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Plain, clutch D push UW to WCWS-opening win

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Gabbie Plain threw 5 2⁄3 shutout innings, backed by terrific defense from Sis Bates and Trysten Melhart, as UW knocked off #4 Oklahoma.

Edward Strong

In a game with very good pitching and just a few offensive threats for each side, the Husky defense made the plays the Sooner defense could not in a 2-0 UW win.

#5 Washington advances to the 1-0 game today (Friday) at 4 p.m. PDT vs #1 Oregon on ESPN. With the WCWS officially being a neutral-site event, "home" and "road" games are attempted to be even as much as possible after the first round. Oregon was "home" vs ASU while UW was "road" vs Oklahoma, so the Huskies should bat second in today's game.

#4 Oklahoma will play an elimination game vs #8 Arizona State Saturday at 9 a.m. as the road team.

Gabbie Plain (21-4) scattered 4 hits across 5 23 scoreless innings to pick up the win. OU's Paige Parker (29-3) took a tough-luck loss, going 6 IP, giving up 3 hits and 1 run.

A scoreless tie through 4, Washington took their first lead in an odd 5th inning. Trysten Melhart battled to earn a walk leading off, prompting Sooner HC Patty Gasso to get Parker and move to Paige Lowary in the circle. a perfect sac bunt attempt by Burdick led to a single instead, then Taylor Van Zee sacrificed both runners up a base. With runners at second and third and 2 outs, the Oklahoma defense couldn’t make a play when it mattered.

Sis Bates hit a high chopper off the plate to the third base side of the circle. With Melhart breaking for the plate, Lowary fielded it and tried to flip the ball to catcher Lea Wodach. If the throw was where she meant to throw it, Melhart would have been out by multiple feet. But her throw forced Wodach to catch the ball high and across her body, and by the time Wodach could bring the ball back down, Melhart was able to slide in under the swipe tag. Play gets recorded as a failed fielder’s choice, rather than an error, but the off-target throw from Lowary was clearly what allowed the go-ahead run to score.

Julia DePonte jumped on the first pitch she saw from Lowary and drove it to center field for an RBI single to bring in Burdick and double the lead. A rare error by Nicole Pendley in center allowed Bates to go to third and DePonte into second, but back-to-back strikeouts by Lowary got Oklahoma out of the fifth without further damage.

Washington would load the bases in the sixth, prompting Gasso to re-enter Parker to pitch (re-entry is allowed once after being removed for a player that started the game. Players that don't start the game cannot be re-entered). Parker got OU out of the jam in a big way, getting a foulout, lineout, and fielder's choice at the plate to escape still trailing by just two.

The big play of the game came in the bottom of the sixth. After Plain got the first two outs, she issued singles Sydney Romero and Jocelyn Alo, putting the go-ahead run at home plate. Coach Tarr got Taran Alvelo from the pen to face Shay Knighten, who hit a sinking line drive to right.

Melhart raced to her left and made a diving catch, but a very odd one. The ball never actually entered her glove, so when she then lost control of it trying to throw it in, Gasso argued that she never had it in the first place. But the ball was clearly still for a full second, pinched between the heel of her glove, her torso, and her throwing hand.

Author's note: as expected, a bunch of OU fans are up in arms, saying it wasn't a catch. I've seen a number of people who follow the sport for a living share their opinion on that play: former players, coaches, and commentators. I have not seen a single one of them claim that it wasn't a catch.

Oklahoma would mount a 2-out rally once more in the 7th, as infield singles by Nicole Mendes and Caleigh Clifton brought the #9 spot to the plate as the winning run. Alvelo blew away pinch-hitter Kylie Lundberg on 3 pitches to seal the win.

What's at Stake in UO-UW

Winner: off until the semifinals on Sunday, then would just have to win one game on Sunday with two chances to get it (if needed). That semifinal would be against either Oklahoma, ASU, UCLA, or Florida.

Loser: off until Saturday night, then would play an elimination game vs the winner of FSU/Georgia on Saturday at 6:30. Winner of that game would advance to the semifinals on Sunday vs the winner of Florida/UCLA, needing to win back-to-back games to move on.