Author’s note: Previously, I had done a Pac-12 summary as part of this post. I now also write for Pacific Takes, where I do an unbiased (okay, Pac-12 biased, but not UW biased) recap of the week in #Pac12SB. Instead, I will also do more of a preview of the Huskies’ next opponent, as well as a recap of the previous weekend. I will still put standings here, but if you want a more in-depth look around the Pac-12, check out my articles on pacifictakes.com - Ed
The Husky softball team got sweet payback on a postseason nemesis this weekend, as the 9th-ranked Huskies (34-10, 8-7 Pac-12) swept a two-game series from #12 Alabama (37-11, 10-7 SEC) in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide softball team invited QB Jalen Hurts to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in Friday’s game, but like a lot of things he throws, it was thrown well wide of the intended target.
Taran Alvelo picked up both wins for the Huskies, while four different Huskies homered in the brief two-game sweep. A 90-minute rain delay in the 5th inning of game two luckily did not turn into a cancellation, and the Huskies gave a huge boost to their postseason resume. More on that later. How did the Huskies do it?
One cheer for freshman second baseman Sis Bates. Bates was named as a finalist for freshman of the year earlier this week, and she participated in two pivotal plays of game two. In the bottom of the fourth, with UW holding a slim 1-0 lead at the time, back-to-back walks with nobody out by Alvelo ended Taran’s outing (for the moment) and junior Madi Schreyer replaced her. A groundout advanced both runners into scoring position. Alabama shortstop Sydney Booker, who was one of the few players Alvelo had trouble getting out this series, lined a hard drive up the middle. Bates reacted quickly and made the catch, then flipped the ball to Ali Aguilar at second to double off Chandler Dare for the inning-ending double play. In the top of sixth, Bates jumped all over an Alexis Osorio fastball and blasted UW’s third solo shot of the game.
Two cheers for junior first baseman Kirstyn Thomas. Thomas had the biggest play of the first game, breaking a 1-1 tie in the top of the seventh with a two-run homer. Her homer came off of Alexis Osorio, one of the top pitchers in the country, and gave Alvelo the lead she needed to make it through the bottom of the seventh.
Three cheers for sophomore Taran Alvelo. I’m running out of glowing descriptions for Taran that I haven’t already used at this point. She recorded all but four outs for the Huskies in the sweep of the Crimson Tide. In game one, she out-dueled Osorio, a finalist for the pitcher of the year, a list that somehow Alvelo did not make. Her ERA is higher than most, if not all, on the list, but there’s a couple of reasons for that: the Huskies have played the toughest schedule in the country, and she pitches more innings than just about any pitcher in the NCAA.
Along the lines of what the NCAA women’s basketball committee has done the past two years, and the men’s basketball committee did this year, the NCAA softball selection committee announced the ten seeds if the season ended after the games played on Thursday, April 20th.
3) Texas A&M
4) Florida State
I’ll have more observations on my other article, but there are multiple good signs here for the Huskies.
A) Even before the two wins against Alabama, and before the Ducks lost the first two games of their series in Tucson (game three is Sunday on ESPN2), the committee put Washington (32-10 at that point) ahead of Oregon (37-4 at that point). Washington has played a vastly superior schedule to the Ducks and has the head-to-head series win against Oregon, but to see a 10-loss team ahead of a 4-loss team from the same conference is still surprising.
B) Add in the fact that UW won twice on the road against a team ranked #12 in the NFCA poll while Oregon lost twice (to a very good Arizona team, but they are still losses) and that gap has grown significantly. My guess is that unless Auburn were to lose on Sunday, the Huskies would still be in 6th if the committee were to update these rankings. We won’t ever really know, because the committee most likely isn’t going to give another update before the actual selection show a bit more than three weeks from now.
C) The fact that UCLA is on this list instead of Oklahoma is very good. The Huskies beat Oklahoma at the very beginning of the season, and the Sooners lost multiple other times in non-conference play, but Oklahoma is undefeated in the Big 12 and hasn’t lost a game in April. I expected to see them somewhere from 8th to 10th, but the respect shown for the brutal schedules faced by both Washington and UCLA is a great sign.
D) Although the committee lists ten teams here, the important distinction to remember is the top eight. Sixteen teams earn national seeds and the right to host in the regional round, and then the winners of those 16 regional mini-tournaments advance to a best-of-three series at the higher seeded team. By being in the top 8 seeds, teams are assured of hosting a Super Regional series, as long as they advance out of the regional round. Last year, the Huskies were the 11 seed, so after winning the Seattle regional, they traveled to…Tuscaloosa, where they were eliminated by the Crimson Tide in two games. A top eight seed has been a specific goal of Husky softball this season, and they are well on their way to that goal.
Standings (note: every team except UW plays one more conference game this weekend)
1) #3 Arizona (45-3, 15-2 Pac-12)
2) #10 Utah (29-9, 11-4)
3) #6 Oregon (37-6, 10-6)
4) #9 Washington (34-10, 8-7)
5) #13 UCLA (32-12, 7-7)
6) #23 Arizona State (27-13, 6-8)
7) (RV) Oregon State (24-18, 6-8)
8) (RV) California (26-15, 3-10)
9) Stanford (17-24, 0-14)