Author’s note: I was surprised and honored when the SID for Husky Softball reached out to me to invite me to cover the team for the upcoming Seattle regional as a member of the media. The team graciously offered me the opportunity to come to a softball practice and have a chance to interview head coach Heather Tarr, as well as a player or two. I never would have thought my casual writing on a fan website would earn me media credentials, but one of the assistants on Tarr’s staff liked my writing and urged coach Tarr to read some of it, and she enjoyed it as well. This is entirely uncharted territory for me, but I can’t wait to get going. - Ed Strong
Today I was able to attend one of the UW softball team practices leading up to the start of their postseason run at home against Montana on Friday night. I had a chance to interview head coach Heather Tarr and senior left fielder Casey Stangel, and then I watched the team practice. Although there were also some interesting things I heard in the interview, I’m going to wait to publish those until after I hear more at the official press conference on Thursday (on that note: if you have any ideas for questions I should ask coach Tarr or a player at that press conference, feel free to leave them in the comment section). For now, here are five scouting observations that I made while watching the 6th-seeded Huskies at work.
A) The endless energy of junior center fielder Kelly Burdick.
Over the course of the practice, there were several rotations of which players were working on certain things, as you would expect. Burdick was one of the earlier ones to take her swings during BP, laying down nice bunts and slapping singles through the infield. Once her turn ended, she went out to center to catch balls hit by her teammates. She stayed out there for what seemed like at least an hour, chasing fly ball after fly ball the entire time without showing any sign of fatigue.
B) Under-the-radar player who impressed me in multiple drills: freshman backup catcher Gianna Carideo.
Carideo doesn’t play much, behind starter Morganne Flores and primary backup Rachel Ogasawara on the catching depth chart. But with all three catchers getting plenty of opportunities to hit and field their position, I really liked what I saw from Gianna. During situational hitting practice, she put down multiple really nice bunts as the team was working on advancing the runners. Later, during some situational defensive drills, she received the ball quite well, even able to stop a few somewhat off-target throws from outfielders to tag out (imaginary) base runners at the plate.
C) Freshman outfielder Kaija Gibson made multiple impressive catches at the wall, including one that would have gone out.
Spending most of her freshman season as a pinch runner and late-game defensive replacement in the outfield with just occasional starts, Gibson has already shown a quick first step and the ability to take accurate routes to the ball. With a more extended look at her out in left field, her ability to chase balls to the outfield wall was on display, even once climbing it to steal a home run away.
D) She doesn’t hit during games because the Huskies have plenty of offensive options, but if ace pitcher Taran Alvelo ever needed to hit for some reason, she has serious pop.
I was kind of surprised to see Alvelo take as many swings as she did during BP. There’s no doubt that there’s work that would need to be done on plate discipline if Taran were to be in the lineup regularly. But a few of the longest bombs of the day came off the bat of the sophomore pitcher.
E) The enthusiastic silliness of junior third baseman Taylor Van Zee is infectious.
Van Zee is pretty clearly the team clown. With music blaring from the center field speakers throughout the practice, on multiple occasions the carefree infielder showed off her interpretive dance skills and lip syncing to the few fans in attendance at the open practice. While her dance skills unfortunately won’t directly help the Huskies win, every clubhouse needs someone who can lighten the mood when the team is in a tough spot. Keep rocking on, Taylor.