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#NCAASoftball Seattle Super Regional Preview

#3 Washington seeks third straight WCWS, hosting #14 Kentucky

Gabbie Plain’s fourth career no-hitter wasn’t the only reason to celebrate for Husky Softball last weekend.
Ed Strong

#3 Washington (48-7, 20-4 Pac-12) is hosting a Super Regional series for the third straight year as #14 Kentucky (36-22, 14-10 SEC) visits Seattle for a best-of-three series.

15 of the 16 national seeds advanced to the Super Regional round, with James Madison being the lone visitor to advance, knocking out #15 Michigan. A full bracket is available here. The eight series winners this weekend will advance to the Women’s College World Series, which runs from May 30 to June 5 in Oklahoma City.

Broadcast information

All three games of the Seattle Super Regional will be aired on ESPN2. Mark Neely (PxP), Husky legend Danielle Lawrie (analyst) and Holly Rowe (reporter) will be on the call. Washington is the designated home team for games 1 and 3, while Kentucky will bat second in game 2.

  • Fri, 6 p.m.
  • Sat, 7 p.m.
  • If necessary: Sun, 7 p.m.

One good thing to keep in mind: softball games are given just two-hour windows for TV purposes. Low-scoring games are often completed in that two-hour window (sometimes significantly less), but high scoring or extra innings can easily cause the game to go beyond that. If any of the games below go longer than expected, UW-UK may start on ESPNews or online-only (ESPNU is also a possible backup network on Sunday):

  • Fri, 4 p.m.: Tennessee at Florida
  • Sat, 5 p.m.: Ole Miss at Arizona
  • Sun, 5 p.m.: Ole Miss at Arizona (if necessary)

Series History

Washington and Kentucky don’t have much history against each other. Kentucky leads the all-time series 2-1, and the teams have never met in the postseason (or even later than February, for that matter). UK won 6-1 in 2006 and 3-2 in 2013 before UW got their first win in the series earlier this year, winning 4-2 at the Mary Nutter Classic on Feb. 22.

Taran Alvelo came one out short of a complete-game shutout in this season’s matchup before three straight Wildcats reached base to chase her and bring the tying run to the plate. Gabbie Plain got the final out by strikeout to secure the win. Taryn Atlee, Sis Bates, Sami Reynolds and Kaija Gibson each had two of UW’s 11 hits.

Who to watch

For the second week in a row, Washington faces an offense-first SEC club.

Many UK hitters can do damage — SS Katie Reed, C Jenny Schaper, 2B Alex Martens, and so on. But by far the most dangerous hitter in the lineup for Kentucky is senior third baseman Abbey Cheek. A couple of weeks ago, Cheek became the first UK player to ever earn the SEC Player of the Year. Her slash line of .441/.617/.945 leads Kentucky by a wide margin in all three categories. She leads the nation in slugging percentage and is third in on-base percentage, trailing only two small-conference players who faced very weak schedules. In UW’s win earlier this season, Cheek was the only hitter to have a good day against Alvelo, going 2-for-3 with a double.

Autumn Humes (15-10, 4.09) and Grace Baalman (10-9, 3.49) will likely carry the load for UK in the circle. Humes pitched five of the seven innings in the matchup in Palm Springs, with reliever Meghan Schorman throwing the final two, so UW has not seen Baalman. The Huskies have the edge in basically every pitching statistic, but one of the most notable are the strikeout and walk numbers. UW has struck out nearly twice as many batters, recording 9.46 K/7 to Kentucky’s 4.81. Look for Washington’s lineup to be patient at the plate, especially when Baalman comes in, who issues more than 3 walks per 7 innings. Can DP/C Emma Helm (24 K in 77 at-bats, but was a force vs Mississippi State, going 5-for-7 with a homer) keep her momentum going against a team that doesn’t strike out very many batters?

Another interesting matchup will be seeing what happens when Kentucky does reach base. By national standards, Kentucky doesn’t steal a huge amount; they’re just #97 nationally in steals per game. But the Pac-12 as a whole is a low-steal league — only Oregon State is above UK, at #85. Mostly due to that, only 19 steals have even been attempted against UW this season, slightly over one per three games. However, 18 of those 19 attempts have been successful, so it definitely can be done. Will the Wildcats try to run on a team that isn’t used to having opponents even attempt it very much?