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Husky Softball Notebook: Ferocious Offense Powers 5-0 Start in Illinois

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UW Softball pounded out 70 runs in 5 games to sweep the Bradley Invitational. Additionally, some lineup notes, and a preview of next week’s games.

Edward Strong

This was supposed to be a 5-0 weekend for the Huskies, but even the most optimistic projection was not quite as rosy as that.

The 4th-ranked Huskies romped in all five games at the Bradley Invitational in Peoria, Illinois, defeating all 5 opponents by run-rule (8+ run margin after 5 or 6 innings):

  • UW 15, Saint Louis 3 (5 inn)
  • UW 11, Bradley 0 (5 inn)
  • UW 19, Miami-Ohio 0 (5 inn)
  • UW 10, Western Illinois 0 (5 inn)
  • UW 15, Bradley 0 (6 inn)

The sheer ridiculousness of some of the offensive stats was remarkable this weekend.

  • The Huskies had 25 offensive innings - 6 in the final game, 4 in the fourth game (because they were the “home” team and won after 4.5), and 5 in the other 3. In those 25 innings, Washington put up 70 runs. That’s 2.8 runs per inning.
  • Four different players hit grand slams for the Huskies. Star sophomore shortstop Sis Bates hit the final one. Rutgers transfer Taryn Atlee hit her first two homers in a Husky uniform, including a slam. Freshman Noelle Hee showed off her pop with two homers in a game, including a grand slam.
  • The best story of the weekend was junior outfielder Amirah Milloy, who entered this season with just two career RBI. She doubled that coming in after entering as a replacement against Saint Louis. Then she re-doubled that total with a grand slam against Miami-OH, just the second home run of her career. Add in 2 more RBIs in the final game, and her career RBI total went from 2 to 10 in one weekend.
  • Kirstyn Thomas had a massive debut in the three-hole of the lineup, a late lineup change forced by the injury to Morganne Flores. KT put up an absurd slash line of .688/.737/1.813 with 5 home runs and 16 RBI. Thomas had a career year in 2017 by slugging 8 home runs and driving in 31. She’s more than halfway to both of those marks already.
  • Sis Bates accomplished a feat that seems so unlikely that I’ve never even looked for it before: over the course of the weekend, Bates scored more runs (16) than she had at-bats (15). In other words, not only did she hit .667, but she walked a bunch and the batters behind her kept driving her in.
  • Taylor Van Zee found herself leading off for the first time in her career, and it didn’t take long to get acclimated to her new spot. She homered on the very first pitch of the season against SLU, then against Miami a day later, she homered to lead off the game again.

https://twitter.com/UWSoftball/status/962341573349560321

While the offense wrote all of the headlines, the pitchers more than held their own. Sam Manti was the only pitcher to allow any earned runs at all, issuing 2 ER over 4 innings of work in the opener, then two scoreless in the finale.

Taran Alvelo was her normal nearly unhittable self, striking out nearly 2 batters per inning: 14 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 27 K, 3 wins.

The big positive development in the circle for the Huskies was the pitching of freshman Gabbie Plain: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R (unearned), 0 BB, 8 K. Neither Alvelo nor Plain gave up a single extra-base hit, and nobody gave up a home run.

Negatives

Not much here. No injuries as far as I could tell; the only player who I was slightly worried about - RF Trysten Melhart, who started the first two games, but did not start the next two, came in as a pinch-runner in both of them and then was back to starting in the final game.

One disappointing debut, albeit in very limited opportunities: freshman infielder Nawai Kaupe went 0 for 3 in a few PAs and committed two errors against SLU that helped lead to Plain’s unearned run.

Lineup Notes

The big question was who was going to be hitting in the 3-4 spots with Casey Stangel graduated and Morganne Flores injured. But as mentioned earlier, there was another surprise as well - Van Zee being moved to leadoff. The exact lineup varied a bit, but four of the five games had the same look to it (and the fifth just flipped 7 and 8):

  1. Taylor Van Zee, 3B
  2. Sis Bates, SS
  3. Kirstyn Thomas, 1B
  4. Julia DePonte, LF
  5. Noelle Hee, DP
  6. Taryn Atlee, 2B
  7. Catcher’s spot - either Rachel Ogasawara or Emma Helm
  8. Right fielder’s spot - either Trysten Melhart or Amirah Milloy
  9. Kelly Burdick, CF

Although probably any lineup ordering would have been effective given how dominating the whole team was, it seems likely that Coach Tarr would keep this as is. This lineup is pretty much the embodiment of what some modern baseball analytics keep pushing for - just get your best hitters as many plate appearances as possible; the order is far less important.

National Polls (updated)

No movement for the Huskies in either poll, remaining at #4 in the coaches poll and #5 in the media poll. UW did gain 21 points (about two-thirds of a spot; 32 voters) in the NFCA poll and 18 points (nine-tenths of a spot; 20 voters) in the USA Softball poll. I reference NFCA rankings in my articles, but I'll post both for UW here.

A big week for the lower tier of the Pac-12: ASU and OSU picked up some solid wins and each lost just once to a ranked opponent, while Cal went 4-0 to enter the top 25.

Teams 4 & 5 did not have such a nice time. #7 Arizona went 4-1 without a notable win and a loss to #24 OK State. #15 Utah struggled, albeit against tough competition, going just 2-3.

Rankings in the NFCA coaches poll (record in parentheses)

3) Oregon (6-0) - last week: 3

4) Washington (5-0) - LW: 4

5) UCLA (5-0) - LW: 5

12) Arizona (4-1) - LW: 7

18) Arizona State (5-1) - LW: 23

21) Utah (2-3) - LW: 15

23) California (4-0) - LW: Receiving votes at #27

RV at #29) Oregon State (4-1) - LW: no votes

Until UW faces tougher competition starting week 3 in Palm Springs, the Huskies’ only chance to move up is probably if someone ahead of them surprisingly loses.

This Week

The Huskies head out on what will be a full two-week road trip before returning home, starting at Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas. For the first time this year, there will be a way to follow besides live stats! All five games at SHSU will have radio broadcasts (http://gohuskies.com/sports/2016/8/16/live-audio.aspx) and I believe the game against the host on Saturday afternoon will have an ESPN3 broadcast (will try to confirm/refute this). All times are listed in PT.

Fri 2/16 through Sun 2/18 (Huntsville, TX)

Fri, 10:15 AM: vs Northern Colorado (3-2)

Fri, 12:30 PM: vs Wichita State (2-2)

Sat, 12:30 PM: vs Seton Hall (3-1)

Sat, 3:30 PM: at Sam Houston State (1-3)

Sun, 8 AM: vs Wichita State (2-2)

Mon 2/19 (Beaumont, TX)

Mon, 1 PM: at Lamar (1-2)

Mon, 30 min after G1: at Lamar (1-2)

Prediction

This is a step up in competition from opening weekend, but just how much stronger is yet to be seen. The most dangerous team of the bunch is probably Wichita State. The Shockers surprisingly upset (RV) Marshall but also lost to Furman, ending with the same 2-2 record as expected but in a different way. Lamar isn’t a pushover, either; they beat a P5 opponent (Virginia Tech) on opening weekend.

Overall, I’d say that 8-0 is a bit more likely than 7-1, but 7-1 wouldn’t be a major problem. Anything less would be very disappointing.