Previewing The Baton Rouge Regional: Houston
The Baton Rouge, La. softball regional gets underway on Friday at Tiger Park, with four teams vying for a trip to the NCAA Super Regionals.
Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns, making their 20th-consecutive regional appearance, will be part of a field that also includes the LSU Tigers, the top-seed in the regional, and the #11-overall seed, along with the Houston Cougars and the Fordham Rams in the double-elimination event.
Louisiana will take on Houston in the first game of the regional, on Friday at 3 pm, followed by a match-up pitting LSU and Fordham at 5:30 pm.
Yesterday, we previewed the Fordham Rams.
Today, we preview the Houston Cougars.
Making their 8th NCAA tournament appearance, Houston will be making their first regional appearance since 2014.
The Cougars, who enter the regional with an overall record of 36-20, are looking to advance to their first NCAA Super Regional since 2011, when they fell to Oregon St., after defeating Louisiana in the championship game of the Austin Regional.
The Cajuns defeated Houston, members of the American Athletic Conference, in the 2008 NCAA Super Regionals.
Some believe that the Cougars, who won their last three regular season games, and 6 of their last 7, were the last team selected into the field of 64.
Offensively, Houston relies on third baseman Sarah Queen, who can play for anybody.
Queen is hitting a .366, to go along with 10 home runs and 37 runs batted in.
Houston's problem is that after Queen, there just isn't a lot of power. Take away Queen, and the rest of the roster has combined for only 19 long balls.
Second baseman Arielle James is hitting a .363, while right-fielder Maya Thomas has chipped in with a .324 average.
After that, the line-up is mediocre.
The Cougars also don't run a lot, with only 20 steals in 26 attempts.
What they do well is work the count, moves runners along, and score them from third with less than two out.
Pitching-wise, Houston is terrific.
Junior right-hander Savannah Heebner will enter the regional with a record of 25-9, to go along with a 1.17 ERA.
Heebner is a strike-throwing machine, with only 28 walks in 220.2 innings pitched.
She is the real deal inside of the circle, and opposing teams will be hard-pressed to get base-runners, much less score runs.
Houston is a dangerous team in this regional, because they match-up well against both Louisiana and LSU.
Again, Houston is not an offensive team, They rely on pitching and defense. But so does UL and LSU, so the Cougars match-up very well.
Because of Heebner, every game they play will be close, and when you're in the game, you have a shot.
Houston probably isn't the pick of most to advance, and shouldn't be, but they're more than capable of not only winning a few games, but are also capable of pulling off the surprise by winning the regional.
The complete regional schedule is below:
NCAA BATON ROUGE REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Friday, May 18, 2018
G1: 3 p.m. – Houston vs. Louisiana
G2: 5:30 p.m. – Fordham vs. LSU
Saturday, May 19, 2018
G3: TBA – Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
G4: TBA – Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
G5: TBA – Winner Game 4 vs. Loser Game 3
Sunday, May 20, 2018
G6: TBA – Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5
G7: TBA – (if necessary) Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6