UH softball set to host NCAA regional

May 15, 2008 1:56:12 PM PDT
This weekend, one of the NCAA's regional softball tournaments will take place at the University of Houston. The program is only in its eighth season and is already hosting its first regional. But a closer look at what makes the program tick and you understand why it has come so far, so fast.

"They stuck with me through both of the knee surgeries that I had prior to coming to college," pitcher Angel Shamblin said.

Shamblin is the Cougars' Roy Oswalt, and we all know winning baseball teams are built on pitching. While the Astros need more Oswalts, winning softball teams can sometimes need just one Shamblin.

"Any time you can have a dominating pitcher, you can go pretty far," Coogs coach Kyla Holas said.

And that's why Holas stuck with Angel Shamblin. She has won 32 games out of the team's 50 victories this season, and she was named Conference USA pitcher of the year. But the Coogs didn't put together a 50-9 record without more than a great right arm on Angel's shoulder.

This has been as season of firsts for this program. Chief among them is Laurie Wagner. The infielder set a record for home runs -- 19. Keep in mind, she has been, for most of the season, walking around with a walking boot.

"I have a bruised heel and a partially torn plantar fascia," Wagner said.

"She defies everything. You know, she's one of those that I don't think you would pick her to be the most athletic. I don't think you would pick her to be, you know, anything spectacular. But every day, she tends to show up and be that person," Shamblin said.

Plantar fasciitis contributed to a disappointing rookie season for Texans defensive end Mario Williams, but not Wagner, who even took batting practice Wednesday in the walking boot.

"The cleats just bug you a lot, so I try to stay out of the cleats and in tennis shoes as much as possible. I've hit a few (foul balls) into my toes with the boot on. So that didn't feel that great," Wagner said.

However, hosting a regional that includes the University of Texas?

"It's awesome," Shamblin said. "to know that this is an eighth-year program and we're a national seed hosting a regional so soon, which is great."

And it's this weekend at the University of Houston campus.

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