Strong pitching leads Cougars at Hilton Plaza Invitational

The University of Houston women’s softball team looked to start the weekend and the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational off fast with 2 games Friday against Northern Iowa and McNeese State.

The Cougars (4-5) started off the tournament strong with a 5-2 victory over the Northern Iowa Panthers (3-5), but were unable to complete the sweep after dropping a tightly contested game to McNeese State (4-2) 1-3.

The Cougars looked poised to capitalize against UNI, but fell behind in the second after the Panthers scored one run on a RBI single by center fielder Micalla Rettinger.

Houston struck back quickly, scoring three runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth, giving freshman pitcher Kayla Maxwell more than enough run support.

“When I know I have runs on the board I can calm down and be more relaxed,” Maxwell said.

Junior shortstop Selena Hernandez got the scoring started for the Cougars with an RBI single that knocked freshman Kaylin Crumpton home and senior second baseman Kayla Holland broke the game it open with a 2-RBI single that brought Hernandez and junior outfielder Katie St. Pierre home.

The Cougars added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth when Crumpton hit a 2-RBI single, bringing home senior outfielder Tiffani McKnight and senior third baseman Alexis Dunn.

Maxwell (W, 2-0) gave the Cougars six strong innings, giving up only two runs on seven hits and collecting three strikeouts, good enough for the win and lowering her season ERA to 2.42.

Following a 45-minute break, the Cougars took the field again for a game against defending Southland Conference champion McNeese State.

Houston got off to a blazing start with a leadoff triple by St. Pierre, followed by an RBI double by Hernandez.

That was the lone run the Cougars scored as the Cowgirls pitching stepped up and retired the next eight batters and 18 of the final 22.

Junior pitcher Julana Shrum threw a quality game, giving up only three runs over seven innings, but it wouldn’t be enough to offset the Cougar offense.

The Cougars continue the Houston Hilton Plaza Invitational Saturday against UMASS, with a first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. and DePAUL, first pitch scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

“We got to keep picking away, growing in inches and get into the Women’s College World Series,” Maxwell said.

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