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Softball: Five wins, a commit and a near-certain Olympian

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Huskies set for tough 7-game Florida swing

Gabbie Plain is now almost officially an Olympian.

Top-ranked Washington won all five of their games on opening weekend, avoiding the upset bug that plagued much of the top 25.

Results

  • #1 Washington 10, Ohio 2 (6 inn.)
  • UW 11, at Georgia Tech 6
  • UW 8, UAB 7
  • UW 2, at Georgia Tech 1
  • UW 10, Furman 0 (5 inn.)

It was far from a clean performance, however. Gabbie Plain was clearly off her game in the first meeting with Georgia Tech, allowing eight hits, six runs (four earned) and perhaps most surprising of all, walking three. Freshmen pitchers Kelley Lynch and Brooke Nelson were very hittable against UAB, allowing the Blazers to dig themselves out of an early six-run deficit before Sis Bates hit a walk-off single in the seventh to stave off the upset bid.

The bats were mostly good, but against lesser competition it’s really hard to know how much that means. Senior second baseman Taryn Atlee reached base in each of her first eight trips to the plate and overall going 7-for-11 (.636) with two doubles, three walks and a hit by pitch. Bates’ walkoff single vs UAB was one of her 10 hits on the weekend, half of which were bunt singles, which she most likely will lead the nation in. Sophomore Madi Huskey went 4-for-12 with a three-run homer against UAB and five total RBI.

The Huskies will get much stiffer tests this week, as four of their six official games are against top-20 opponents, including strong WCWS contenders in Alabama and Florida State. In addition, UW will play an exhibition game against Team USA as part of their “Stand Beside Her” tour in preparation for the Olympics. Former Husky shortstop Ali Aguilar is one of the cornerstones for the Red, White and Blue. See the full weekly schedule at the end of the article.

In other Olympics-related news, Plain was officially named one of 20 finalists for Team Australia’s Olympic roster, although that was simply a formality. Plain was one of the top pitchers for as Australia swept through their Asia/Oceanic qualifier, clinching the last of the six spots for the 2020 Olympics. Barring an injury, it seems guaranteed she will be representing Australia in Tokyo in July.

What we learned

  • Baylee Klingler’s bat likely holds the key to Washington being “just” a national title contender vs a front-runner. Other than Morganne Flores, the only players on UW’s roster that have shown they can win a game with one swing of the bat are players with such a high strikeout rate that they’re not consistently in the lineup (Noelle Hee, Emma Helm). Klingler hit just five home runs as a freshman at Texas A&M but has a huge amount of potential power, as evidenced by her hitting cleanup for all five games in Atlanta.
  • Kelley Lynch is far from a finished product. The very first weekend of her freshman season being likely the only chance to play close to home looked like it made the #1 overall recruit press a little bit too much in the circle, walking four and allowing two homers in eight innings. This isn’t a major concern by any means, but more of a reality check that Plain will continue to be the unquestioned ace for the forseeable future.
  • On a better note for Lynch, her approach at the plate was phenomenal. She showed her pop by getting three doubles in 11 at-bats with two walks, but her at-bats told an even better story. She consistently grinded long plate appearances and made pitchers throw a ton to get her out, which is an important but fairly rare quality in younger players.
  • Freshman center fielder Jadelyn Allchin started all five games and tied Taylor Van Zee’s Husky record of seven hits through the first five games of a career, getting at least one in every game. Combined with Lynch and improvements by Atlee and SilentRain Espinoza (4-for-6, 3 RBI), the middle-to-bottom of UW’s order should be better than last year, even without Amirah Milloy’s steadying presence in the nine-hole.

Injury Report

Sophomore left fielder Sami Reynolds twisted her right ankle while making a diving catch in foul territory early in the UAB game on Saturday and did not play the rest of the weekend. She was seen on crutches later that day, but had already progressed from the crutches to simple athletic tape by Sunday. UW may be a bit cautious reinserting her into the lineup very quickly, but this should not be a long-term issue.

Of a bit more concern was the lack of any appearance by redshirt sophomore outfielder Livy Schiele. In a weekend where basically everyone saw some playing time, Schiele and freshman outfielder/first baseman Hannah Dardano were the only two players not to see the field. There’s a good explanation for Dardano, who suffered a major hip injury prior to fall camp and is redshirting this year. Schiele was in a walking boot at the Huskies’ open practice on Jan. 25, but neither the team nor Tarr has had any official comment.

Post-UCF update: Good news on both Reynolds and Schiele. Sami returned to her usual #3 spot and left field, going 2-for-4 with 2 RBI and a walk in UW's 12-3 win over the Knights Wednesday. Schiele batted sixth and played right field, going 1-for-3 with two runs and a key walk that jump-started the Huskies' five-run second inning.

New Commitment

The Huskies have secured their third commitment for the 2021 graduating class (would play in spring 2022) in 3B/SS Angela “Angie” Yellen out of Santa Margarita Catholic (Calif.) HS and the So Cal Athletics. Her older brother Joey played QB as a freshman for Arizona State in their game vs USC this season and has since transferred to Pitt.

Unlike UW’s first two highly-touted 2021 commitments (MIF Rylee Holtorf and SS Kinsey Fiedler), there’s not a lot of info out there on Yellen and she is not in the initial top 50 recruits at Softball America. Yellen is a righty pull hitter with a lot of pop to left and left-center. Interestingly, UW now has three non-first base infielders all committed in the 2021 class despite zero current juniors at those three positions that would likely be graduating.

Possible options at non-1B infield positions (2B, SS and 3B) over the six-class cycle.

  • Sr: SS Sis Bates, 2B Taryn Atlee
  • Jr: none
  • So: 3B Baylee Klingler, 3B SilentRain Espinoza, 2B Megan Vandegrift. Also includes utility player Ari Quiñones.
  • Fr: none
  • Signees: MIF Stormy Kotzelnick, 3B/SS Raigan Barrett. Likely also includes C/3B Jenn Cummings, who is primarily a catcher but is listed as “Catcher/Infield” on the Huskies’ 2021 roster.
  • HS Jr commits: MIF Rylee Holtorf, SS Kinsey Fiedler, 3B/SS Angie Yellen

Pac-12 Standings (rankings are NFCA Coaches Poll & ESPN.com/USA Softball)

  1. #3/2 UCLA (6-0)
  2. #1/1 Washington (5-0)
  3. #4/4 Arizona (5-0)
  4. #21/21 Oregon (5-0)
  5. Utah (5-0)
  6. RV/RV Stanford (5-1)
  7. #23/22 Arizona State (4-1)
  8. NR/RV Oregon State (4-1)
  9. California (3-2)

This Week’s Schedule

All times are Pacific Standard Time. Wednesday game in Orlando, Fla. at UCF’s home field; Thursday through Sunday games are part of the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invite in Clearwater, Fla. Rankings are NFCA/USA Softball

  • Wed, 3:30 p.m.: at NR/RV UCF (5-1) — UCFKnights.tv (UW won 12-3)
  • Thu, 1 p.m.: vs. #9/9 Alabama (1-3) — ESPN2 (corrected, was originally listed as ESPNU)
  • Fri, 10 a.m.: vs. #5/5 Florida State (5-0) — ESPNU
  • Fri, 4 p.m.: vs. Liberty (1-4) — ESPN3
  • Sat, 5 p.m.: vs. #18/17 South Carolina (4-0) — ESPNU
  • Sun, 7 a.m.: vs. #17/19 Texas Tech (5-0) — ESPNU
  • Sun, 9:30 a.m.: vs. Team USA — ESPN3 (exhibition)