Houston tops Herd, locks up three-seed in C-USA tournament
The Cougars entered Sunday’s series finale against Marshall needing a win to lock up in the No. 3 seed in this week’s Conference USA Tournament.
That’s exactly what they did, winning 3-2 at Cougar Softball Field to finish the regular season at 25-23 overall and 12-11 in conference play. UH lost the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, 7-6, before taking the finale, 7-4.
Baillie Lott, who pitched in all three games this weekend, shook off a shaky start to guide the Cougars to victory.
In addition to competing for conference position, the Cougars were playing on national television (CBS College Sports) for the first time this season, providing more motivation for Lott (16-11) and her teammates.
‘There’s a little extra pressure, but it’s more exciting because you’re really playing for something definite, and you don’t get to do that often,’ Lott said. ‘I think we played with a little more focus because we knew what we were playing for.’
The Cougars committed no errors Sunday after making six during the series’ first two games.
UH head coach Kyla Holas felt the improved defense played a major role in the victory.
‘Any time an offense sees a pitcher three games in a row, its opportunities are going to be increased,’ Holas said. We knew Baillie was tired, so the defense was going to be very important behind her today.’
The game didn’t start out well for Lott. Marshall’s first four batters reached base, but were unable to produce a run thanks to self-inflicted damage.
Alianna Telles led off the game with a single, but was called out for leaving first base early during the next at-bat. Joscelyn Bitner followed with a single, but was also called out for leaving the bag too soon. Lott allowed singles to the next two batters, but escaped the jam when Rebecca Gamby flew out to center.
UH put up a run in the bottom of the first and added two more in the second to take a 3-0 advantage. This was all the support Lott needed, as she retired nine of the next 10 Marshall batters.
Marshall (30-19, 11-10 C-USA) scored two runs on a Telles single in the fifth, but Lott again limited the damage by stranding three runners to keep her team in the lead.
Up next is the single-elimination C-USA Tournament, where UH will face sixth-seeded Southern Miss in the first round at 8 p.m. Thursday in El Paso. The Cougars have little chance to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, so winning the nine-team tournament is probably their only way in.