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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Softball

UH softball’s goal for 2021 is to be the aggressors


Junior pitcher Rachel Hertenberger winds up in the circle during UH softball's 2021 season opener against Lamar. | Courtesy of UH athletics

Junior pitcher Rachel Hertenberger winds up in the circle during UH softball’s 2021 season opener against Lamar. | Courtesy of UH athletics

From freshman pitcher Logan Hulon throwing a no-hitter in her collegiate debut, to putting together an 11-game win streak, it appeared that nothing would be able to stop the Houston softball team from rolling in 2020.

But everything took a 180-degree turn in a blink of an eye as the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly rocked the U.S., prompting the NCAA to cancel the softball season less than a month after it started.

This was extremely heartbreaking for the Cougars, who had gotten off to a 16-7 start before the season was canceled, but the team vowed that they were going to use this long layoff to work hard and do everything they could to get better every single day to come out stronger in 2021.

After 337 days without playing a game, the wait to return to action was finally over as the Cougars opened their season with a doubleheader against Lamar on Feb. 12, followed by taking on Texas Southern the next afternoon.

As the UH softball team took the field for the first time since March 2020, players and coaches were filled with a whirlwind of emotions because of the journey they had all been through over the past year to finally be able to play the game they love.

“We haven’t played in over 330 days, so any opportunity we get to be on the field is a blessing,” head coach Kristin Vesely told The Cougar in a Zoom call. “Just being out there is really hard to explain because that was the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The Cougars picked up right where they left off to start the 2021 season, scoring five runs in the first inning of a game that ended up being a dominant 14-1 victory.

UH dropped the second game of the doubleheader against Lamar, but bounced back, shutting out Texas Southern in route to an 8-0 win.

One thing that was on display in UH’s opening three games was aggressive baserunning, as the Cougars used every opportunity to get gain an extra 60 feet on the basepaths and ended up with nine stolen bases over the weekend.

But the opposite happened over the Cougars games from Feb. 21-22, as UH only stole one base total in three games which resulted in the team going 1-2.

This major difference in production on the basepaths in UH’s first three games compared to its last three games puts a major emphasis on how important baserunning will be for the Cougars.

“Baserunning is going to be crucial for us to be successful this year. I think (in) situational hitting, we’ve done a really good job,” Vesely said. “If we can keep doing those things, those are just going to add up to extra runs for us which will equal wins at the end of the year.”

This strong approach on the basepaths points to Vesely’s larger goal for the UH softball team if they are to be successful in 2021: being the aggressors in every game.

“I think with us, one of our biggest strengths is going to be (being) gritty,” Vesely said. “We’re going to be, hopefully, a team that’s over-aggressive and the aggressors in the game to try to catch the other teams on their heels and capitalize on mistakes.”

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