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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Softball

Softball evens up conference record by sweeping UConn


Freshman Rachel Hertenberger threw her first full seven-inning game in Houston’s 2-1 win over UConn to get the sweep and improve to 6-6 in the American Athletic Conference.  |  Andres Chio/The Cougar

After a tough opening stretch in the American Athletic Conference, Houston got back to .500 with three wins over Connecticut.

“I love the way the girls responded today. It’s not easy winning three in a row. Probably could have done a little better this game, but we found a way to win,” said head coach Kristin Vesely.

The series started out with a short game, as the Cougars run-ruled the Huskies 9-0 in five innings.

Junior Lindsey Stewart got a leadoff single to start the first inning and then stole second to get herself into scoring position before redshirt senior Sarah Barker sent another ball sailing over the middle and Stewart used her speed to get home.

Junior Arielle James hit another single to a sweet spot in right field, which allowed Barker to get home to make it 2-0.

UConn was on the verge of closing out the inning after a pair of outs, but sophomore Tierrah Williams homered to send herself and James to the plate before the half ended.

Things did not get easier for the Huskies in the second inning, as senior Brooke Vannoy got things started with a triple and Stewart returned to the plate to get Vannoy home with another single to center.

Despite UConn switching pitchers, Houston’s bats did not cool down. The top of the order brought in a couple more runs before Williams hit another home run to make it 9-0.

Houston subbed in some of its non-regular players in the fourth inning to get them some experience, and the team closed out the final two innings without allowing a run.

Senior pitcher Presley Bell picked up her ninth win of the season and allowed just two hits in her four innings pitched.

Saturday night’s game was a much closer affair, and senior pitcher Savannah Heebner had to pull out all the stops to get Houston the win.

Heebner started the game by allowing a leadoff and two-out double to make it 1-0 in favor of the Huskies. She then retired the next 16 batters in a row before an error allowed a runner to get to first.

Heebner also made a difference with her bat, as she drove in the tying run in the third inning with a double to right field. Williams was up next and hit to the shortstop, but the defender couldn’t handle the ball and Williams beat the throw to first as Heebner ran home to make it 2-1.

Senior Maya Thomas used her speed to get herself to first base with a surprise bunt in the fifth inning, and sophomore Aspen Howie sent home the insurance run with a double to right field.

The final game saw freshman Rachel Hertenberger throw a full seven innings for the first time in her UH career, though she has come close with a few, full five inning games when UH won by run rule.

This time, Hertenberger had to battle through tough situation after tough situation until she settled down and cleaned things up on the back half of the game.

“It felt pretty good knowing my changeup was working a lot, and having a good defense behind me really made me feel like I was being backed up,” Hertenberger said. “That really helps me get through, take a deep breath and just throw the ball.”

Two Huskies made it to second and third base with just one out in the second, but Hertenberger struck out the next batter and the final one grounded out to keep things scoreless.

UConn repeated the situation in the fourth and managed to score one run this time, but Hertenberger kept the rest of the runners off the scoreboard.

After four scoreless innings, Houston got into the swing of things in the fifth and strung together three singles to send Thomas home from a hit by Vannoy.

Stewart came to the plate, delivered a deep fly out to center field and allowed the runner on third to make it home.

That would be enough for the Cougars to win 2-1, with Hertenberger retiring six of the next seven Husky batters in the following two innings.

Houston now has seven road games in a row with a series against Memphis, a solo shot at Texas State and a series with UCF.

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