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Husky Softball Notebook: Chopping Trees

#1 UW Softball cruises to a sweep at Stanford and then takes a midweek game from Seattle U, kicking off the longest homestand of the year. Now the Utah Utes visit Montlake for a 3-game set starting Friday night.

Washington’s Sis Bates (center, in white) crosses home with the first run of the game while teammate Julia DePonte (bottom right) celebrates during a game against Seattle University on 4/4/18. The Huskies won, 3-1.
Edward Strong

Top-ranked Husky softball (36-2, 7-2 Pac-12) won 4 games in the past week, sweeping a 3-game series at Stanford (20-14, 1-5 Pac-12) last weekend before taking out Seattle U (24-16, 2-1 WAC) in their final regular season non-conference game Wednesday night.

  • Washington 8, Stanford 1
  • Washington 10, Stanford 0 (6 innings)
  • Washington 9, Stanford 0
  • Washington 3, Seattle 1

Top Performers

Freshman pitcher Gabbie Plain: Plain threw back-to-back complete game shutouts in games 2 and 3 vs the Cardinal. She threw a 6-inning CG 3-hitter in game 2 of the series, then improved on her already outstanding performance by tossing a full-length 2-hitter in the finale.

Stanford left fielder Hannah Howell proved to be her nemesis: she went 3 for 6, including breaking up both of Gabbie’s bid for history. On Friday, Howell went 2 for 3 including a 1-out single in the 4th after Plain had retired the first ten in a row. Then on Saturday, Howell got a 2-out single in the sixth to break up the no-hitter; Plain had only allowed a pair of runners to reach on a dropped third strike and a walk prior to that.

Overall, the line on the weekend for the Aussie: 13 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 14 K

Freshman catcher Emma Helm: overall, Helm hit .500 (5 for 10) over the four-game stretch. She also drew three walks and drove in six runs. On Wednesday vs the Redhawks, the offense-first catcher showed she’s not just in the lineup for her bat, making a fantastic throw to nail a runner at second base.

Senior first baseman Kirstyn Thomas: KT picked up 3-hit outings on both Friday and Saturday in Palo Alto and single hits in the other two games, overall hitting .533 (8 for 15) while driving in six and scoring seven times.

Junior outfielder Amirah Milloy: Milloy came up big in the close game against Seattle U, hitting a pair of RBI doubles that provided the cushion Taran Alvelo needed. That was the first multi-XBH game of her career. That came after she hit just her third career home run a few days earlier, a towering 3-run blast in Saturday’s win at Stanford.

Stats and Notes

  • With the 3-1 win over the Redhawks yesterday, Washington finished its first perfect non-conference regular season ever, going 29-0.
  • The Huskies have stolen 46 bases this season (53 attempts). For many teams, that’s not an overwhelming total. But it exceeds last year’s total of 45 with more than a month left. Kelly Burdick leads the team with 11 on 12 attempts, and multiple Huskies have not been caught: Thomas (5), Sis Bates (5), Milloy (3), and four players with one each. Trysten Melhart (6 for 9) is the only player to be caught more than once (and if I recall correctly, at least 2 of them came on the first base umpire calling her automatically out for leaving the bag before the pitcher released the ball).
  • Husky pitchers have allowed just 7 home runs this season. So all UW opponents, put together, would be tied for third-most on the team: behind Thomas (11) and Julia DePonte (10), tied with Taylor Van Zee.
  • A less noticed, but still very valuable stat: UW is 4th nationally in fielding percentage (.983), trailing just Oklahoma, Michigan, and Florida. That has helped the UW pitching staff allow a measly 4 unearned runs, 2nd only to the Wolverines (2).

Pac-12 Rankings/Standings

The Pac-12 holds every odd-numbered spot in the single digits of the latest NFCA poll. The Huskies continue to hold serve at the top, ahead of defending national champion Oklahoma (31-2, 6-0 Big 12).

  • #7 Arizona State (31-4, 5-1 Pac-12)
  • #1 Washington (36-2, 7-2)
  • #3 UCLA (32-2, 7-2)
  • #9 Arizona (27-6, 6-3)
  • #5 Oregon (29-6, 4-2)
  • (RV) Oregon State (20-15, 3-6)
  • Utah (17-15, 2-7)
  • Stanford (20-14, 1-5)
  • #24 California (26-11, 1-8)

Pac-12 Schedule

All midweek games have been completed as of Wednesday night. The four series this week all run Friday through Sunday.

  • Utah at #1 Washington (details below)
  • #7 Arizona State at (RV) Oregon State
  • Stanford at #3 UCLA
  • #9 Arizona at #5 Oregon

The featured series, including a Saturday appearance on ESPN at noon: 9th-ranked Arizona heads to Eugene to take on #5 Oregon in a battle of the top two finishers in the conference last year.

#24 California played a pair of midweek games, defeating Pacific and Saint Mary’s, but is off from conference play and does not have any more non-conference games over the weekend.

Utah at Washington

The Huskies get to continue a season-long 7 game homestand this weekend with 3 against Utah. Washington will host #24 Cal for 3 more next weekend before facing their toughest road test of the season at #3 UCLA.

  • Friday, 5 PM (P12 WA/Mtn)
  • Saturday, noon (P12 WA/Mtn)
  • Sunday, 1 PM (P12 WA/Mtn)

Scouting the Utes

The Huskies and Utes met the maximum possible number of times last year (six) with Washington taking 5 of them. The Dawgs visited Salt Lake City in the final week of the regular season, pulling a sweep of the 13th-ranked Utes in legendary fashion, which I detailed last year. That propelled UW to the #6 seed in the NCAA tournament, while Utah earned the #11 seed. Both teams advanced out of their individual regionals, setting up a rematch in the Super Regionals in Seattle just 2 weeks after their first meeting. Washington won a tense back-and-forth series to earn their first WCWS trip since 2013.

The best all-around player for the Utes is gone, star second baseman Hannah Flippen. Utah has had some difficulty replacing her production. Utah has only hit 15 home runs this season, with no players above 5. Senior 3B Heather Bowen leads the team with 15 doubles, 5 homers, and a .640 slugging percentage. The rest of the power for the Utes this season comes from a trio that all have at least one more season left in Salt Lake City: sophomores Kelly Martinez (C) and BreOnna Castaneda (2B), plus one of the few pitchers in the Pac-12 who also hits, junior P/OF Hailey Hilburn.

Hilburn is just the third pitcher for the Utes, though. Most of the time, Utah will turn to either Viramontes (3-8, 2.91) or Katie Donovan (9-5, 3.32). Donovan is more of the workhorse, but Viramontes is more effective when she does pitch — don’t let the win-loss record confuse you, as she’s more often had the tough matchups this season for Utah.