The 18th-ranked Tulsa softball team opens the 2014 NCAA Waco Regional against Houston at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Getterman Stadium.
The Golden Hurricane, which is 50-7 overall, is the No. 2 seed in the regional after earning the automatic bid as Champions of Conference USA. The third-seeded Cougars (32-21) enter the postseason as an at-large selection from the American Athletic Conference. The familiar former conference rivals are meeting for the 26th time on the softball field, but the first time in the NCAA postseason. The Hurricane has won 13 of its last 15 contests, and has posted a 29-6 record this season in games at road or neutral sites.
The Tulsa NCAA Tournament Central page can be found at http://www.tulsahurricane.com/sports/w-softbl/spec-rel/tuls-ncaa-softbl-14.html. Links for live video and live stats, as well the full tournament schedule can be found on the championship central page.
Tulsa is ranked No. 18 in both the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 and the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 polls released May 13.
Baylor, the top seed in the regional and the No. 13 seed nationally, plays fourth-seeded Northwestern State at 7 p.m. Friday. The two Friday winners meet at noon Saturday, while the losing teams play at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Tulsa hits .330 (512-for-1551) with 319 RBI, 353 runs, 79 doubles, 18 triples and 55 home runs, and has a .511 slugging percentage and a .411 on-base percentage with 195 walks. The Hurricane has a 1.51 team ERA with 444 strikeouts, 148 walks, 243 hits, 110 runs and 82 earned runs allowed, and has a .180 opponent batting average.
The Golden Hurricane is led in hitting by senior shortstop Jill Barrett, who has a .453 (91-for-201) batting average with 55 runs scored, seven doubles, 29 RBI, a .572 slugging percentage and a .498 OBP. Freshman third baseman Maggie Withee is hitting .346 (47-for-136) with 28 runs, three doubles and three triples. Freshman DP Jill Roye hits .343 (36-for-105) with 15 runs, 32 RBI, a .558 slugging and a .438 OBP. Sophomore catcher Catherine Horner is batting .341 (43-for-126) with 31 RBI, 20 runs, eight doubles, six homers, a .548 slugging and a .426 OBP. Senior center fielder Cierra Hughes hits .336 (49-for-146) with 36 runs, five doubles, four triples, five homers, 34 RBI, 31 walks, a .527 slugging and a .449 OBP. Junior catcher Erica Sampson has a .324 batting average (55-for-170) with 40 RBI, 47 runs, 10 doubles, 11 homers, 27 walks, a .576 slugging and a .445 OBP. Junior first baseman Julie Kernen is hitting .314 (44-for-140) with 40 RBI, 23 runs, 16 doubles, seven home runs, a .579 slugging and a .407 OBP. Senior right fielder Haley Henshaw hits .306 (45-for-147) with 33 RBI, 27 runs, seven doubles, and seven homers.
In the circle, senior Aimee Creger is 27-1 with a 1.25 ERA in 191.0 innings, and has allowed 86 hits, 39 runs and 34 earned runs, with 326 strikeouts and 92 walks. Junior Bailey Erwin is 13-3 with a 1.32 ERA in 101.0 innings with four saves, and is allowing 90 hits, 34 runs and 19 earned runs with 58 strikeouts and 18 walks. Sophomore Caitlin Sill is 10-3 with a 2.32 ERA in 87.2 innings, allowing 67 hits, 35 runs and 29 earned runs, with 60 strikeouts and 35 walks.
Houston is hitting .284 (408-for-1437) as a team with 297 runs, 246 RBI, 49 doubles, eight triples, 43 RBI, a .419 slugging percentage and a .381 on-base percentage. The UH pitching staff has a 3.11 ERA, and has allowed 388 hits, 201 runs, 159 earned runs, 164 walks and 168 strikeouts, with a .273 opponent batting average, in 358.1 innings.
The Cougars' offense is paced by catcher Haley Outon, who has 15 home runs, five doubles, 53 RBI, 44 runs scored and 42 walks. She is batting .308 (44-for-143) with a .671 slugging and a .477 OBP. Center fielder Katie St. Pierre hits .391 (59-for-151) with 25 walks, 35 runs and a .489 OBP. Right fielder Tiffani McKnight hits .316 (50-for-158) with 33 runs, 25 RBI and 10 extra base hits, while shortstop Selena Hernandez hits .310 (57-for-184) with 46 runs, 38 RBI, 14 doubles and seven homers.
The Houston pitching staff is led by senior Deidre Outon, who is 15-9 with a 2.68 ERA in 34 appearances and 21 starts. She has allowed 165 hits, 75 runs, 57 earned runs, 55 walks and 67 strikeouts with a .276 OBA. Sophomore Julana Shrum is 10-7 with a 3.46 ERA, allowing 136 hits, 83 runs, 65 earned runs, 74 walks, 66 strikeouts and a .265 OBA in 131.1 innings. Junior Summer Groholski is 7-5 with a 3.31 ERA, allowing 87 hits, 43 runs, 37 earned runs, 35 walks, 35 strikeouts and a .280 OBA in 20 games and 13 starts over 78.1 innings.
Houston leads the all-time series with Tulsa, 14-11. All of the games between the former C-USA rivals have been played since 2006. Most recently, the Cougars won three of four meetings in 2013. Three of those meetings came in Houston, including the Hurricane win, while the other was at the C-USA Tournament in Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane won three of four meetings in 2012, three of which occurred in Tulsa. TU won the only neutral-site game between the schools, a 4-3 victory at the C-USA Tournament in Birmingham, Ala., in 2012. The 2014 season is the only year in which Tulsa and Houston are not members of the same conference. TU will join UH in the American Athletic Conference beginning July 1.
Tulsa is playing in its seventh NCAA Tournament, and fourth in a row. The Hurricane is 6-12 all-time in NCAA Regional games. Against Houston on Friday, TU will try to stop a four-game losing streak in the regionals. Its last NCAA win was a 9-7, 11-inning, victory over Oregon State on May 18, 2012.