THAT. WAS. AWESOME.
Husky softball swept their final Pac-12 series of the season at Utah this weekend, but all three games were vastly different.
Game 1: All Huskies.
UW jumped all over Utes starter Katie Donovan early in this one. Taylor Van Zee and Julia DePonte had back-to-back RBI singles early to give UW a quick lead. Taran Alvelo was hit for 1 unearned run in the bottom of the first, but got out of a jam to keep the Dawgs in front.
Crafty baserunning got the first and last of the 5 Husky runs in the second, with the middle three provided by a bases-clearing double from RBI machine Morganne Flores to stake UW to a 7-1 lead that would just continue to expand. Home runs by Kirstyn Thomas in the third and Van Zee in the fourth helped build up the lead to run-rule size, and Alvelo cruised to a five-inning 12-1 win.
Game 2: Pitcher’s Duel.
Utah’s Miranda Viramontes pitched really well in this game, shutting down the explosive Husky offense for three innings before departing, most likely due to unfortunate re-aggravation of a previous back injury (good sign for her, though, is that she did pitch in the series finale, so it doesn’t seem to be too bad). Utah got a run off of Samantha Manti in the first on an RBI single from SS Anissa Urtez, and that stood as the game’s lone run until the sixth.
Ali Aguilar was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a sac bunt by Sis Bates. Casey Stangel walked before Flores reached on a fielder’s choice that retired Stangel at second. But on the first pitch, red-hot TVZ came through in the clutch:
T6 | Van Zee with her 8th hit in her last 10 at bats, knocks a two-run RBI to take the lead! https://t.co/Hf1SY6p00o— UW Softball (@UWSoftball) May 13, 2017
Utah managed to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out RBI single by DP Breonna Castaneda, but after an intentional walk to star 2B Hannah Flippen, Alvelo was able to escape the jam still tied.
Neither team scored in the 7th, so that sent this ballgame to extras. A single by Bates and another walk drawn by Stangel put two runners on for Flores, who lined a two-run double into the left field corner that was fair by a few inches:
T8 | IN BY INCHES. Flores clears the bases and the Huskies take a 4-2 lead! https://t.co/CCweEo1B1t— UW Softball (@UWSoftball) May 13, 2017
Utah threatened to tie or win it in the bottom of the eighth, as Castaneda singled and Flippen doubled to put the tying run at second with two outs, but Urtez flied out to center to end it.
Game 3: The comeback.
The first four innings of game three pretty much looked like game 1, but backwards. Husky pitching got hit hard by multiple Utes, most notably Flippen, who homered twice and drove in six runs in just the first 3 innings. With 2 outs in the bottom of the fourth, Madi Schreyer re-entered the ballgame, trailing 12-1, looking to record an out to help UW get the heck out.
At this point, it would have been perfectly reasonable for the Husky offense to just take some hard swings and then go home. UW needed to score four runs in the top of the 5th just to avoid being run-ruled. But this team just doesn’t quit. Ever.
It wasn’t that the Huskies suddenly started blasting home runs left and right, though. In fact, they didn’t even hit a single one. But effort plays, the kind of play that usually just doesn’t happen when you’re down 12-1 in the fifth, got this team one of the greatest comebacks in Pac-12 softball history.
Long plate appearances with batters battling to draw walks. Textbook bunts, both as sacrifice bunts and multiple bunt base hits. Great baserunning to take full advantage of a few Utah miscues defensively.
The Huskies scored 4 in the fifth to keep the game going, and Schreyer shut Utah down 1-2-3 in the fifth to make sure the Huskies could bat again in the sixth. A 6-run sixth inning made it a 1-run game. Sensing that there was a chance to win this game, Coach Tarr put in her ace, and Alvelo picked up where Schreyer left off, sending the Utes down in order. And with two outs in the top of the seventh, down to their last out and a runner on second, Ali Aguilar stepped to the plate:
T7 | AGUILAR TIES THE GAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! https://t.co/lLYA0wPdSa— UW Softball (@UWSoftball) May 13, 2017
Taylor Van Zee finished off her fantastic series by driving in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the top of the 8th, and Alvelo shut down the Utes one more time to finish it. Between Schreyer and Alvelo, the last 13 Utah hitters were sent down in order, which is easy to lose track of when the offense is doing what it did.
What it means going forward
Even without a win today, the Huskies were realistically assured of a top-8 seed by virtue of wins in the first two games, combined with losses by a few of the teams chasing them (Tennessee & Texas A&M, most notably). But a sweep of the 13th-ranked team in the country, on the road, is really impressive. Here is my guess as to what the top seeds will look like:
- Florida State
- UCLA (not 100% sure on this one; Oklahoma or Tennessee could sneak in)
Teams that could be in the 11-13 range and therefore be paired up with UW in a super regional matchup:
James Madison (50-6, 18-2 Colonial)
Texas A&M (42-10, 16-7 SEC)
Tennessee (44-10, 16-7 SEC)
Louisiana (45-6, 23-1 Sun Belt)
The NCAA softball selection show is tomorrow (Sunday) night at 7 PM Pacific on ESPN2. I’ll put up an article or two in the coming week to preview their regional opponents as well as their potential path to the WCWS.