HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: City pursues women's Final 4

The women's Final 4 is a big event. NCAA.com

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Could the third time be the charm?

Houston hopes so.

The fourth-largest city in the country has hosted Men’s Final Fours, Super Bowls and World Championships and now it is a finalist to host one of the premier women’s events in the country – the Women’s Final Four.

The NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Committee announced Thursday that Houston was one of the eight finalist bid cities for the 2021-2024 Final Fours. Houston didn’t make the cut the first time it bid in 2011 and, in 2014, made the finals but did not get selected.

And now? Well, Houston has a pretty impressive pitch, which includes the downtown footprint used for both the 2016 Men’s Final Four and Super Bowl LI.

“We have the George R. Brown Convention Center, Discovery Green and Toyota Center,’’ said Holly Kesterson, Senior Events Manager for the Harris County – Houston Sports Authority. “We were able to utilize the convention center and Discovery Green for Men’s Final Four, but they played in NRG Arena.  The women would get the whole downtown experience.’’

In addition, Houston has a strong women’s presence with groups around the city, including WISE (Women in Sports and Events). “We have a huge platform for women to come together,’’ Kesterson said.

The women’s event is smaller and more of an arena event than the men’s event, which means it is open to many more cities. This year, Columbus, OH, will host the 2018 Women’s Final Four.

In Toyota Center, Houston has a NBA facility and that, along with the hotels and event opportunities downtown could combine for an impressive event.

Kesterson and others have already met with NCAA officials and had numerous discussions. The final bid is due in April and the NCAA will conduct site visits in July or August to see the planning in person.

“We’ll have the chance to show the NCAA the depth of what we have,’’ Kesterson said.

The NCAA’s final decision will come in October.

Houston will partner with Texas A&M as a host institution, but all the local universities will also be a part of the event.

The other cities in the final eight are Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Kansas City (Missouri), Minneapolis, Nashville and San Antonio. Indianapolis has hosted three Women’s Final Fours (2005, 2011, 2016), while San Antonio has hosted two (2002, 2010). Dallas, which hosted the 2017 Women’s Final Four, joins Cleveland, Kansas City, Minneapolis and Nashville as cities that have all hosted one Women’s Final Four.

“We were encouraged by the number and quality of potential host cities for the Women’s Final Four,” said Rhonda Lundin Bennett, chair of the Division I Women’s Basketball Committee and senior associate athletics director and senior woman administrator at the University of Nevada.

“The Women’s Final Four selection process will ultimately identify those cities that have the enthusiasm and energy to continue to build the legacy of one of America’s premier women’s sporting events.”

Houston has certainly demonstrated the enthusiasm and energy in hosting previous events here and would love to show off that same commitment and #HoustonStrong attitude for a Women’s Final Four.

Will the third time be the charm for Houston? Stay tuned.

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The Astros will look to bounce back after a tough week. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After a 6-3 record to start the season, the Houston Astros had a tumultuous week to say the least. They were swept by the Tigers, lost 2 of 3 games to the Seattle Mariners and placed five players on the COVID injured list.

The Tigers' new manager AJ Hinch returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since the Astros let him go after the cheating scandal in early 2020.

The Tigers swept the Astros and outscored them 20-8 over their three matchups.

Before the 3rd game of the series, the Astros found out they would be without five players on their active roster. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia were all placed on the COVID-19 injury reserved list.

"It's hard on the team but you have to carry on. The show must go on," manager Dusty Baker said. "And it went on today with some younger players we have here."

Garrett Stubbs, Taylor Jones and Abraham Toro were called up as well as Alex De Goti and Ronnie Dawson who made their major league debuts last week.

The Tigers were able to score runs early on Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and Jake Odorizzi (who made his Astros debut) and none of these starters lasted more than five innings in the outings.

Yuli Gurriel was the one Astros bright spot against the Tigers as he had 7 hits and drove in 2 runs. He is still continuing to hit the ball consistently as he finished the series with a .429 batting average.

After a 1-5 home stand the Astros looked to bounce back on the road against the division leading Seattle Mariners (you read that correctly).

Friday night proved to be the Astros' best offensive performance since their home opener on April 8th against the A's.

They scored five runs on Yusei Kikuchi through 7 innings behind good hitting from Aledmys Diaz, Chas McCormick and De Goti who drove in two runs on his first major league hit.

The Astros had a 5-2 lead at this point, but Seattle was able to score 4 unanswered to win the game.

Bryan Abreu, Blake Taylor and Ryne Stanek were credited with those four runs.

Ryan Pressly tried to clean up the bottom of the 9th inning after Stanek put the first two batters on base. His effort was unsuccessfully as Ty France hit a game-ending single that scored J.P. Crawford from second to secure a Mariners victory.

Saturday was the best game of the week for the Astros as they finally broke their six-game losing streak.

After failing to pitch more than five innings on Monday against the Tigers, Zack Greinke threw eight shutout innings with 91 pitches.

He struck out six batters and gave up only 4 hits.

"That's what aces do," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys like (Greinke) ... they stop the bleeding and we're about bled out."

Greinke finished the game with 2,705 career strikeouts. He is now third amongst active players in strikeouts behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Ryan Pressly got some redemption too as he threw a perfect 9th inning giving him his first save of the year.

The Astros won this game 1-0 as Taylor Jones drove in the game's only run with an RBI single.

Sunday's game ended the Astros week with a whimper, as the Mariners bested Houston 7-2.

Jake Odorizzi got off to a good start, but he gave up three hits and was pulled after Mitch Haniger's fifth-inning triple made it a 3-2 lead over the Astros.

Odorizzi is now (0-2) with a 10.57 ERA after two starts with the Astros.

Houston's offensive woes continued Sunday, as Aledmys Díaz had their only hit, an RBI double in the second inning that fell in when outfielder José Marmolejos lost the ball in the sun.

"It's tough to take when you only got one hit and the one hit we got was lost in the sun," Baker said.

UP NEXT: The Astros (7-8) will finish their road trip with a two game series against the Rockies who have the worst record in the league (4-12) before starting an eight-game homestead.

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