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Husky Softball Notebook: Top-Five Showdown

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Shutout streak hits seven as #1 UCLA comes to town

Edward Strong

#6 Washington kept all six opponents scoreless at the Husky Classic to finish their final non-conference tournament with a mark of 22-3. UW hasn’t lost a game in their annual home tournament since 2008.

  • UW 3, Ohio State 0
  • UW 8, Northern Illinois 0 (6 inn.)
  • UW 2, Northern Illinois 0
  • UW 6, Idaho State 0
  • UW 8, Idaho State 0 (5 inn.)
  • UW 1, Seattle 0

Dating back to the second game of a doubleheader on March 3 vs Cal State Fullerton, Husky pitchers have blanked their last seven opponents, allowing a total of just nine hits in that span. Gabbie Plain earned both the National and Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week awards for throwing three shutouts including the first back-to-back no-hitters in UW history against Northern Illinois and Seattle.

Building for the Future

On Thursday, UW athletics announced that Head Coach Heather Tarr has been given a contract extension through June 2025. Of all the teams to be worried about the long-term future of an elite softball coach, UW is about as low as possible on the totem pole, as this is not only Tarr’s alma mater but also one of the country’s best and the only head coaching job she’s ever had. But with that said, it sends an “official” message to recruits that she doesn’t have any plans to move or retire anytime soon.

Tarr’s extension seems to pale in importance to the second half of the release: Washington has announced plans to construct a “best-in-class” Softball Performance Center by fall 2020. For all of the historic success by Washington and the rest of the Pac-12, UW had clearly fallen behind the rest of the nation’s elite in terms of facilities. Most programs in the SEC have softball-only facilities, and over the past several years, the SEC has had a significant edge in recruiting. It hasn’t played out to more than a slight advantage on the field, but the monetary dedication by many SEC athletic programs (and Oklahoma) to competing at the highest level had clearly been a big boost to the programs as a whole. Pac-12 schools are making moves as well: Arizona just finished a major renovation for already top-notch Rita Hillenbrand Stadium, while Oregon’s Jane Sanders Stadium is a drastic improvement over what the Ducks had prior to 2017.

Pac-12 Standings (records through 3/13, rankings are NFCA Coaches/Softball America):

  1. #1/1 UCLA (22-1)
  2. #5/7 Washington (22-3)
  3. RV/NR Stanford (19-4)
  4. RV/NR Oregon State (15-5)
  5. #17/22 Arizona State (19-7)
  6. #12/13 Arizona (18-7)
  7. California (18-7)
  8. RV/NR Oregon (11-10)
  9. Utah (11-13)

This week in #Pac12SB

Conference play opens this week, as 8 of the 9 teams are in action. Pac-12 softball plays a full round robin, with each team playing four three-game series at home and four three-game series on the road. All series are Friday-Saturday-Sunday.

  • #1/1 UCLA at #5/7 Washington
  • California at Utah
  • RV/NR Oregon State at #17/22 Arizona State
  • RV/NR Oregon at #12/13 Arizona

Stanford has the bye from conference play in week one. Some teams will play non-conference games during their bye week, but Stanford is off until visiting rival Cal next weekend.

Washington vs UCLA

What appear to be the best two teams in the Pac-12 by a significant margin meet up immediately, as the top-ranked Bruins visit Seattle. It’s the second year in a row that UW and UCLA have met as top-five opponents: #3 UCLA swept #1 UW in Los Angeles to start an ugly six-game skid for the Huskies in April 2018. It was a very low-scoring series then (3-0, 3-2, 1-0) and it’s hard to imagine UW winning games in any manner except that this time.

As good as Taran Alvelo (11-2, 1.11) and Gabbie Plain (9-0, 0.90) have been for the Huskies, UCLA’s Rachel Garcia (10-0, 0.64) and Megan Faraimo (6-1, 0.94) have been at least as good (if not slightly better) against a similar strength of schedule. But the 2019 UCLA offense is miles ahead of UW.

The Bruins are averaging well over 7 runs per game, with a slugging percentage of .558. Morganne Flores leads the Huskies in extra-base hits with eight — six different Bruins have at least 8 XBH, led by Aaliyah Jordan with 15.

The one piece of good news for UW: the dominance of UW’s pitching hasn’t only come against the weaker opponents on the schedule. The pitching performances by UW against Florida, Kentucky, Texas Tech, and Arkansas clearly show that UW can hold even an elite offense to two runs or fewer.