#22 Houston Softball Preview

Houston Cougars
Overall Rank: #22
Conference Rank: #1 C-USA
Houston Logo

In their final year in Conference USA, Houston and 13 year Head Coach Kyla Holas have high hopes.  They return 14 of 18 players from 2012, including six starters and the entire pitching staff.  This veteran group finished tied for third in the conference and led the league in hitting with a .310 team batting average.  Nationally, the club was ranked 16th in batting average and 10th in stolen bases per game.  In 2013 Coach Holas has dialed up a challenging schedule to help her team prepare for a deep run at the end of the season.  A slate that includes 30 home games has on it 12 teams (24 games), that reached the NCAA post season in 2012.  Commenting on her team’s plans for the spring, Coach Holas indicated she was, “excited to host our ‘Striking Out Breast Cancer Game’ which has turned into a very special event and Alabama at home. We are excited to play the national champs and bring that type of team to Houston for the softball community to see and promote our sport.”
2012: 35-24, 15-9
2012 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Kyla Holas, 13th Season
Field Players:
Among the six position players returning, two stand out for Coach Holas. “Haley Outon and Holly Anderson are our two key returners and leaders both defensively and offensively.  Haley is returning as a junior after her first All-American Award and Holly is a senior returner with All-Region and All-Conference honors.  Besides their athletic contributions, both are leaders for us in the other aspects and really set the bar high.”  Outon, a junior catcher, mashed a school record 22 homeruns last spring good for seventh nationally, hit .368 and was 17th in the NCAA in RBI with 64.  Senior third baseman, Holly Anderson was second on the team in hitting (.365), RBI (43), doubles (9) and steals (19).  Senior right fielder, Reina Gaber, returns as well.  Third among the Cougars, she hit .349 with a team high 11 doubles.
Holas’ entire bullpen comes back with significant experience.  Junior Bailey Watts leads the way, going 16-10 in 2012 with 25 starts and 17 complete games in 167 innings.  She posted a team-best 2.51 ERA.  Junior Diedre Outon was 10-6 with a 3.16 ERA.  She made 19 starts and hurled nine complete games.  Sophomore Summer Groholski made 10 starts.  She finished 8-6, throwing six complete games with an ERA of 3.63.  Coach Holas has been working closely with her staff and she knows her crew can be solid, “This is my first time with the pitchers full time.  We worked on some big details this fall and hope their pitches produce more strikeouts, less runs and their mentality make them tough to beat on the mound.  We are the right age, have the right versatility and just need to throw with confidence and make quality pitches.”
Who to Watch:
Junior speedster Taylor Duplechain joins the team as a transfer from Missouri.  It’s likely Duplechain will play outfield and lead off.  Houston brings in four freshmen with high expectations for two.  Holas said, “Katie St. Pierre and Julana Shrum have shown great promise and we are excited to see their career unfold.”  St. Pierre is a fast outfielder who bats from the left, can handle the stick and drive the ball.  Julana Shrum will add depth and versatility to the pitching staff.
Final Projection:
Houston has some quality wins in the fall, and though those exhibitions are not always telling, the Cougars executed well against their opponents’ best.  The return of the six starters and a quality group of pitchers create some high hopes.  The addition of table setters with plenty of speed in Duplechain and St. Pierre should give Outon, Anderson and Gaber plenty of chances to drive in runs and provide all the support the bullpen needs.  Holas’ veteran club will have to hold off a formidable Tulsa team to win the league title, but this experienced coach and team will definitely reach the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time and third straight year.
Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament
Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Holly Anderson, IF, 181
Hits: Holly Anderson, IF, 66
Home Runs: Haley Outon, C, 22
RBIs: Haley Outon, C, 64
Runs: Haley Outon, C, 49
Stolen Bases: Holly Anderson, IF, 19
Wins: Bailey Watts, P, 16
Innings Pitched: Bailey Watts, P, 167.1
Strikeouts: Bailey Watts, P, 146
Saves: Bailey Watts, P, 2
Madness 2013 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#115 Katie St. Pierre