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Husky Softball Notebook: Perfection and a Bomb

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#1 Washington allows just 1 run while sweeping Utah. A perfect game from Plain and a monster mash from Noelle Hee send the Utes away winless.

Julia DePonte (center, facing away from camera) leaps into the arms of Gabbie Plain after she recorded the final out of her perfect game vs Utah on 4/7/18.
Ed Strong

#1 Washington (39-2, 10-2 Pac-12) continued the best start to a season in program history over the weekend, sweeping aside Utah (18-18, 2-10). In case you somehow missed it, Gabbie Plain threw a perfect game on Saturday in a 12-0 win. Taran Alvelo had a no-hitter through 6 innings on Friday, settling for a 1-hitter in a 5-0 win. The Huskies faced their toughest test of the weekend on Sunday as Utah led 1-0 headed into the bottom of the fifth before freshman DP Noelle Hee launched a massive blast:

Just saying that the ball was crushed doesn’t really do it justice. The wind on Sunday was blowing in pretty hard from right on a damp and drizzly day. On a wet day with the wind coming in — Husky Softball Stadium is just off the water, too, so it gets a lot of weird winds — it takes a pretty good swing just to get the ball over the wall. But to hit it over the bleachers by several feet? That’s silly.

Stats and Notes

  • The current 9-game conference winning streak for the Huskies is the longest in 21 years; the 1997 Huskies had a 9-game streak as well. The most recent (and probably the only as well, but it’s hard to find info back that far) longer streak came a year earlier: the 1996 Huskies won 17 straight Pac-10 games.
  • The Huskies are now #1 in the country in earned run average, at a measly 0.85 team ERA.
  • Plain (5th, 0.70) and Alvelo (7th, 0.72) are the only pair of teammates in the top 8 of the national ERA leaders.
  • Plain has the best ERA of all freshmen in the country. Closest to her is Meghan Beaubien of Michigan, who sports a 0.83.
  • This one isn’t so much a stat as it is a prediction: Plain and Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo are running away with the National Freshman of the Year race. I think Alo (slashing .460/.574/1.030, with the slugging percentage leading the country) probably has the edge right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gabbie win it, particularly if Alo slows down a bit. But anyone else winning it — Beaubien, Arkansas ace Mary Haff, Gardner-Webb masher Katie Prebble — just seems too far-fetched.

Results around the Pac-12

  • Washington swept Utah, as mentioned above.
  • Arizona State suffered just their second loss of the conference season in the middle game, but still took the series 2-1 at Oregon State. The dramatic rubber game of the series went to 15 innings before the Devils won.
  • Oregon got a convincing sweep of Arizona, shutting out the Wildcats in the final two games. Game 1 was fairly close, but Oregon romped in the final two.
  • UCLA stunningly dropped game 3 to Stanford 4-1, just Stanford’s second conference win of the season. The Bruins won the series 2-1, but they showed vulnerability in game 2 as well, winning just 3-0 and dodging a few Cardinal scoring threats.

Pac-12 Rankings/Standings

With Arizona State and UCLA dropping a game each while the Huskies swept, UW is now alone in first in the conference standings. The Huskies are also now almost a unanimous #1 in the NFCA coaches poll, receiving 31 of 32 first-place votes; #2 Oklahoma has the other one. In the USA Softball poll, Washington is #1 but there is less consensus: #2 Oklahoma has 3 of the 20 FPV and #3 Oregon has 1. As usual, the rankings I show are NFCA:

  • #1 Washington (39-2, 10-2 Pac-12)
  • #7 Arizona State (33-5, 7-2)
  • #3 Oregon (32-6, 7-2)
  • #4 UCLA (34-3, 9-3)
  • #12 Arizona (27-9, 6-6)
  • (RV) Oregon State (21-17, 4-8)
  • Stanford (21-16, 2-7)
  • Utah (18-18, 2-10)
  • #25 California (26-11, 1-8)

Upcoming Pac-12 schedule

Just a pair of midweek games for the Pac-12 this week. Utah rolled past Southern Utah on Tuesday, while Stanford hosts Saint Mary’s on Wednesday. The weekend series pit all 6 ranked teams against each other. All series run Friday through Sunday:

  • #25 Cal at #1 Washington (details below)
  • #3 Oregon at #7 Arizona State
  • #4 UCLA at #12 Arizona
  • (RV) Oregon State at Stanford

Utah is off from conference play this week, playing just the game vs SUU on Tuesday and a doubleheader vs Weber State next Monday in this cycle.

California at Washington

Fri, 7 PM: Pac-12 Network (WA/Bay)

Sat, 7 PM: Pac-12 Network (National/WA/Bay)

Sun, noon: Pac-12 Network (National/WA/Bay)

Scouting the Golden Bears

The key to Cal’s offense lies with getting lots of runners on base. There’s not a lot of power in the lineup: Bradie Filmore and Mikayla Coelho lead the team with 5 HR each. But the lineup doesn’t strike out a lot (almost as good as UW on the season in avoiding strikeouts) and they can run. #2 hitter Lindsey Rood has been a force for the Bears, hitting .344/.420/.568, which are all in the top 3 on the team. More notably, Rood has scored a team-high 35 runs and is 21 for 21 in stealing bases, which is the 2nd most steals in the country among players who have not been caught (Morgan Fells of Central Arkansas has 23). Keeping the top of Cal’s lineup — Jazmyn Jackson (.380/.424/.504) and Rood — off the bases is not only the key to stopping their offense; it is most of their offense.

Last year, Zoe Conley had to be the primary workhorse in the circle all the time for Cal, and it wore her down later in the year. This year, Kamalani Dung transferred in from Fresno State, where she also threw the big innings for the Bulldogs. and it has morphed into a pretty much 50-50 split between the two of them. It would be highly unexpected for the Huskies to see any other pitchers besides them this weekend; Dung and Conley have combined to pitch all but two innings this entire season.

If you followed the postseason closely last year, you may remember Dung: she was the star on the Fresno State team in the Seattle regional, although the Bulldogs and Huskies never met that weekend. But she kept a pretty potent Michigan offense down for the most part in two appearances. This year, Dung is 15-2 with a 1.77 ERA, while Conley is 11-9 with a 2.36.

"The two of them together make each other better," said UW Head Coach Heather Tarr. "They complement each other well. Conley is a good drop-ball pitcher that will get a lot of ground ball outs, while Dung throws up in the zone to induce strikeouts and popups."

A big key for Washington against Cal pitching? Patience. As solid as Dung and Conley have been for the Bears, they have issued 44 and 42 walks respectively. Washington has drawn 144 walks as team and is #6 in the country in on-base percentage. The Cal pitchers aren’t going to give up a ton of hits, but they will throw pitches out of the zone. The Huskies will need to have good plate discipline and force them to throw strikes.