AUSTIN – Houston’s Arielle James hit a three-run homer to lift the Cougars to a 3-1 victory over Texas A&M in opening-round action of the NCAA softball tournament on Friday afternoon at McCombs Field.
James’ line drive, which just cleared the left-field fence, came with two outs in the fifth inning. All the runs were unearned because UH’s Brooke Vannoy reached on a passed ball after striking out. Sarah Barker followed with a one-out single. Lindsey Stewart struck out, but James jumped all over a 3-1 pitch for her sixth homer of the season.
UH (38-17) advances to play Sam Houston State winner at Saturday at 1 p.m. The Bearkats upset host Texas 2-1. The Aggies (28-26) will face host Texas, the national seventh seed, in an elimination game at 3:30 p.m.
James’ homer was the only big hit as both teams struggled at the plate. A&M was 1 of 10 with runners in scoring position and that hit didn’t even produce a run. UH also was 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position but the hit was the difference in the game.
A&M scored its run in the sixth.
Haley Lee had a leadoff single. Morgan Smith with one out reached an error. Blake-Ann Fritsch reached on an infield hit to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Abby Smith struck out. Kelbi Fortenberry should have grounded out, but first baseman Kelli Mongomery dropped the throw, allowing pinch-runner Ashlynn Walls to score. Freshman Kayla Garcia lined out as A&M left the bases loaded for a second time.
UH senior right-hander Savannah Heebner retired the side in order in the seventh for the first time. Heebner (14-8) allowed six hits, striking out seven and walking two. She also pitched a complete game in a 9-3 victory over A&M in March.
Potts (12-13) allowed five hits in five innings, striking out three and walking three. Payton McBride pitched a hitless inning.
Lee had two hits for A&M, while Barker and Maya Thomas each had two hits for Houston.