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Husky Softball Notebook: Eighteen Straight

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The top-ranked Huskies passed their stiffest tests of the season at the Mary Nutter Classic, winning 5 games including a thrilling 4-3 win over #6 Texas A&M.

Ed Strong

The top-ranked Huskies won 6 more games since last Wednesday: a true road game vs Texas in Austin, then 5 neutral-site games in Palm Springs.

  • Washington 2, Texas 1
  • Washington 8, (RV) Notre Dame 0 (5)
  • Washington 4, #6 Texas A&M 3 (9)
  • Washington 4, (RV) Nebraska 2
  • Washington 4, Wisconsin 1
  • Washington 4, (RV) Long Beach State 0

The wins vs Notre Dame, Long Beach State, and Wisconsin were not much of a problem for the Dawgs. Nebraska got just the 2nd and 3rd runs of the season against Taran Alvelo with a 2-run homer in the 6th to get fairly close, but she slammed the door the rest of the way, as Nebraska never got the tying run to the plate.

Close Games

The 2 Lone Star teams gave the Huskies some trouble. Texas was the first team to truly have a reasonable chance to win in the 6th inning all season. Just a 1-0 game through five inning, back-to-back extra base hits by Kirstyn Thomas (triple, the 1st of her career) and Julia DePonte (RBI double) seemed likely to put away the Longhorns with nobody out in the top of the sixth, considering Alvelo hadn’t given up a run - earned or not - all season. But Texas starter Paige von Sprecken buckled down to strand DePonte to keep the lead at two, and then UT struck.

Two straight hits to start the inning, including a double by von Sprecken, put the tying run at 2nd with nobody out. A strikeout, followed by a seeing-eye single made it a 1-run game. With the tying run at third and the go-ahead at first. Alvelo threw 6 straight pitches past the next 2 hitters to hold the lead. When she came back out in the 7th, the Longhorns were unable to get the tying run aboard.

Game ball: Alvelo. Facing the first true adversity she had seen all season, Taran came up huge in the clutch.

Side note: this statement is no longer true, but it's hilarious that the official UW Softball Twitter account tweeted this pregame. I love when official accounts do trolling.

The Aggies and Huskies had an instant classic on Saturday. Texas A&M scored 2 runs in the bottom of the 1st with a 2-run single, Washington their 1st and only deficit of any amount at any point in a game this season.

It lasted less than an inning. With 1 out, Amirah Milloy singled and promptly stole second. Kelly Burdick lined an RBI double (a rarity with her slap-style swing) and Taylor Van Zee singled up the middle (not rare in the slightest) on the very next pitch to tie the game.

Freshman Gabbie Plain did not give up any runs for the rest of her outing, but struggled with her control and threw a whopping 100 pitches through just 4 innings. Sam Manti took overin the fifth and dealt the final 5 innings with just an unearned run.

The 8th inning looked likely to doom the Huskies. The international tiebreaker rule (ITB) was in effect, meaning that at the beginning of each half-inning starting in T8, the player who made the last out in the previous inning (and therefore due up 9th) is placed on 2nd, to try to get games done a bit faster.

Kaija Gibson tried to steal third and was thrown out. A 2-out error to let Taryn Atlee reach went for naught, and the Huskies were staring at the winning run at 2nd with nobody out. A successful sac bunt moved PR Riley Sartain to 3rd. Then the Huskies committed the best error I've ever seen.

Kirstyn Thomas had the ball hit hard to her, playing in at first. She couldn't glove it, but by making a nice stab, she kept it in front of her, freezing the lead runner at 3rd, and what likely should have been a walk-off single instead acted like a walk. Manti battled back and forced 2 straight groundouts, one with the infield in, to escape a massive jam.

UW finally cashed in in the 9th. A 1-out ground ball by PH Noelle Hee was going to acore a run either way, but an error let her on as well. Burdick re-entered, stole a money bag, and scored the eventual winning run on a TVZ single.

Manti issued the only run of her outing (unearned because of ITB) in the ninth. A 1-out RBI single by Ashley Walters put the tying run at first, then a 2-out dribbler that Van Zee couldn't field cleanly made it 1st and 2nd with 2 down. But on another slow grounder to 3rd, this one off the bat of Samantha Cuyos, Van Zee made a great throw on the run to get her at first and end it.

Game ball: Manti. Burdick and Van Zee both had very good games. But this one goes to Manti for holding a powerful offense to just 1 unearned run in 5 innings.

New Rankings

The Huskies are now at the top of both major polls! The NFCA coaches poll already had UW at 1 in a split decision last week, but this week UW takes almost all the first-place votes (29 of 32)

Meanwhile, the USA Softball media poll, which had UW a close #3 behind Florida and Oregon last week, now has the Huskies edging out the Gators for #1 by a few votes

Pac-12 in the top 25 (NFCA/USA Softball):

1/1 Washington (8-0)

3/3 UCLA (15-0)

6/4 Oregon (12-3)

9/8 Arizona (13-1)

15/16 California (15-1)

16/15 Arizona State (13-2)

Oregon State (10-6) and Utah (6-5) are receiving votes in both polls.

Historical Start

Due to the wet and unpredictable weather Seattle has in February, Husky softball never starts their season at home. Depending on the year, the Huskies spend between 3 and 5 weeks on the road before their first home game, ranging from 15 to 23 games over the past several years. During this time, the Huskies always spend at least one weekend in Palm Springs against tough competition, and often play other good teams in Arizona, SoCal, and/or Hawaii.

This is first time since 2011 that the Huskies have made it home without a blemish on their record.

The Huskies' record prior to the first home game over the past several years and who the losses and ranked wins were against (rankings listed are final rankings, other than 2018):

2011: 16-0 (made it to 20 before falling, the best start in UW history)

Big wins (1): #14 Texas A&M

2012: 19-1

Losses: #11 Missouri
Big wins (3): #10 Georgia, #18 Florida, #19 Texas A&M

2013: 14-5

Losses: #1 Oklahoma, #14 Kentucky, #16 UAB, #24 Hawaii, Cal Poly
Big wins (3): #15 Florida State, #16 UAB, #24 Hawaii

2014: 19-4

Losses: #16 Nebraska, #21 LSU, Northwestern, Fresno State
Big wins (3): #4 Baylor, #5 Oklahoma, #10 Michigan

2015: 19-4

Losses: #9 Oklahoma, #15 Minnesota, #16 UCF, #25 North Dakota State
Big wins (1): #16 UCF

2016: 12-3

Losses: #8 Florida, #19 Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
Big wins (4): #1 Oklahoma, #5 Michigan, #20 Minnesota, #23 Notre Dame

2017: 16-3

Losses: #7 Baylor, #21 BYU, Missouri
Big wins (2): #1 Oklahoma, #13 Auburn

2018: 18-0

Big wins (2): #7 Texas A&M, #22 Long Beach State

Upcoming Schedule

Not only are the Huskies home for the first time this year, they’re also hosting a 5-team tournament for their annual Husky Classic - #11 Alabama, Northwestern, BYU, and Portland State. Alabama is #11 in both polls, while BYU was ranked earlier this season. Northwestern has received votes at times.

All 5 teams will play doubleheaders on Friday and Saturday. BYU will head home on Saturday night, while the other teams will play one more game on Sunday. 12 games in all - 4 matchups for BYU, 5 for everyone else. All teams play each other at least once (Alabama-Washington and Northwestern-Portland State are played twice).

Tickets are sold per day: $15 for reserved near home plate, $10 for GA, $5 for youth/seniors.

Update: All of the games involving the Huskies will be streamed for free through Pac-12 Plus: pac-12.com/live/university-washington. I don’t know at this point if the other games will be streamed or not; if they are, it would most likely be at the same link or possibly at pac-12.com/live/university-washington-2. There will also be Mike Brown calling the games for Husky radio: http://gohuskies.com/sports/2016/8/16/live-audio.aspx

Friday, 3/2:

9 AM: Portland State vs BYU
11:15 AM: BYU vs Alabama
1:30 PM: Northwestern vs Portland State
3:45 PM: Alabama at Washington
6 PM: Northwestern at Washington

Saturday, 3/3

10 AM: Northwestern vs Portland State
12:30 PM: BYU vs Northwestern
2:45 PM: Portland State vs Alabama
5 PM: Alabama at Washington
7:15 PM: BYU at Washington

Sunday, 3/4

10 AM: Alabama vs Northwestern
12:15 PM: Portland State at Washington