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Texas Fights For Regional Final Showdown With Houston

(Photo Courtesy of Texas Athletics)

AUSTIN – The Austin Regional championship will be a rematch of a game played last month with the University of Houston Cougars (39-17) and the University of Texas Longhorns (35-23) set to square off at Red and Charline McCombs Field this Sunday.

Texas beat Houston 5-0 on April 10 in Austin but the Cougars have gone 13-2 since losing to the Longhorns over a month ago.

“Well, you know, it’s going to be back to square one,” Texas coach Mike White said. “(Houston) is going to feel pretty good about themselves because they are going to understand that they are going to have two pretty well rested pitchers that have just thrown one game each, and they are good pitchers. That says a lot about the strength of softball in Texas right now.”

After losing the opening match to Sam Houston State (35-23) on Friday, 2-1, the Longhorns bounced back for two wins on Saturday – 3-2 in eight innings over Texas A&M and 3-0 in a rematch with Sam Houston. Junior Miranda Elish (16-9) was credited with both wins after pitching all 15 innings on Saturday, recording 20 strikeouts to eight hits and three runs in 229 pitches.

“I’m feeling good,” Elish said after the second game on Saturday. “I’m going to go ice bath after this and get ready for tomorrow… My adrenaline was pumping and I wanted to make our seniors’ season last a few more games.”

It was more than just pitching that propelled the Longhorns as junior Shannon Rhodes hit two 2-RBI homeruns, one in each game, accounting for four of the six runs scored by Texas on Saturday. She now has seven homers on the season.

“I just wanted to pick my teammates up,” Rhodes said. “I haven’t had the best offensive season this year. They do well for me, picking me up if I make errors or if I strikeout or something so I just wanted to do it for them.”

Houston swept its way into the regional championship after defeating Sam Houston State on Saturday, 5-0. The Cougars also beat A&M on Friday, 3-1.

Tied at zero into the fifth inning against Sam Houston, senior Sarah Baker got the Cougars on the board with an RBI bunt that turned into two scores when Sam Houston committed a throwing error on the play. Junior Lindsey Stewart added to the lead in the same inning with a solo homer over left field before Tierrah Williams added an exclamation point in the seventh with a two-RBI double.

“As a staff and as a team, we thought we’d be standing here,” Houston coach Kristin Vesely said after the win on Saturday. “This is the position we wanted to be in. Tomorrow’s another game for us. We’ll try to continue to play better and try to score first… We didn’t play for nine or 10 days so getting that first win under our belt, getting familiar with the field, those are all important things. Game one, I felt like we settled in kind of late in the game and today I felt like we were comfortable and had a little bit more of an attack in our mentality.

“Tomorrow, we are playing ourselves. We have been with that the whole year. We have to play our best regardless of the opponent. We have to control the things that we can control.”

Pitcher Presley Bell (13-3) got the win after pitching all seven innings, notching two strikeouts and two hits on 68 pitches.

“I think I just came out there pretty relaxed, I didn’t try to do too much,” Houston pitcher Presley Bell said. “(Assistant coach Megan Gibson-Loftin) really talked to me, said to have fun and don’t make the moment too big or bigger than what it is. So I just took a deep breathe, stepped back and just made sure that I kept the ball low in the zone and I hit my spots. I just knew that if I hit my spots and I keep it low in the zone, they have to hit my best stuff and that gives my defense a chance to play behind me.”

The first pitch is slated for 3:30 pm (CT) on Sunday. If Houston wins, they win the Austin Regional and will continue on in the NCAA tournament. But if Texas wins, the two teams will play another game 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first one to determine the champion.

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