Author's note: Thanks in large part to the encouraging support of many of you on here, I've gotten my first writing job "in the real world." I'm contributing to the inaugural season at Softball America, the new sister site of Baseball America. You'll find me writing about Washington, Seattle U, highlighting daily top performances across the country and more. I'd really appreciate it if you'd follow me over, starting with my first article on UW moving past the end of last year - it's completely free.
But I'll still be writing here, too. Articles at SA will be larger features from a neutral point of view. The ones here will continue to be in a "News & Notes" kind of format. I haven't forgotten who helped me convince myself I could do this. Thank you.
Second-ranked Washington opened their campaign with a 4-1 mark in Part I of the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge.
- UW 9, North Carolina 1 (6 inn.)
- (RV) Notre Dame 3, UW 2 (8 inn.)
- UW 4, Duke 1
- UW 6, (RV) Liberty 0
- UW 8, #19 Baylor 2
Chaotic ending vs the Irish
The ending to the Notre Dame game was highly controversial. International tiebreaker rules were in effect in the tournament, meaning that in each extra inning, the player to make the final out of the previous inning starts on second base to help games end faster.
Notre Dame scored on a 2-out RBI single in the top of the inning to take the lead. Noelle Hee had made the final out of B7, so she was scheduled to start on second. She's not very fast, though, so freshman Francesca Torraca went out to pinch-run. Taryn Atlee lined out to start the inning. Then the chaos happened.
Kaija Gibson appeared to come through with a game-tying RBI double before getting thrown at third trying to take an extra base.
Then the umpires got together, conferred, and somehow, both Torraca AND Gibson were out, meaning not only that the run didn't count, but the game was over. Both were due to substitution infractions.
At the start of the seventh inning, UW underwent multiple defensive changes.
- Flores to C
- Vandegrift to 3B for Espinoza
- Kaupe to RF for Helm
- Gibson to 1B for Espinoza
Flores moving to catcher was just a position change; she was still batting second. Vandegrift had already pinch-hit in the seven spot, so she had to stay there as she stayed to play third.
The problem was Kaupe and Gibson. Kaupe officially entered for Helm, meaning she had to take Helm's #6 spot in the lineup, while Gibson should have been #8 for Espinoza. When Gibson's at-bat occurred, she was automatically out. But normally, Torraca would be sent back to second, and the game would still be alive.
However, Torraca was an illegal sub as well. A source within Triple Crown Sports, which runs the event, said that Torraca had not been properly declared as a pinch-runner; she had just come out to second base to start the inning instead of Hee.
All in all, the game likely means quite little in the long run, but it did not look good for the UW coaching staff.
Five things to know about opening weekend
1) LF Sami Reynolds is here to stay.
With five starting position players graduating, including the entire outfield, it was clear that at least one or two newcomers would have to have immediate roles in 2019. Reynolds' great opening weekend stat line isn't the reason for this, although going 7 for 18 with a triple, three RBIs, four runs scored and two stolen bases is not too shabby.
It's how much and where she played. She started every game in the #3 spot in the lineup. For Coach Tarr to be putting a true freshman in the three-hole means that she is clearly a major piece of the puzzle moving forward. Is she going to bat third all season? Maybe, maybe not. But expect her to be a constant fixture in the top or middle of the lineup unless something drastic changes.
2) UW's co-aces didn't have their best stuff, but were still effective. But it needs to get cleaned up moving forward.
- 2018: 188 IP, 36 BB, 15 HBP, 242 K (1.90 free bases/gm, 9.01 K/gm)
- 2019: 15.1 IP, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 13 K (2.74 free bases/gm, 5.93 K/gm)
- 2018: 166.1 IP, 43 BB, 5 HBP, 181 K (2.02 free bases/gm, 7.62 K/gm)
- 2019: 9.2 IP, 5 BB, HBP, 7 K (4.34 free bases/gm, 5.06 K/gm)
3) Morganne Flores is not going to catch full-time.
Coming off an ACL tear that kept her out for all of 2018, the redshirt junior is back to full health starting 2019. Out of an abundance of caution, or perhaps due to the constant beating that catching delivers, she caught only one game per day, playing first base during the other one while sophomore Emma Helm caught. Expect this to continue during the non-conference season. During Pac-12 play, there are no scheduled doubleheaders, so she will probably catch a higher percentage of games.
4) The bottom of the lineup is going to keep shuffling for a while.
The top five hitters in the lineup stayed the same for all five games: SS Sis Bates, C/1B Flores, LF Reynolds, DP Hee, and 2B Atlee. Beyond that, there was plenty of movement.
Amirah Milloy started all five games in center, batting either eighth or ninth. The other spot at the bootom of the order was third base, held by true freshmen SilentRain Espinoza (three starts), Megan Vandegrift (one) and Ari Quiñones (one). Espinoza was great at the plate, going 5 for 9 and driving in three big runs vs Baylor, while Vandegrift and Quiñones went 1/3 and 1/4, respectively.
Six and seven were the moving parts. Helm bat sixth both times she started at catcher. Sophomore Nawai Kaupe (nuh-VIE COW-pay) started three times in right field. Freshman Madi Huskey had a start in right. And junior Kaija Gibson got a start in right but also three at first base, which appears to be her job whenever Flores is catching. Gibson's a natural outfielder who hasn't shown a ton with the bat her first two seasons, so that will definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward.
5) Pat Moore can take some of the pressure off Alvelo and Plain.
The sophomore transfer from DePaul had a strong showing on opening weekend, pitching 8 innings with just 2 runs allowed, both of which were let in by Alvelo after Moore left the Baylor game. Tarr putting getting Moore the start against the toughest of UW's five opponents shows that she should be a significant part of the rotation this year.
Pac-12 Standings (Records current as of Wed Feb. 13; Rankings are NFCA Coaches/Softball America)
- #2/2 UCLA (5-0)
- #19/18 Oregon (5-0)
- RV/NR Oregon State (5-0)
- #5/5 Washington (4-1)
- #14/24 Arizona State (4-1)
- Utah (4-1)
- Stanford (4-1)
- #9/9 Arizona (3-2)
- RV/NR California (3-2)
Notes around the Pac-12
- Washington’s loss to Notre Dame dropped them to fifth in both polls.
- We learned basically nothing about UCLA, as the Bruins rolled over a weak field in Hawaii.
- Oregon and Oregon State both looked good at the ASU-hosted Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, but neither faced any elite competition.
- Arizona started well with a win over #19 Michigan and an acceptable one-run loss to #5 Florida, but stumbled on Sunday in a loss to unranked NC State.
The Huskies remain in Puerto Vallarta for the second weekend of the tournament, playing four more games. They are the only team to do so; all others are new. Streams of all games are available through FloSoftball.com, but the shortest membership available is $30 for a month of access.
Schedule (all times PST)
- #25/NR Mississippi State (4-1): Thu, 4 p.m.
- #12/12 Arkansas (5-0): Thu, 6:30
- UCF (2-2): Fri, 4 p.m.
- North Dakota State (3-1): Fri, 6:30 p.m.