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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Softball

Catcher flourishes for Cougars in second season


| Hendrick Rosemond/The Daily Cougar

Haley Outon hit her 16th home run of the season in the Cougars’ 5-0 win against Houston Baptist on Wednesday. Outon is tied for the second most home runs this season in Conference USA and third in slugging percentage. She is also three home runs away from tying the UH single-season mark. | Hendrick Rosemond/The Daily Cougar

Haley and Diedre Outon both have butterfly tattoos.

A little over two years ago, the Outons lost their mother to cancer, and it is a way for them to keep her close to them.

“Butterflies are her symbol,” Haley said. “When things go (well), it’s just a way for us to say ‘Mama Outon’s here.’”

It has inspired Haley to major in health, hoping to eventually work with children with cancer as a specialist.

On Wednesday, the day before her mom’s birthday, Haley crushed her team-leading 16th home run in the Cougars’ 5-0 win over Houston Baptist.

Haley and Diedre have formed a potent battery combination for the Cougars this season. Diedre, a pitcher, has gone 10-5 with a 2.96 ERA, while Haley is hitting .351 with a .769 slugging percentage.

Haley wasn’t always a catcher though.

“My mom caught her (Diedre) until she was nine,” Haley said. “Then (a ball) tipped off of my mom’s glove and broke her nose. It was my turn and that’s how I became a catcher.”

Becoming a catcher has come with a learning curve, but Haley has made great strides from her freshman to sophomore season.

“Being a freshman, I think she was a little overwhelmed a lot of times as all freshmen are, trying to figure it all out, getting used to a new system,” head coach Kyla Holas said. “This year she’s so much more calm, participated so much more in everything that we’re doing and engaged a lot better.

“Right now, we’re really working on those dynamics. Haley in general as a catcher, how she can have a repertoire with each pitcher, how different they are, what each one needs. Again, I think that’s just something with time you’re going to see her just get better and better.”

Last season as a freshman, Outon hit .259, but had 14 extra-base hits in 147 at bats. This year, she has 24 extra-base hits in 134 at bats and is tied for second in Conference USA in home runs and third in slugging percentage.

“I learned that sometimes going full speed for me at the plate is out of control, so I need to stay in control and go 80 percent of my 100 because 100 is out of control, but 80 percent is simple, smooth and gets the job done,” Haley said.

With 16 home runs, Haley has a shot to set the UH single-season mark of 19 hit by Laurie Wagner in 2008. With 21-career home runs, if she keeps this sort of production up over her final two seasons at UH, she also has a chance to catch career-leader Kristen Glowacz, who hit 47 home runs for the Cougars between 2002-05.

“She’s not only our catcher and leader in the bullpen, offensively she’s one of those kids,” Holas said. “She’s a sophomore. I think you’re just seeing the base of what she can do. She has so much more in her and I think she’s going to have a very successful career.

“I hope that our team success can do enough to give her some of the national recognition that she really deserves.”

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