Houston had two All-Conference first team selections, three on the second team and two All-Freshman honorees. The seven All-C-USA selections marked the second most in program history, behind the eight that were selected during the 2008 season.
Gregson and sophomore third baseman Holly Anderson earned C-USA First Team honors while Bourgeois, Crabtree and Lathan were named C-USA Second Team members. The twin freshmen battery, Diedre and Haley Outon, were honored on the C-USA All-Freshman Team.
Following the All-Conference news, Gregson and Crabtree were named Second Team All-Region out of the Midwest region. Aside from leading the nation in strikeouts per seven innings and hits allowed per seven, Crabtree also tossed three no-hitters in her senior season.
An offensive machine, Gregson finished the regular season as the C-USA leader in homeruns (16), RBI (43) and third in slugging percentage (.678). Not just a power hitter, the selfless Gregson ranked second in the league in sacrifice bunts (15) and started games in left field, catcher and first base.
Reaching the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the program's 11-year history, Houston swept through an emotionally charged Austin Regional. The Cougars were selected to face No. 24/25 Louisiana-Lafayette in the regional opener. Aside from being Holas' alma mater and the previous team of Bourgeois, the Ragin' Cajuns defeated the Cougars in the 2008 Houston Super Regional to advance to the Women's College World Series.
In the Cougars' first trip back to the tournament, however, it was Houston who took care of ULL. The Cougars won the regional opener, 7-2, and advanced to take on regional host and overall-No. 3 seed, Texas. Houston handed the nationally ranked Longhorns just their fourth loss at home this season as the senior pitchers combined for their 19th shutout of the year.
After ULL knocked Texas out of the postseason, Houston finished the Austin Regional sweep with another meeting with the Cajuns. All-Freshman Team catcher Haley Outon blasted two homeruns and Amanda Crabtree tossed her 21st complete game of the season to power Houston to its second NCAA Regional Championship.
The Austin and Knoxville Regionals resulted in a pair of upsets meeting at the Stillwater Super Regional, as Oklahoma State upended nationally seeded Tennessee to join Houston in the Sweet Sixteen. The Cougars fell in the best-of-three series opener before battling back to win the second game to force game three.
The only school to reach Super Regionals that was not from a major BCS conference, Houston rallied within one run of advancing to the WCWS before falling in the decisive third game, 6-5.
CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONS
The Cougars claimed the Conference USA regular season co-championship after posting a 19-2 record in the final seven series of league play. In the C-USA Conference Championship, the Cougars advanced to the semifinals before falling to the eventual tournament champion, East Carolina, in a tight 1-0 loss.
In their last 10 games of the regular season, the Cougars posted a 9-1 record. That record included back-to-back sweeps against conference foes UCF and ECU as well as a 4-3 victory against nationally ranked Texas A&M.
Houston peaked at No. 21 in the RPI projections after building a solid resume using the intense strength of schedule that Holas is known for building. Houston scored 13 victories against the nation's top-25 and teams receiving votes, including Oklahoma State, BYU, Fresno State, Texas A&M and two games against LSU, Tulsa and Baylor. Houston spent three weeks of the season on the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and spent five more weeks receiving votes on the poll.
Prior to its NCAA Tournament run or clinching the C-USA regular season title, Houston opened its season against then-No. 8 Michigan at the Hilton Houston Plaza Invitational on Feb. 11. The 10-3 loss to the Wolverines marked one of just two times in 62 games the Cougars lost by seven or more runs.
The loss to Michigan sparked an eight-game win streak that included two wins against then-No. 16/18 LSU and No. 20/22 Oklahoma State. All three of those wins came during the Hilton Houston Plaza Classic, and marked the first time in program history the Cougars racked up three top-25 wins in one weekend.
The first road trip was the Cougars' shortest of the season, as they headed to Huntsville, Texas for a doubleheader against Sam Houston State. There, the Cougars snapped their eight game win streak in game one before bouncing back to win game two.
After playing their first nine games in Cougar Softball Stadium, the Cougars ended February and kicked off March on a 13-game road stand. Houston won its second-straight tournament when they traveled to Waco, Texas for the QTI Powers Invitational hosted by Baylor. In the final game of the tournament, the Cougars and Bears met up for a classic 1-0 pitching duel. Crabtree outlasted Baylor's Whitney Canion to hand Baylor its first loss of the season.
Still on the road, UH played its final non-conference tournament in San Diego, Calif., at the Campbell/Cartier Classic hosted by San Diego State. The Cougars notched victories against BYU, Cal Poly and then-No. 23 Fresno State to go 3-2 in one of the most elite tournaments of the spring.
A quick single-game trip to Austin, Texas marked Houston's first meeting of the season against top-25 Texas. The 4-1 loss would later be avenged in the NCAA Tournament. That game also started Houston's low point of 2011. The loss to the Longhorns was the first of six-straight losses, including getting swept at home against UAB to open the conference season.
The Cougars snapped its streak in a big way in Memphis, Tenn. Houston outscored Memphis 15-1 in the March 19 doubleheader. The series opener also showcased Crabtree's program-best 17 strikeouts. The victories ignited the Cougars' tear through the remainder of the conference season. After falling to UAB, Houston won its next seven-straight league series, going 19-2 in the process.
With the Cougar pitching staff and hot bats running on all cylinders, Houston swept Southern Miss on the road and outscored the Golden Eagles, 26-2, while Crabtree threw her second no-hitter of the season in the series opener. Still road tripping, UH then took all three games against UTEP by run rule, another program first.
The run-rule victory in the first game of a doubleheader against then-No. 15 Baylor stretched Houston's win streak to 11 games before the Bears snapped it in an extra-inning game two. Unfazed, Houston won 10 of its next 12 games. Those included taking two of three from co-conference champion Tulsa and a comeback win against then-No. 21/19 Texas A&M.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Houston needed six-straight wins to stay in the hunt for the regular-season title. The team won three-straight on the road at East Carolina, but needed three more on senior weekend against UCF to claim the championship.
Using three-straight shutouts for the first time since the 2008 season, the Cougars swept the Knights in the final weekend for their share of the league title.
2012 SEASON TICKETS
Deposits are now being accepted for NEW 2012 softball season tickets. Fans can buy now to watch the 2011 NCAA Softball Regional and C-USA Regular Season Champions in action!
A $25 per seat deposit reserves your spot to watch every home game during the 2012 season. A form will be mailed to you in the winter with the remaining balance once ticket prices have been determined.
All 2011 season ticket holders will receive a renewal application in January and do not need to place a deposit for their tickets. Click here for more information.