May 4, 2012
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - For their final regular season games, the Southern Miss softball team will head to Conference USA rival Houston this weekend for a three-game set at the Cougar Softball Stadium.
Southern Miss is 13-30 in the all-time series with the Cougars that dates back to 2001, including a 4-2 victory for Houston in last year's C-USA Championship tournament.
The Golden Eagles (13-30, 4-16 C-USA) had a pair of mid-week games rained out against nonconference opponents and are returning to the field for the first time since last weekend's series with UAB, in which six Golden Eagle seniors were honored for on their final home game of the season.
Against Houston (30-21, 12-9 C-USA), Southern Miss will have to combat a team that has had success in all areas of the game this season. The Cougars have stolen a clean 100 bases this season, a mark that trails only Marshall among conference teams. At the plate, they boast the second-best league average, hitting at a .313 clip, led by Holly Anderson (.370) and pre-season C-USA Player of the Year Melissa Gregson (.355).
In the circle, Diedre Outon and Bailey Watts have carried the bulk of the work for a staff that boasts a 2.84 team ERA. The duo combines for a 22-14 record on the season with 174 strikeouts in 142.2 innings of work.
For the Black and Gold, freshman Caroline Walker - who was recently honored as the team's offensive MVP in their annual banquet - leads the team with a .327 average and .427 slugging percentage while Houston native Leslie LeJune - who will look to stretch her consecutive start streak past 158 games this weekend - is tops with 42 hits this season.
A trio of pitchers has allowed the Golden Eagles to carry fresh arms into this weekend's series. Led by Beth Dietrich, Southern Miss carries a 3.92 ERA while Dietrich's 78 strikeouts to just 21 walks ranks her No. 11 nationally in walks allowed per seven innings (1.04). Against C-USA opponents, Courtney Ramos is also holding opponents to just a .259 average while holding a 2.72 ERA.
Following the Houston series, the Golden Eagles will travel to Birmingham on Thursday for their fifth consecutive C-USA Championship tournament where they have locked in the No. 8 seed. The time of the game as well as the opponent have yet to be determined.