HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: A big weekend in golf

Jamie Freedman leads the Nova Southeastern Sharks. nsusharks.com

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

The best team in Division II women’s golf?

It just might be the Nova Southeastern University Sharks.

They roll into next week’s NCAA Division II Championship at Bay Oaks Country Club down in Clear Lake, ranked No.1 in the nation and favored, despite having finished third in this week’s tough South Super Regional.

Don’t shake your head. The South is the strongest region in Division II and the two teams that beat the Sharks happen to be defending champion Barry University and 2016 champ Rollins.

And the Sharks? NSU won four consecutive NCAA Division II titles from 2009-2012 – as well as runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2013 -- and they’re eyeing a fifth.

They’re a team that won six straight tournaments at one point and finished the regular season with 10 wins in 13 events. Their roster is filled with talent, including four players who have been together for three seasons.

And did we mention their first win of the 2017-2018 season was at Bay Oaks? The Sharks beat Dallas Baptist by six shots to win the NCAA Division II National Preview in Houston in September.

Still not enough? Their top player is senior Jamie Freedman, the only Division II player – male or female – to be named to the 2018 Arnold Palmer Cup, which will be played in July at the Evian Resort in France. She was the medalist in the Preview event at Bay Oaks and has been a top-10 fixture this season.

Freedman is currently ranked fourth individually and is one of four Sharks in the top 15. Senior teammate Michelle Ruiz, the Sunshine State Conference 2018 medalist, is fifth; junior Sophie Madden is ninth; and senior Janelle Johnson is ranked 15th.

The team didn’t make it out of the Super Regional last May, but made up for it this year and lead a strong field for the May 16-19 event that includes third-ranked Dallas Baptist, fourth-ranked Barry and No. 8 Rollins. Individuals in the field include No.1 Paloma Vaccaro, a senior from West Florida, and No.12 Amanda Gartrell, a sophomore from Florida Southern.

The top three teams from the four NCAA Super Regionals as well as the top three individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the Championships.

Second-year Sharks coach Heather Wall played college golf at Nova Southeastern rival Florida State and has stressed the team aspect. Among other things, she makes sure each team member keeps a piece of rope in her yardage book to remind them to “hold the rope and never let go” for her teammates.

The Sharks are the team to beat coming in, but the field is top heavy with Dallas Baptist, Barry and Rollins.

It should be a great show.

 

 

 

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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