May 18, 2012
Austin, Texas - The Houston Cougars scored two runs on a wild pitch and an illegal pitch to claim a 2-1 victory over the Auburn softball team in the opening round of the NCAA Austin Regional.
Auburn (33-22) will play the loser of the Texas vs. Northwestern game at 3 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game. The winner of that game will play again at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"This was a tough game," Auburn head coach Tina Deese said. "We did a good job putting runners on but we just couldn't get that one hit to drop. Branndi (Melero) had a good day with a couple hits including that big home run. Amber (Harrison) had a couple hits for us as well. We know what we're up against tomorrow."
Lauren Schmalz took the loss to fall to 9-9. Schmalz allowed one run, earned, on two hits with a walk and one strikeout. Jenee Loree started and went three and two-thirds innings, allowing one run (earned) on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Angel Bunner pitched the final inning, allowing one hit, one walk, two illegal pitches and one strikeout.
Bailey Watts improved to 10-4 with the complete-game win. Watts gave up one run, earned, on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
The Tigers put their first runner in scoring position when Branndi Melero led off the bottom of the third with a double to center. Watts, however, retired Lauren Guzman and Brooke Lathan on foul pop-ups. With two outs, Elizabeth Eisterhold took ball four on a 3-2 to count to put runners at second and first. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Caitlin Jordan grounded to Holly Anderson at third base, who touched the bag to get Melero on the force to end the inning.
Houston took advantage of an Auburn miscue to plate the first run of the game. Haley Outon reached on an infield single in the top of the fourth. A sacrifice bunt by Reina Gaber moved Outon to second base. After advancing to second, Outon waited three pitches before stealing third base. After registering a ground out, Loree threw a wild pitch on a 1-2 count to Julia Pecina which allowed Outon to race home for the first run of the game.
The Tigers missed a scoring opportunity in the bottom of the fourth. Amber Harrison led off with a single and took second after Baylee Stephens was hit by a pitch with two outs. Melero followed with a walk to load the bases, but Watts worked out of the jam when she forced Lauren Guzman to fly out to right field.
After stranding nine base runners through five innings, Auburn's first run-producing hit came without a runner on base. In the bottom of the sixth with two outs, Melero crushed a 2-2 pitch over the fence in left-center for a game-tying, solo home run. It was Melero's third home run of the season and first since Feb. 26.
A leadoff single from Diedre Outon in the top of the seventh brought Bunner in for Schmalz. On her second pitch of the game, Bunner moved Outon to second on an illegal pitch. A walk to Anderson and a single through the left side by Ashleigh Jones loaded the bases for Houston with no outs.
The Tigers picked up the first out of the inning on a fielder's choice ground ball which forced Outon out at home. Bunner then registered the second out with a swinging strikeout of Haley Outon. On a 1-2 pitch to Gaber, an illegal pitch was called on Bunner to force Anderson home from third, giving Houston a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, Brooke Lathan led off with a single to center to put the tying run aboard. Watts, however, retired the next three Auburn batters to end the game and send the Tigers to Saturday's eliminated game. Lathan was the 10th Auburn base runner left stranded for the game.