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#9 Softball searching for answers as #3 UCLA comes to town

First home series with fans since 2019 starts Friday

Brooke Nelson has been one of the few bright spots for the Huskies over the past few weeks.
Red Box Pictures via UW Athletics

The first home series for Husky softball with fans since 2019 features two top-10 teams in what looks like a huge matchup on paper.

Given the trajectory of the two teams involved, it’s hard to feel quite that much anticipation.

The main reason the 9th-ranked Huskies (20-7, 1-2 Pac-12) are in the top 10 is because NFCA voters seem extremely resistant to change of any sort. Gabbie Plain has been good but far from her normal dominant self (2.76 ERA over the past three weeks, which doesn’t include her career-worst outing vs Missouri). The rest of the pitching staff around Plain has solidified a little bit after being very shaky for a while, but UW still lacks anything resembling a true #2 arm.

The bigger problem is the offense — Baylee Klingler has tried to single-handedly carry the team, posting a sizzling .459/.525/1.059 slash line and her 1.59 RBI/game leads all of Division 1. But although there’s been periodic contributions from all over (Kinsey Fiedler homered twice in the series finale, for example), nobody else has been able to provide a reliable threat.

UW’s second-best bat on the year is Sami Reynolds, who not only has cooled way down after a great start, but is now out indefinitely after getting hit in the head by a pitch in the third inning of Friday’s game. A spokesperson for UW confirmed that Reynolds is in concussion protocol but there is no timetable for her return.

One of the few bright spots over the past month has been Brooke Nelson, both at the plate and in the circle. Nelson had a total of two career RBI until a couple of weeks ago but has piled up 10 in the last five games she’s had an at-bat including her first two career home runs. Pitching-wise, she now holds the best ERA on the team at 1.73 (Plain is at 1.81) after allowing just one run in 15 13 innings over the past three weeks, but only pitched 1 13 innings against Cal.

Just how stark has the drop-off been for the Huskies since the first two weeks?

  • Start of season through Feb. 19: 9-0 including 3 top-10 wins (Arkansas 2x, OK State) and two other T25 wins (Tennessee, LSU). Huskies scored 7+ runs in all game but one, and only two games were won by fewer than five runs.
  • Feb. 20 to present: 11-7. Four losses to unranked opponents (California 2x, San Diego State, Houston). Only three games vs top 25 opponents are all shutout losses, including a horrifying 10-0, 5-inning rout at the hands of Missouri. The best win in that span is either LMU, Iowa State, at UNLV, Cal, which is obviously far overshadowed by the two losses.

Meanwhile, the Bruins (25-3, 3-0) have done basically the exact opposite. UCLA lost three times in the first two weeks (Oklahoma, Northwestern, Florida State). Since then? 18 straight wins, which most recently featured a dominant sweep of then-#9 Arizona as the Bruins outscored the Wildcats 15-0 and allowed a total of five hits. Holly Azevedo’s no-hitter in game two of that series was already UCLA’s fifth no-no this season, their most as a team in one season since 1994.

Pac-12 Standings, with current NFCA rankings

  1. #3 UCLA (25-3, 3-0 Pac-12)
  2. #20 Arizona State (22-5, 3-0)
  3. #12 Oregon (22-4, 2-1)
  4. RV California (20-10, 2-1)
  5. #25 Stanford (20-6)
  6. #9 Washington (20-7, 1-2)
  7. Utah (16-13, 1-2)
  8. #14 Arizona (19-7, 0-3)
  9. RV Oregon State (23-7, 0-3)

In the opening week of Pac-12 play:

  • Berkeley, CA: The Huskies were honestly lucky to even score eight runs over the final two games (lost 4-3 and 6-5) as they only recorded seven total hits. Cal could have swept the series if not for an unexpected 2-run homer by Jadelyn Allchin
  • Los Angeles: As mentioned above, UCLA kept Arizona from scoring for the entire weekend, winning 5-0, 3-0, and 7-0.
  • Tempe, AZ: The battle of bats vs arms went to the offense as Arizona State put up 23 runs for a sweep of the Beavers. OSU was an out away from salvaging the series finale before an RBI double by Jazmyn Hill forced extras, followed by a walk-off 3-run homer from Bella Loomis in the eighth for a 9-6 win.
  • Salt Lake City, UT: Utah snapped a five-game losing streak with an excellent performance to earn the 5-2 upset win in the series opener, then carried a 6-3 lead to the seventh of the rubber game while Sydney Sandez had retired the last eight Ducks in order. But the first four Oregon batters in the seventh reached and all eventually scored for UO to escape with a series win.

This week’s Pac-12 schedule:

  • #3 UCLA at #9 Washington
  • #20 Arizona State at #14 Arizona
  • RV California at #12 Oregon
  • #25 Stanford at RV Oregon State

Utah is on the rotating bye from league play and will play a pair of games vs Weber State.

Weekend Schedule

Note: Sunday’s series finale is the Huskies’ only Pac-12 game this season that will be on an ESPN affiliate until postseason.

  • Fri, 5 p.m., Pac-12 Network & Los Angeles
  • Sat, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network & LA
  • Sun, 4 p.m.: ESPNU

UW hasn’t won a series against UCLA anywhere since 2016, and hasn’t won a series vs UCLA at home since Danielle Lawrie’s final season in 2010. The Huskies did split the season series 2-2 in 2017 because of a 1-0 shutout win at the WCWS when Taran Alvelo outdueled Rachel Garcia.