This offseason, head coach Kyla Holas made it a priority to add a new dimension to the Cougars’ already strong offense.
The Cougars (22-15, 9-3 Conference-USA) are just a game out of first in C-USA and lead the conference with 123 walks, and are second in batting average (.308) and home runs (33). Their work in the batter’s box has always been solid, but this year they have added the element of speed to their game.
The Cougars have stolen 63 bases in 83 attempts this season. In the two previous seasons combined, they stole 66 bases.
“We knew offensively, the home runs, what we had lost this past year with some of our transfers and (graduating) seniors, we knew that we would have to score runs in a different way,” Holas said.
The addition of a threat on the base paths has helped the offense flourish this season.
The Cougars are third in C-USA in stolen bases this season. Their added activity on the bases also contributes to helping them stay out of double plays. UH has hit into only two twin-killings this season, second best in the conference.
“It just gives us a better chance, even if we just put a ground ball in play,” infielder Jennifer Klinkert said.
Klinkert is second on the team with nine steals in 11 tries. The Cougars have seven players with at least five steals this season.
“I don’t think that it’s any one player,” Holas said. “Top to bottom if you can steal at anytime versus having to hit them or sacrifice them over, it makes a difference in your lineup.”
Outfielder Ashleigh Jones leads the Cougars with 14 steals, sixth best in C-USA.
Jones is the type of player that doesn’t hit for much power (.260 slugging percentage, three extra-base hits), but her ability to steal bases helps put her in scoring position every time she reaches base.
“Oh my gosh, she’s amazing,” Klinkert said of Jones. “This year she’s really focused on getting faster because she started out as a freshman really fast, then lost a step last year and this year she’s regained that speed, plus some.”
In addition to speed, instincts play a big role in a player’s ability to steal bases.
“We’ve been working a lot on first step out of the box, making sure that we’re reading things,” Klinkert said. “If a person has decent speed and great reads they’re going to get stolen bases.”
The Cougars set a team record on March 1 in a 5-1 win over Memphis, stealing seven bases.
UH will be back in action at 4 p.m. today at Cougar Softball Stadium to take on Texas A&M Corpus Christi.