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Husky Softball Notebook: Defeating the Weather — and Cal

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Rain slows down the rampage by #1 Washington, but cannot stop it. Huskies get a weather-shortened 2-game sweep of the 25th-ranked Bears, heading into a massive showdown at #3 UCLA.

Ed Strong

Top-ranked Washington (41-2, 12-2 Pac-12) couldn’t get the entire series in against #25 Cal (26-13, 1-10) due to constant rain on Friday and Saturday, but swept a doubleheader on Sunday, including a resumed game that initially started on Friday. The final game of the series will not be made up. Scores:

  • Washington 3, California 1 (suspended after 3 scoreless innings on Friday, finished on Sunday)
  • Washington 9, California 1 (6 inn)

Julia DePonte launched a two-run homer off the left field foul pole in the bottom of the 5th in the first game, which proved to be the difference in the game when Cal got a run back in the 7th. Taran Alvelo threw a complete game two-hitter for the win in G1, fanning 8 as she improved her record to 21-1.

The Husky offense broke out and scored in every inning except the 4th in game 2, chasing Kamalani Dung after just 2 23 IP. Taylor Van Zee, Emma Helm, Trysten Melhart, and Amirah Milloy had 2 hits each, with Helm getting one of hers on a big blast to straightaway center.

Gabbie Plain got the CG 4-hitter in the second game, improving to 13-1. Her 11 strikeouts vs Cal were the second-most she’s had this season — she had a career-high 13 at UNLV on March 9th.

Record Notes

The Huskies are 41-0 in games in which they've had a lead: of any size, at any point.

One step further: they're also undefeated in every game that has been tied at any point at least one full inning: the only two losses were a pair of 2-0 losses at #8 ASU in which the Devils grabbed both of their runs immediately.

Related, but separate point: the Huskies have blown one lead all season. The only time UW has led a game and not carried that directly into a win was the middle game vs Arizona, where a quick 2-0 UW lead was erased on a 3-run blast by Jessie Harper in the sixth. UW eventually won that game 4-3 in eight on an RBI double from Taryn Atlee.

Pac-12 rankings/standings

Results from last week:
at Washington 2, California 0
UCLA 3, at Arizona 0
Oregon 2, at Arizona State 1
Oregon State 3, at Stanford 0

Standings (current through 4/17), with latest rankings from the NFCA coaches poll:

  • #1 Washington (41-2, 12-2 Pac-12)
  • #3 UCLA (37-3, 12-3)
  • #4 Oregon (34-7, 9-3)
  • #8 Arizona State (34-7, 8-4)
  • (RV) Oregon State (24-17, 7-8)
  • #13 Arizona (27-12, 6-9)
  • Stanford (22-19, 2-10)
  • Utah (20-18, 2-10)
  • (RV) California (26-13, 1-10)

Week 6 Pac-12 schedule

Week 6 is without a doubt the biggest week of the conference season for #Pac12SB. Four of the top five teams are playing one another, including the top two in the conference and a meeting of archrivals. The one team that isn’t playing a another top-tier Pac-12 team, Oregon, is hosting #2 Oklahoma in a marquee non-conference matchup on Thursday, followed by the Sooners heading to Corvallis for two more on Friday and Saturday with Oregon State, who’s on their bye week from conference play. All four series within conference play run Friday-Sunday.

2nd-ranked Sooners visiting the Beaver State

  • #2 Oklahoma at #4 Oregon — Thu, 4 PM
  • #2 Oklahoma at (RV) Oregon State — Fri, 2 PM
  • #2 Oklahoma at (RV) Oregon State — Sat, noon

Territorial Cup: #13 Arizona at #8 Arizona State

Fri @ 5 PM, Sat @ 2 PM, Sun @ 5 PM

Utah at (RV) California

Fri @ 3 PM, Sat @ 1 PM, Sun @ noon

Stanford at #4 Oregon

Fri @ 6 PM, Sat @ 5 PM, Sun @ noon

#1 Washington at #3 UCLA: history lesson

Before diving into this year's edition of Huskies-Bruins, I took a deeper look at the longtime rivalry between the one-time Pac-10 awkward travel partners (the OR, Bay, and AZ teams were paired, so with no WSU or USC program, teams had to play UW and UCLA back-to-back. Once Utah was added as a 9th team, the Pac-12 just got rid of travel partners entirely).

Publicly-available online records are hard to find prior to the 1999 season. But in the 19 seasons since then, UCLA leads the series 35-27 (.565). Since 2004, it's tied at 22 wins apiece.

In those 62 meetings, both teams have been ranked somewhere in the top 25 every single time; UCLA has always been #16 or better. But this 1 vs 3 meeting will be tied for the highest combined ranking ever. Some of the highlights of the rivalry:

4/3/1999: #1 UCLA and #4 UW split a doubleheader in Seattle, with the Dawgs' 7-3 win in game 2 marking UCLA's first loss all season. The Bruins' 35-0 start still stands today as the best start in NCAA history, although Oregon matched that in 2017 (before losing to...UCLA, of course!).

In 2000, #1 UW and #3 UCLA met 4 times, with UW winning the regular season series 2-1. But the Bruins would get revenge with a 3-2 win at the WCWS over top-seeded UW on their way to the national championship. This marked the start of the most dominant stretch by either program: UCLA won 11 of 12 from late '00 to early '04.

4/2-3/2013: #17 Washington picked up their first-ever season sweep of UCLA, and it came on the road, taking out the 15th-ranked Bruins 1-0, 5-4, and 6-0.

6/3/17: 6th-seeded UW got the better of UCLA in the postseason for the first time, as Taran Alvelo outdueled Rachel Garcia for a 1-0 win to advance to the national semifinals. Ali Aguilar launched a solo homer for the game's only run.

Scouting the Bruins

With all due respect to the impressive season the Sun Devils are having (and the series they had vs the Huskies), on paper, this is the toughest road test UW will face all season.

Team-wide statistical comparisons below. Most of the offensive categories favor UCLA, albeit by small margins:

  • Batting average: UCLA .359 (#1 NCAA), UW .335 (5th)
  • On-base percentage: UCLA .437 (2nd), UW .421 (5th)
  • Slugging percentage: UCLA .560 (1st), UW .549 (4th)
  • Runs/game: UCLA 7.20 (2nd), UW 6.93 (3rd)
  • One notable offensive advantage for the Huskies: HR/game — UW 1.14 (12th), UCLA 1.00 (T-29th)

One other notable advantage for the Bruins: day-to-day offensive consistency. UCLA has scored fewer than 3 runs just twice this season: at Oregon and vs Stanford, both losses. The Huskies have scored 2 or fewer runs six times, although four still resulted in wins.

Washington has a larger lead on the pitching/defense side:

  • Earned run average: UW 0.86 (1st), UCLA 1.92 (20th)
  • Strikeout/walk ratio: UW 5.56 (6th), UCLA 2.96 (35th)
  • Fielding percentage: UW .983 (4th), UCLA .967 (70th)

Specific players to watch for the Bruins:

Sophomore pitcher/DP #00 Rachel Garcia

Garcia is the clearly the best two-way pitcher in the Pac-12, by a wide margin. She may be the best hitting pitcher in the country, although there are a few others with a case there (Florida’s Aleshia Ocasio and Michigan’s Tera Blanco are two that come to mind). The lines for Garcia on the season:

Hitting .412/.471/.676, with 8 homers and 39 RBI. Impressively, her power numbers have actually gone up in conference play, as six of her eight long balls are against Pac-12 opponents, leading to an absurd .878 slugging percentage in-conference. She was particularly dominant offensively last weekend against Arizona, getting retired just once: 6 for 7, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 5 BB (3 intentional).

Pitching-wise, she’s the ace of the staff: 13-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 91 13 innings. But until pitching in all three games vs the Wildcats last weekend, she hadn’t pitched since March 24th vs Oregon State (ESPNU commentators on Saturday’s game mentioned she had a “sore” arm, but didn’t clarify). In her last four outing before the extended absence (at LBSU, at Oregon twice, and vs OSU), she was quite hittable despite high strikeout totals: 25 13 IP, 19 H, 12 R (11 ER), 8 BB, 36 K, and the only 3 homers she’s given up all season came during that stretch.

The Perez sisters: senior 2B #8 Kylee and freshman SS #3 Briana

Batting 1-2 in the Bruins' lineup, the lefties are a pain to work around, knowing that the power bats, led by Aaliyah Jordan and Rachel Garcia, lurk behind them. Briana has a bit more pop (4 HR & 3 3B, to Kylee's 3 & 1), but has struggled (although that may be too harsh of a term) when facing Pac-12 pitching on a regular basis: her overall slash line (.392/.451/.608) drops to a good but unspectacular .295/.354/.432. Can the Husky pitching staff keep the minor slump for one of the top freshmen in the country going?

When and How to watch

The Huskies have their first national broadcast on an ESPN channel this weekend, one of three during the regular season. For the game on Saturday, I’ll have an open thread for the first widely-available TV broadcast of the year.

Game 1: Friday, 5 PM, Pac-12 Network (National/WA/LA)
Game 2: Saturday, 1 PM, ESPN2
Game 3: Sunday, 3 PM, Pac-12 Network (National/WA/LA)