HOUSTON - The University of Houston softball team will travel to the University of Texas to face first-round opponent No. 24/25 Louisiana in the NCAA Austin Regional at McCombs Field, Friday at 4 p.m.

Houston (40-16) will matchup against familiar foe, Louisiana (49-9) in the opening round of the double-elimination regional tournament. Regional host and overall-No. 3 seed Texas (44-8) will face Southland Conference Champion Texas State (33-23) to complete the one of the toughest of the 16 regional brackets, Friday at 6:30 p.m.

The Austin Regional is set up for the winner to advance and face the champion of the Knoxville Regional. Overall No. 14-seed Tennessee plays host to Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Liberty in its field.

The Cougars are heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 2008 season, when they played host to a Regional and Super Regional. After claiming the NCAA Regional Championship, Houston was just one win shy of a Super Regional title and the team's first berth into the Women's College World Series.

ABOUT THE MATCHUP
The round one matchup will provide plenty of storylines as UL and Houston prepare for their 17th meeting. Louisiana is not only where head coach Kyla Holas played her All-American career, but it was also the team that kept the Cougars out of the WCWS in 2008. Houston took Louisiana to three games, but fell 4-0 in the decisive contest - the last time Houston played an NCAA Tournament game.

The Ragin' Cajuns are the only Austin Regional team that Houston did not face during the 2011 season, but the two are well-versed in playing each other.

Although the two met in the fall, Houston and UL last officially met in a March 30 doubleheader last season. The Ragin' Cajuns took both games, 6-0 and 4-0. Houston last defeated UL in the first game of a doubleheader on April 30, 2008. The Cougars beat the then-No. 16 Cajuns, 2-0.

HOUSTON (40-16)

OVERALL: The Conference USA regular season co-champions, Houston comes into its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance holding an all-time record of 7-6 in the Spring classic. UH went 4-2 in the team's last trip to the NCAAs, as the Cougars swept through their own Houston Regional before falling to UL in the Super Regional opener. Although Houston forced the decisive game three, UL hung on to advance to the WCWS.

Heading into the Austin Regional, the Cougars are checking in at No. 22 in the RPI projections. Houston is receiving votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, sitting just three spots out of the top 25. That marks the eighth week this season Houston has held a top-25 national ranking or received votes.

Posting the fourth, 40-win season in program history, Holas enters the weekend just five wins shy of her 400th career victory.

IN THE CIRCLE: Seniors Amanda Crabtree (18-8) and Donna Bourgeois (16-6) combined with freshman Diedre Outon (6-2), comprise a Houston pitching staff that currently holds the second-best team ERA in the NCAA (1.29).

The crew finished the regular season with a 0.67 ERA against C-USA opponents, and kept C-USA hitters to a dismal .148. The Cougar trio also led the conference in overall opposing batting average (.168) and strikeouts (481) during the regular season.

Crabtree leads the pitching staff with a 0.94 overall ERA and 314 strikeouts in 179.1 innings pitched. Despite missing seven games with an injury, the All-C-USA Second Team selection hasn't skipped a beat. She continues to lead the nation in strikeouts per seven innings (12.3) and hits allowed per seven (2.77), and became Houston's all-time, single-season strikeout leader (314) in her last outing.

Houston went 6-1 while Crabtree was sidelined and C-USA Newcomer of the Year, Bourgeois, played a key role in that success. The Louisiana transfer has stepped up in every situation needed, posting a 12-0 record in her last 12 decisions. Holding the league's best ERA at the conclusion of conference play (0.50), Bourgeois has not recorded a loss since falling at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on March 15.

The depth doesn't stop there. Outon became just the second freshman this season to be named the C-USA Pitcher of the Week on May 2. The All-Freshman Team pitcher posted a 2-0 record with a 0.00 ERA against East Carolina on the Pirates' home field, striking out nine while not allowing a single run last weekend. She went on to throw a career-high nine strikeouts against ECU in the C-USA semifinals against ECU.

AT THE PLATE: Houston comes into the NCAA Tournament crushing the ball and ranks 25th in the nation in homeruns per game (1.13). The Cougars finished the conference season leading the league in homeruns (63), 25 more than second-place Memphis (38).

Front and center of the Cougars' success at the plate is junior outfielder and C-USA Player of the Year, Melissa Gregson. Gregson doubled her homerun total from last season to lead the team and her conference in homeruns (16). In conference-only action, Gregson finished the season ranked in the top-three in batting average (.418, 1st), homeruns (10, 1st), RBI (26, 1st), slugging percentage (.940, 1st), runs scored (20, 3rd), hits (28, 3rd) and on-base percentage (.494, 2nd).

Sophomore third baseman Holly Anderson has been a crucial spark to Houston's offense. The All-C-USA First Team selection leads the team in batting average (.340) and runs scored (39). She enters the weekend after collecting at least one hit in 21 of Houston's last 24 games.

No. 24/25 LOUISIANA (49-9)

OVERALL: The Ragin' Cajuns enter the regional after winning their 11th Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship. The tournament title extended UL's current win streak to 11-straight games. A sweep at Florida Atlantic marks the only losses the Cajuns have suffered in nearly six weeks.

UL has squared off against four top-25 teams this season, posting a 1-3 record in the process. They defeated then-No. 3 Alabama, 1-0, on March 4.

IN THE CIRCLE: Louisiana has also produced a talented group of pitchers this season, as the staff is holding a 1.61 ERA.

Junior right-hander Ashley Brignac (30-5) leads the team with a 1.24 ERA in 209.0 innings. She also leads the team in strikeouts (228) and opposing batting average (.178), but has allowed a team-high 12 homeruns.

AT THE PLATE: Known for their outrageous power at the plate, UL brings seven starters into the weekend hitting .300 or better and are clubbing .332 as a team. Junior Christi Orgeron leads the team with an impressive .418 and 23 homeruns. Her 97 RBI leads the NCAA, and she was recently named to the USA Softball National Collegiate Player of the Year Top-10 Finalist List.


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