Cougars open season with Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational
Coming out of the gates fast and dominating the non-conference schedule can go a long way in having a successful year.
After a positive outing at the annual Red and White Game last weekend, the Cougars return to action with a packed schedule this weekend, hosting the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational. The Cougars will play in five games at Cougar Softball Stadium, looking to get out to a fast start under new head coach Kristin Vesely.
The season officially starts Friday, with the Cougars hosting Wright State and UC Santa Barbara in back-to-back games, followed Saturday by two more games against Boston College and Wichita State. They finish the opening weekend with a final game against Wright State on Sunday afternoon.
The Cougars feature 12 returners who started at least one game, including sophomore right-handed pitcher Savannah Heebner. The Sedalia, Colorado native was named first-team All-American Athletic Conference after leading the Cougars with a 3.50 ERA in 108 innings.
She was one of three fellow Cougars to be named to last year’s All-AAC team. Fellow sophomore outfielders Maya Thomas and Elisa LeBeouf were named to the second team.
Thomas was a magnet for the bases, batting .400 with six walks in 55 games played with one home run and 10 RBIs. LeBeouf was a force in the middle of the lineup, blasting six home runs and 35 RBIs while starting all 51 games she appeared in.
Like their brothers on the diamond, the Cougars look to return to the postseason following a 27-29 2016 campaign. They beat Memphis in the opening round of the American Athletic Conference Championship, but dropped a heartbreaker to then-No. 24 South Florida in the semifinals.
Vesely takes the helm as the second skipper in program history after spending six seasons as an assistant under former head coach Kyla Holas.
Vesely looks to continue leading the offensive surge the Cougars have shown since arriving on campus in 2011. As a player at Oklahoma, Vesely was a standout and was named an All-American twice while owning the OU record in career hits when she graduated.
The Cougars will look to start the season with a win streak this weekend before welcoming reigning national champion Oklahoma to Houston on Feb. 17.