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Husky Softball Notebook: Sour Start

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UW gets swept by top-ranked UCLA to open Pac-12 play

Red Box Pictures/Washington Athletics

#5 Washington ran into the buzzsaw that is #1 UCLA, getting swept by the top-ranked Bruins to open Pac-12 play in Seattle last weekend.

  • Fri: UCLA 3, Washington 0
  • Sat: UCLA 4, UW 2 (8 inn.)
  • Sun: UCLA 15, UW 6 (5 inn.)

The Huskies had great chances to win each of the first two games. Multiple key coaching decisions by Heather Tarr in each of the first two games all broke against the Huskies:

  • The final pitch thrown by Gabbie Plain on Friday was a flyout by UCLA superstar Rachel Garcia that nearly left the park in the fourth inning. Despite Plain being on a streak of 21 13 hitless innings, the combination of that dangerous fly ball and knowing the team had an entire series to play and wanting to keep Plain rested, Tarr pulled Plain in favor of Taran Alvelo to start the fifth in a 0-0 tie. Alvelo didn’t pitch poorly, but gave up the only clutch hit by either team in the top of the sixth.
  • Still scoreless but with UCLA runners at second and third and two outs in the sixth, Garcia came up to the plate with first base open. Garcia has done a lot of damage to UW pitching in her career, but her batting average in 2019 has been significantly down, while the rest of the offense has been very good. Tarr chose to intentionally walk Garcia and have Alvelo pitch to Taylor Pack, who lined the 1-0 pitch into right-center for a three-run double in the 3-0 UCLA win.
  • On Saturday, tied at 2 in the top of the eighth, a really poor read by Ari Quiñones in right field turned what should have been a routine third out into a two-out “double” for Aaliyah Jordan. Once again, Garcia came up in a huge spot, and this time, Tarr had Plain pitch to her. On a full count, Garcia launched a no-doubt bomb to left-center to help the Bruins secure the series win.

In the first two games of the series combined, UCLA went 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Huskies went just 1-for-16, with a fourth-inning by RBI single by Nawai Kaupe on Saturday the only positive result (the other Saturday run came when Sis Bates stole home on a poorly-executed rundown by UCLA in the first).

On Sunday, the Bruins needed no fortune in a 15-6, five-inning romp. Alvelo had the worst outing of her career by an order of magnitude: 5 IP, 15 H, 15 ER, 4 BB, 11 K, 2 HBP. 14 of the 15 UCLA runs scored in the first three innings. Previously, her worst career appearance was in her freshman year at Arizona, when she allowed eight runs in seven innings. Her ERA nearly doubled, jumping from 1.31 to 2.40.

Pac-12 Standings (records through Thu, 3/21; rankings are NFCA Coaches/Softball America):

  1. #1/1 UCLA (25-1, 3-0 Pac-12)
  2. #11/11 Arizona (21-7, 3-0)
  3. #18/21 Arizona State (22-8, 2-1)
  4. Utah (13-14, 2-1)
  5. RV/NR Stanford (19-4)
  6. RV/NR Oregon State (17-7, 1-2)
  7. California (20-9, 1-2)
  8. #7/9 Washington (22-6, 0-3)
  9. Oregon (11-13, 0-3)

Around the Pac-12

  • Arizona showed their extremely competitive 2-1 series loss to then-#1 Florida State wasn’t a fluke, carrying that momentum to an emphatic home sweep of Oregon.
  • Struggling mightily on the year, Utah had their best weekend so far, winning the first two games and nearly finishing the sweep of Cal in Salt Lake City.
  • Arizona State woke up their bats after a 5-1 loss in the opener, scoring 30 runs in the final two games to take the series at home from Oregon State.

Pac-12 Schedule

  • Arizona at Oregon State (Fri-Sun)
  • Utah at Arizona State (Fri-Sun)
  • Stanford at California (Sat-Mon)
  • Washington at Oregon (Sat-Mon)

UCLA is off from Pac-12 play this week. The Bruins will play four non-conference games this weekend: Saint Mary’s, Cal State Northridge, UCSB, and Cal State Fullerton.

Huskies-Ducks

  • Sat, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Sun, 4 p.m. (Pac-12 Net/WA/OR)
  • Mon, 6 p.m. (Pac-12 Net/WA/OR)

The fierce rivals meet up in unfamiliar territory at the bottom of the standings, although the teams have each had very tough starts to their conference schedules. Oregon was swept by the only top-15 team not playing in Seattle last weekend, as UO was outscored 24-3 by Arizona in Tucson. Saturday’s game is the only appearance on national TV for the Huskies during the regular season.

The Ducks have lost nine straight, with last week being their first weekend out of the NFCA top 25 since 2010. After the well-documented disaster that was the Oregon offseason, UO seemed to be faring much better than expected through the first three weeks with an 11-4 record, a big upset win over LSU, and meaningful wins over Missouri and Texas A&M. Since then, they’ve gone winless, although the schedule’s been brutal — eight of the nine games have been against teams in the top 25, with the only other a solid Cal State Fullerton team.

Sophomore Virginia Tech transfer Jordan Dail (9-7, 3.64) has cooled after a hot start, but the bigger problem is the lack of depth behind her. Both sophomore Maddie MacGrandle and freshman Kailey Krueger have a WHIP over 2.5, which is beyond bad to the point of being disastrous.