The 6th-ranked Husky Softball team swept #21 Arizona State at Husky Softball Stadium over the weekend.
Plays that Made the Difference
With two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the first, five straight Husky batters reached base, leading to four runs. Walks to Casey Stangel and Sis Bates on either side of a line drive single by Julia DePonte loaded the bases for Flores. Flores dropped a soft bloop single down the right field line to score Stangel and DePonte, and was able to take second on the throw home. Thomas then lined a single to center to bring home Bates and Flores for a 4-0 Husky lead.
Arizona State nearly equalized in the top of the second, scoring three runs and putting runners on the corners with two outs, but a key strikeout by Alvelo ended the threat with UW still on top.
Both Alvelo and ASU starter Breanna Macha settled down after rough starts, as the game remained 4-3 UW until the top of the fifth. The Sun Devils tied up the game on an RBI single and managed to threaten for more, but again, Alvelo was able to limit the damage, this time by forcing a ground ball to 3B Taylor Van Zee for a force out at third base to end the inning.
The game wouldn’t stay tied for long. After a single and an error put Huskies on first and second with one out, Flores hit another single, this one into shallow center field, which scored pinch-runner Amirah Milloy from second base. (On this play, Arizona State second baseman Marisa Stankiewicz had a great diving attempt in shallow center that nearly resulted in an out, but as she dove, she hit the ground hard. She stayed down for a while as ASU trainers tended to her, but later got up and remained in the game, and continued to play the rest of the weekend. My guess is that she had the wind knocked out of her.) Thomas then drove Bates in with an RBI single for a key insurance run.
The offense once again roared to life in the bottom of the first, as Van Zee and Stangel singled with one out and DePonte was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Bates. Sis drew a four-pitch bases-loaded walk for the Huskies’ first run. Flores laced a two-run double into the right-center gap to score Stangel and DePonte, but Bates was caught in a rundown between third and home and tagged out, helping ASU get out of the inning.
Then Sam Manti took over. The Devils only managed three hits off her in her complete-game shutout. Manti struck out a career-high nine while walking just one, with ASU never seriously threatening.
Much to my surprise, Manti remained in the circle for the second game of the doubleheader. (I was expecting to see junior Madi Schreyer start, but she never pitched at all on the weekend.) Manti was not as dominant, but still got through three innings unscathed. For the first time in the series, however, the Sun Devils got a good start from their pitcher. Dale Ryndak was not overpowering the Huskies with strikeouts, recording only one in the entire game, but kept UW off balance as the Husky hitters couldn’t stop popping pitches up for easy outs.
The biggest threat by ASU during either of the last two games of the series was clearly the top of the fourth. Manti allowed the first two Devils to reach and was pulled by Head Coach Heather Tarr to a rousing ovation from the Husky faithful. Alvelo struck out one ASU hitter, but then a ground ball single loaded the bases. Taran fought back with back-to-back strikeouts to keep the game scoreless.
After another ASU threat was turned away in the top of the fifth, Alvelo went into cruise control in T6. The scoreless tie would be broken on the very first pitch of B6. Taylor Van Zee hit a missile to straightaway center field (just beyond where I happened to be sitting, coincidentally) for a solo home run. The Sun Devils were able to get runners on first and second with two outs in the top of the ninth, but 1B Julia DePonte snatched a sharp liner to nail down the win.
One cheer for sophomore catcher Morganne Flores, who continued to mash opposing pitching. Flores went 3 for 9 over the weekend and drove in a series-high five runs, including the go-ahead run in game one of the series.
Two cheers for junior designated player Kirstyn Thomas, who matched Flores’ output in game one (2 hits, 3 RBI) and picked up a hit in all three games of the weekend to go 4/8 with 3 RBI against the Devils.
Three cheers for freshman pitcher Samantha Manti, who pitched 10 scoreless innings against ASU including a complete game three-hit shutout in the second game of the series. Overall, Manti gave up just six hits, walked two, and struck out ten.
Around the Pac-12
The opening weekend of #Pac12SB play was one of sweeps, three somewhat expected and one entirely unexpected. Pac-12 heavyweights Oregon, Arizona, and Washington each picked up three wins, against #23 Cal, OSU, and #21 ASU respectively. All three of the underdogs in these series had a good chance to win in at least one of the three games, but the favorites pulled it out.
The other series was #20 Utah at #10 UCLA. Don’t get me wrong, Utah is a good team. But despite being in the same conference for the last six years, and playing occasionally in non-conference play before that, Utah softball had never won in Westwood. Ever.
On Friday, the Utes picked up their first-ever win against the Bruins on the road (2-1).
On Saturday, the Utes secured their first-ever series win at UCLA (7-2).
And on Sunday, Utah shut out the Bruins 4-0 to open up conference play with the most impressive statement possible.
1 Oregon (27-0, 3-0 Pac-12)
2 Arizona (29-1, 3-0)
3 Washington (24-3, 3-0)
4 Utah (21-4, 3-0)
5 Stanford (16-10)
6 UCLA (21-8, 0-3)
7 Arizona State (19-8, 0-3)
8 California (17-8, 0-3)
9 Oregon State (15-11, 0-3)
The National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) released its weekly poll this morning. Despite UW’s sweep, the Huskies stayed at #6 because nobody in last week’s top 8 lost a game this week. Here’s the top 10, plus Pac-12 teams:
1 Florida State (28-1-1, 9-0 ACC)
2 Florida (26-1, 5-0 SEC)
3 Oregon (27-0, 3-0 Pac-12)
4 Auburn (27-3, 2-1 SEC)
5 Arizona (29-1, 3-0 Pac-12)
6 Washington (24-3, 3-0 Pac-12)
7 Texas A&M (25-2, 5-1 SEC)
8 Minnesota (25-2)
9 Alabama (28-3, 5-1 SEC)
10 James Madison (24-3)
11 Utah (21-4, 3-0 Pac-12)
15 UCLA (21-8, 0-3 Pac-12)
21 Arizona State (19-8, 0-3 Pac-12)
(RV) California (17-8, 0-3 Pac-12)
Interestingly, the four teams that picked up sweeps this week are facing each other next week, setting up two highly important series early in the conference schedule:
Week 2 Schedule
#6 Washington (24-3, 3-0) at #5 Arizona (29-1, 3-0) (Fri-Sun)
Stanford (16-10) at (RV) California (17-8, 0-3) (Sat-Mon)
Oregon State (15-11, 0-3) at #21 Arizona State (19-8, 0-3) (Sat-Mon)
#3 Oregon (27-0, 3-0) at #11 Utah (21-4, 3-0) (Sat-Mon)
#15 UCLA is off from conference play this week, but hosts a doubleheader against nearly-ranked BYU on Saturday and plays Dartmouth on Sunday.
Following the Huskies
With it being spring break for UW, the Huskies have more on tap than just the big series with the Wildcats. The Huskies have five games this week, starting with a doubleheader against a solid Grand Canyon (25-7) team on Wednesday in Phoenix. The Huskies then make the bus ride down to Tucson for a Friday night start against U of A.
Wednesday, 3 PM: UW at Grand Canyon (no TV/radio)
Wednesday, approx 5:30 PM: UW at Grand Canyon (no TV/radio)
Friday, 5 PM: UW at Arizona (Pac-12 Net/WA/AZ)
Saturday, noon: UW at Arizona (Pac-12 Net/WA/AZ)
Sunday, noon: UW at Arizona (Pac-12 WA/AZ onlly)