The Washington Husky softball team defeated Michigan 4-2 on Sunday to advance to the Super Regional round next weekend, where they will host the Utah Utes. Taran Alvelo pitched a complete game for the win (what else is new?), Morganne Flores and Ali Aguilar had clutch hits (what else is new?), and defensive specialist Kelly Burdick contributed a major offensive threat (okay, that’s kind of new).
Part I: Recap:
Kelly Burdick had a great game, reaching base all three times she came to the plate, using vastly different methods. With 1 out in the third, Burdick got the first hit of the game for the Huskies when she laced a ball into the right-center gap for a triple. Ali Aguilar, looking to get a deep fly ball to drive in a run, got all of it and drove it out for a two-run bomb instead to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead. Burdick also started a scoring threat when she put down a textbook bunt single with two on and nobody out in the 4th. In the sixth, Kelly had one of the most impressive at-bats of the day, fouling off a couple of diving curveballs from Betsa before drawing a 1-out walk to start the game-winning rally.
That game-winning rally came after that clutch walk by Burdick and a controversial HBP of Aguilar (see below). Sis Bates wasn’t giving herself up to move the runners, but ended up having the end result of a sac bunt anyway, as she rolled one slowly right to Blanco at the bag for the unassisted putout that moved Burdick to third and Aguilar to second. With 2 in scoring position, 2 outs, and first base open, Betsa wanted no part of Casey Stangel, who drew a four-pitch “semi-intentional” walk. Morganne Flores, the RBI queen for this team throughout the season, came through in the clutch again. Flores took a 1-2 pitch up in the zone from Betsa and ripped it into the left field corner for a 2-run double.
Taran Alvelo had a good but fairly unspectacular outing (by her lofty standards, that is). But her ability to buckle down after the big hits against her was impressive. Unlike Betsa, who struck out nine and walked nine, Alvelo had a remarkably low number in both categories: 0 walks, 3 K’s. But two of the three strikeouts she did record came at huge moments. Michigan 2B Faith Canfield blasted a two-out solo homer in the first, but then retired the next 8 Wolverines in order. In the fourth, a one-out double by RF Aidan Falk scored Canfield to tie the game. With the sizable Michigan contingent of fans starting to get loud, Taran got Tera Blanco to fly out to Kaija Gibson in left, and then got one of her few strikeouts in a huge situation to strand Falk’s pinch-runner at third.
In the seventh, things got a bit dicey. Falk re-entered, and bounced a ground ball up the middle for a leadoff single. Blanco then hit a tricky bouncer to the left side that Taylor Van Zee tried to barehand and couldn’t. Michigan had the tying run at first and the winning run at the plate with nobody out. Pinch hitter Alex Sobczak had a chance to drive in key runs, or at least advance the base runners. But again, Alvelo found her strikeout touch at just the right moment, getting Sobczak swinging late on a high fastball for a colossal first out without the runners advancing. A miscommunication between Alvelo, C Morganne Flores, and 1B Kirstyn Thomas nearly cost UW an out on a foul popup, but Thomas managed to reach over Flores and make an awkward basket catch. Michigan brought another pinch hitter to the plate with two outs, but after multiple foul balls out of play, Alvelo got her to pop one up playable, and there was no miscommunication here; Flores called off everyone and made the catch in foul territory to end it.
- 7 innings
- 4 hits
- 2 runs, earned
- 0 walks
- 3 strikeouts
- 1 hit batter
Part II: What’s next?
The 6th-seeded Huskies advanced to the Super Regional round of the NCAA softball tournament, where they will match up with the 11 seed, a team we know quite well: the Utah Utes. As a top-8 seed, the Huskies have earned the right to host the best-of-three series at Husky Softball Stadium. The series will run Friday through Sunday, although times and TV info will probably not be announced until after the entire regional round is complete (the regionals in Norman, Oklahoma and Baton Rouge, Louisiana have both had significant weather delays, resulting in a minimum of one game being played tomorrow (Tulsa vs. (10) Oklahoma) and perhaps a second (Louisiana vs. (13) LSU, if LSU manages to force the if-necessary game by winning tonight)).
Game 1 and the if-necessary game 3 of the Utah-Washington SR series would be “home” games for the Huskies, while the Huskies will serve as the “road” team in game 2. I’ll have a more extensive preview sometime this week.
If you want a more overall look into the tournament itself, how the Pac-12 fared so far, and how the rest of the tournament is shaping up, I’m going to write a regional roundup around the conference on Pacific Takes as well.
Part III: Opinion
There’s been a fair amount of discussion about Betsa throwing behind Ali Aguilar the at-bat after she homered, then later plunking her. Here’s my take:
I do believe Betsa was trying to pitch inside and brush Aguilar off of the plate.
I do believe that you can’t prove she wasn’t trying to hit Ali.
I also believe there is enough evidence to give her the benefit of the doubt.
It was a close game in both cases, and she knew this might be the last collegiate softball game she would ever play. Both times, when the pitch hit/nearly hit her, there was a runner on first with really good speed (Burdick in both cases – by the time the intentional walk was issued in Aguilar’s third plate appearance, Burdick had moved to second, but that was because of the wild pitch behind Ali; she had started the AB at first). Think for a second: if you were playing possibly your last game ever, would you intentionally hurt your team for revenge in a close game? I’m not saying that nobody would. But I don’t think everybody would, either. If she had been in full control throughout the game and suddenly lost control only when Aguilar was up, I think that would serve as more convincing evidence. But take a look at her line:
- 7 innings
- 5 hits
- 4 runs, all earned
- 9 walks (career-high, I’m pretty sure)
- 9 strikeouts
- 2 hit batters
- 1 wild pitch that advanced a runner
- 2 pitches that hit the backstop on the fly, but didn’t count as wild pitches because there was no one on base.
- 70 strikes, 61 balls (only 53.4% strikes)
She also hit 32 batters this season, so it’s not exactly an uncommon occurrence in general.