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Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive (at the WCWS)

#3 Husky softball fends off elimination twice, moves to national semis

Taran Alvelo was spectactular to keep her career alive.
Washington Athletics

Third-seeded Washington staved off elimination twice on Survival Saturday, waiting out a lengthy rain delay during a win over #7 Minnesota and then beating #13 Oklahoma State a few hours later at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

The Huskies advance to the national semifinals for the third year in a row, joining Oklahoma as the only programs to do so. Washington will face #2 UCLA Sunday at 10 a.m. on ESPN, needing to beat the Bruins twice to move to the championship series, which begins Monday at 4:30 p.m. on ESPN. If UW wins the first game on Sunday, the two teams would play the winner-take-all game at 4 p.m. on ESPN2.

Game 1: #3 Washington 5, #7 Minnesota 3

It took less than an inning for UW to surpass their offensive output from Thursday, as Morganne Flores hit her 23rd homer and Sami Reynolds scored after reaching on an error and moving up on a wild pitch.

After Minnesota’s Carlie Brandt cut the lead in half with an RBI double in the bottom of the third, the Huskies pushed the lead back up to two on a strange hit by Bates. With the defense playing way in to try to cut down a run at the plate with runners at second and third and one out, Bates blooped a ball over the shortstop’s head as Madison Huskey jogged home to make it 3-1, despite the ball not even reaching the outfield grass. Had the Gophers been playing at normal depth, that’s an extremely routine catch for the shortstop.

After a rain delay officially lasting 3:09, UW padded the lead in the sixth. Espinoza reached on an error and both Milloy and Bates singled to load the bases with nobody out. It looked like reliever Sydney Smith might get out unscathed after a line-drive double play by Flores removed Milloy from the bases, but Sami Reynolds drove a two-out double over the head of Ali Lindner in center, scoring both Espinoza and Bates.

For the first six innings against Minnesota, Gabbie Plain was nearly untouchable. She allowed two hits and a walk in the third inning, but the other five innings had been perfect as UW took a 5-1 lead to the bottom of the seventh.

Making their first WCWS appearance, the Gophers made a huge rally with their backs against the wall. With two outs and a runner at first, the bottom of the Minnesota lineup made Plain work. Pinch-hitter Taylor Chell and Lindner battled to draw walks to load the bases, bringing Brandt to the plate representing the tying run.

With the outfield playing back after Brandt’s RBI double earlier, Brandt blooped one down the right field line that landed just beyond the stumbling dive of Madison Huskey for a two-run double. That put the tying run at second base with Minnesota’s best hitter at the plate in 2B MaKenna Partain.

Coach Tarr went to the bullpen to get her senior, bringing in Taran Alvelo to finish the job. She got Partain to chase a 2-2 riseball, finishing off the 5-3 victory.

Game 2: #3 Washington 1, #13 Oklahoma State 0

Alvelo’s strikeout to end game one ended up being just one of many on the day to keep her career alive. Alvelo tied her career high by striking out 16 Cowgirls. Seven of the nine starters for OK State struck out at least twice.

It looked like the Huskies would grab a 2-0 lead in the second. With a runner at second and two outs, CF Amirah Milloy drove a pitch to deep center, but Oklahoma State CF Cheyenne Factor went way over the wall to rob her of a two-run homer and get the Cowgirls out of trouble.

The Huskies got the only run they would need in the fourth. OK State ace Samantha Show nearly worked out of a huge jam, getting two key outs after Kaija Gibson and Taryn Atlee reached first and third with nobody out. But UW’s best hitter at the World Series would not be denied this time, driving a single through the right side to score Atlee.

With her 16 strikeouts, Alvelo didn’t need a lot of help defensively, but she got plenty of it anyway. The Huskies were clean defensively and made two great plays, as Gibson made a spectacular diving catch to take a bunt single away from Chelsea Alexander.

Four outs later, Sami Reynolds made an impact play for the third game in a row. She drove in UW’s only run in a 3-1 loss to Arizona on Thursday with a solo homer, then had the two-run double for key insurance runs to hold off the Minnesota comeback earlier Saturday. This time, she did it with her glove, running down a ball deep in the left field corner to take away extra bases from Madi Sue Montgomery.

#Pac12SB at the WCWS

The matchup of Washington and UCLA tomorrow offers the possibility for the third leg of an odd triangle to be completed:

  • In early May, Arizona got swept by Washington at home, the first time that’s ever happened. In the opening game on Thursday, the Wildcats had a chance for payback on Thursday and got it, winning 3-1 in eight innings behind a gem from Taylor McQuillin backed up by homers from Jessie Harper and Dejah Mulipola.
  • In the final series of the regular season, UCLA lost two out of three to Arizona at home, costing them an outright Pac-12 title when Washington swept Stanford to earn a co-championship. In the first of two winner’s bracket games on Friday, the Bruins had a chance for payback and got it, winning 6-2 behind a go-ahead, pinch-hit homer by Malia Quarles in the sixth.

That brings us to Sunday’s matchup. In the very first series of Pac-12 play, the projected top two teams in the conference met in Seattle. UCLA made the key plays Washington couldn’t in the first two games to pull away late and win 3-0 and 4-2 in eight innings. The final game of the series was never close. The Bruins scored at least four runs in each of the first three innings, handing Alvelo by far the worst outing of her career in a 15-6, five-inning rout. Can the Huskies get their revenge on the Bruins in the biggest meeting between the two in many years?