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Dramatic Rally puts Husky Softball one win from WCWS

Trailing 2-0 almost the entire game to #12 Alabama, the 5th-seeded Huskies scored 2 in the 7th to send the game to extras, then won it on a walk-off single by Taylor Van Zee in the 9th.

The rest of the UW softball team mobs Taylor Van Zee near first base after she hit a walk-off RBI single to defeat Alabama on May 25, 2018.
Edward Strong

Broadcast note: Game 2 of the series, originally scheduled for 4 p.m. on ESPN2, has been moved to ESPN. Start time is still 4:00. Details are at the bottom of the article.

Trailing almost the entire game 2-0, #5 Washington fought back for a 3-2 win in 9 innings behind clutch hits from the top of the lineup and another standout pitching performance from Gabbie Plain.

Taylor Van Zee went 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, a walk, and the game-winning RBI single to drive in Kelly Burdick in the 9th. Sis Bates had the biggest at-bat of the night, jumping on the first pitch from Alexis Osorio to tie the game with a 2-run single in the bottom of the 7th.

Both starters went the distances for their respective teams. Plain pitched 9 stellar innings to improve to 20-4 on the season, while Osorio took a tough-luck loss to fall to 15-10.

After a clean first inning, Plain showed some rare control issues in the 2nd inning. She fell behind cleanup hitter Bailey Hemphill 3-0 and ended up walking her a few pitches later. After Bama pinch-ran for Hemphill with KB Sides, Plain got an inside pitch too far inside and hit Reagan Dykes. Gabby Callaway put down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners over.

It looked like UW might get out of the inning unscathed. Merris Schroder hit a sharp ground ball right to Taryn Atlee at second base, who fired home to catcher Emma Helm, who did a great job of making sure she was not blocking the plate too early and getting the swipe tag on Sides trying to score. Dykes moved to third on the play, and Schroder would steal second, but Plain just needed one more out. But with 2 on and 2 outs, Sydney Booker laced a line drive through the small gap between Van Zee and the third base bag, easily scoring Dykes and Schroder for a 2-run double.

Washington had two main scoring chances that they missed in the 3rd and 5th innings. In the third, Atlee reached to lead off the inning when Hemphill mishandled a routine grounder. She moved to second on a sac bunt by Burdick, then was joined on the bases when Bates drew a 2-out walk. With Julia DePonte at the plate, representing the go-ahead run at the plate and also UW’s best power threat, Osorio made a great pitch to freeze DePonte on the full count.

In the 5th, Burdick lobbed a 1-out single down the left field line for Washington’s second hit. Van Zee drew a walk, but Osorio once again buckled down in the big moment. She got Bates to hit a weak comebacker for a fielder’s choice. Up came DePonte in a situation eerily similar to the prior at-bat: first and second, 2 outs, go-ahead run at the plate. This time, she won the at bat, lining a ball down the first base line. But Hemphill made up for her earlier error in a big way, diving to her left to rob DePonte of a double and save at least one run. If that ball gets past her, Van Zee cruises home with UW’s first run, and Bates would have had a good chance to bring home the tying run.

Alexis Osorio wasn’t quite as dominant as Juarez was 2 months ago, but had just allowed 3 hits through 6 scoreless innings: a leadoff double by Van Zee to start the game, a 1-out single by Burdick in the 5th, and a 2-out single by Trysten Melhart in the 6th.

Washington’s rally in the 7th had an unexpected starting point. In total control through 6, Osorio walked Atlee on 4 pitches to start the inning, and none of them were really very close. She came back to strike out Burdick on a 2-2 pitch. Van Zee battled from 0-2 to 3-2, then hit a deep fly ball to right-center. Bama CF Elissa Brown got a good jump on it and had a chance, but missed the ball on her dive. Atlee’s foot missed second base so she had to go back re-tag before moving to third, removing any chance for her to score on the play (although her run didn’t mean anything immediately, anyway) as Van Zee ended up at second. Bates smacked the first pitch right back up the middle, scoring both runners ahead of the throw home by Brown.

In the ninth, Burdick led off by hitting a knuckleball off the end of her bat that got past Claire Jenkins at third for a tough error. On the 3-1 pitch to Van Zee, Burdick swiped second easily. The very next pitch, Van Zee sent the home crowd happy the same way Bates had tied it, with a ground ball single past the pitcher into center.

Schedule Update

Game 2 of the series is tonight (Saturday) at 4 p.m on ESPN (not ESPN2). When the Super Regional schedule was initially published, Washington-Alabama G2 was on ESPN2. However, the combination of two events unrelated to Seattle made ESPN a better fit on Saturday:

  1. The series between #3 UCLA and #14 Arizona, which started on Thursday night, resulted in a 2-0 sweep by the Bruins, as UCLA became the first team to claim a spot in the WCWS. That means the final game of that series will not be played and leaves an open slot at 4 on ESPN.
  2. #11 LSU leads #6 Florida State 1-0 heading into their second game, scheduled for 2 p.m. PT Saturday on ESPN2. With bad weather expected tomorrow in Tallahassee, officials have decided that if the Seminoles win the 2:00 game to force a tiebreaker, the teams will play again immediately rather than waiting for tomorrow. Since LSU-FSU is on ESPN2 in the 2 p.m. time slot, moving UW-Bama away from ESPN2 allows the Tallahassee Super Regional to stay on the same channel for both games. Had UCLA-Arizona still been going, the LSU-FSU finale probably would have been put on ESPNU.

If Alabama were to win today to force game 3, it would take place Sunday at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

Tournament Glance

#3 UCLA became the first team to clinch a spot in the WCWS, sweeping #14 Arizona. The other 7 series are in progress:

  • #16 Kentucky at #1 Oregon: series tied 1-1. Game 3 tonight at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
  • #15 Texas A&M at #2 Florida: series tied 1-1. Game 3 at 2 p.m. on ESPN.
  • #13 Arkansas at #4 Oklahoma: OU leads 1-0. Game 2 started at 10 a.m. on ESPN.
  • #12 Alabama at #5 Washington: UW leads 1-0. Game 2 tonight at 4 p.m. on ESPN.
  • #11 LSU at #6 Florida State: LSU leads 1-0. Games 2 (and 3, if FSU wins G2) are today at 2 and 4 p.m. on ESPN2.
  • #10 Tennessee at #7 Georgia: UGA leads 1-0. Game 2 at noon on ESPN.
  • #9 South Carolina at #8 Arizona State: ASU leads 1-0. Game 2 at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.