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Volume 72, Issue 139, Friday, April 27, 2007

Sports

Cougars have eyes on title

UH needs only a victory over Pirates to secure C-USA championship

By LEE CLARK
The Daily Cougar

The Cougars will have a chance to clinch the Conference USA regular season title this weekend when they travel to Greenville, N.C., to face second-place East Carolina.

The series kicks off with a doubleheader beginning at noon Saturday at ECU Softball Field. The series finale starts at noon Sunday.

The magic number for UH (35-14, 16-2 C-USA) is one. They need to notch only one victory over ECU (34-16, 10-7 C-USA) to clinch the conference title.

UH head coach Kyla Holas will not be satisfied with one win in this series, however. Holas knows a good showing on the road against a tough conference opponent like ECU will better UH's chances of making the NCAA Regionals next month.

"Our job is to win every series no matter what our magic number is," Holas said. "We've been shaky in the middle game of the series of our last two conference road trips. We have some things to prove, not to ourselves, but to continue to make our case on a national level."

The Pirates will be a tough opponent for the Cougars, and ECU underclassmen have been a big reason for the Pirates' success this year.

On offense, freshmen Charina Sumner (.305 batting average) and Kaui Tom both rank in the top 10 in C-USA in runs scored. Batting behind them in the three spot is sophomore infielder Jessica Johnson, who is hitting .365 and leads the conference with 14 home runs. 

"A lot of their freshman are stepping up in key situations and making the difference for them. We're going to have to rely on (junior pitcher) Angel Shamblin's experience in the circle and make adjustments from there," Holas said.

Shamblin (23-6, 1.14 ERA) hasn't lost a conference game this year and needs just 29 strikeouts to become the all-time strikeouts leader in program history. This year, she has 248 strikeouts in 196.1 innings pitched.

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