13th-seeded Washington softball sleepwalked through 4.5 innings and found themselves unexpectedly trailing.
It didn’t take long to reverse that trend.
The Huskies (36-15, 14-10 Pac-12) scored five runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to earn a 9-2 win over Lehigh (30-19-1, 15-3 Patriot) that did not feel anywhere near as comfortable as that sounds.
Kelley Lynch got the start for the Huskies and was initially quite effective, striking out five of the first seven batters she faced. After she finished the second inning, Lynch immediately went straight to the training staff to took a look at her. She stayed in, but was clearly less effective as her velocity dropped and Lehigh started to barrel some balls up. Coach Tarr said after the game that Lynch was dealing with some muscle spasms in her arm but nothing serious.
After Lynch allowed two runners on with one out in the fourth, the Huskies turned to Pat Moore in relief, who struck out both Amanda Greaney and Rory Dudley to preserve the 1-0 lead after Jenn Cummings had opened the scoring with a solo homer in the bottom of the third.
Moore started the fifth well with a groundout and a strikeout, but that’s when things started to get weird. Her strikeout — which should have been the second out of the inning — ended up instead allowing the speedy Carley Barjaktarovich to reach first base when the throw by Cummings to finish the dropped third strike hit Barjaktarovich and bounded away. The play was initially ruled interference on Barjaktarovich for running inside the baseline but was overturned to safe. Emily Cimino followed with a single to left-center (one of her three hits), then both runners took an extra base when Allchin’s throw in was off line and nobody backed it up properly (went as an error on Allchin, but that’s at least partially on Espinoza/Moore/Cummings/etc).
With the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position and one out, UW made the move they didn’t want to have to do by bringing in ace Gabbie Plain. Plain got the first out without the runners moving as Jaelyn Chesson bounced out to SilentRain Espinoza at third, with Brooke Nelson making an excellent pick of Espinoza’s throw in the dirt at first. But disaster struck when Addie Kittel hit a tough chopper up the middle. Kinsey Fiedler made a great backhanded stab to even get to the ball at all, but her throw to first was both low and to the outfield side of first. Nelson almost made an incredible catch and stretch to get the out but fell off the base in the process of catching it, allowing Barjaktarovich to score. Cimino rounded third and tried to score, and Nelson’s relay throw was wild, although Plain ended up leaving Kittel’s pinch-runner at second base. All in all, the Huskies ended up committing a whopping four errors in the fifth inning
(Author’s note: the third of those four errors was scored as an E3 on Nelson that allowed Kittel to be safe at first. This was unquestionably incorrect scoring, as Nelson did everything she could possibly be expected to do. This probably should have been ruled an E4 for the bad throw by Fiedler, or perhaps could have just been called a straight infield single.)
The deficit didn’t last long. Fiedler helped redeem her defensive mistake by leading off the bottom of the fifth with a big blast to right, quickly tying the game back up at 2. The Huskies got a pair of runners on with two outs for Allchin, who fought back from an 0-2 count to get a pitch she could work with and hammered it out to right. Five of Allchin’s seven homers this season have given UW the lead for good (game 1 at Cal, game 1 vs OSU, game 3 at Oregon, vs Seattle U, and now tonight).
Four Huskies went deep in the win. Cummings accounted for the only run by either team in the first four innings with her second homer of the year in the third. Fiedler hit her tenth to tie it up starting the bottom of the fifth. Allchin continued her pattern of hitting homers specifically in clutch situations with her tiebreaking three-run blast in the fifth, her seventh. Klingler ended a mini-slump with her 23rd homer of the year in the sixth to put the nail in the coffin.
Plain earned the win to improve to 19-6, tossing 2 2⁄3 innings of scoreless relief and allowing just a pair of hits and fanning six. Lynch allowed 2 hits in 3 1⁄3 innings while also striking out six, but she did issue two walks and one hit batter. Moore struck out three in 1 inning and allowed one hit, but due to the errors behind her, she ended up getting charged for two unearned runs.
Texas (39-17-1, 12-6 Big 12) won the first game of the day 6-0 against Weber State (38-11, 13-1 Big Sky). The Wildcats had a great scoring threat in the first get denied and rarely threatened after that, while the Longhorns threatened in almost every inning and cashed in multiple times. Janae Jefferson and Mia Scott each had three hits for UT, while Estelle Czech threw a complete-game five-hit shutout, improving to 11-1.
Unlike the Huskies, who tried to avoid using their ace but were forced to with the game on the line in the fifth, the Longhorns were able to stay away from ace Hailey Dolcini to keep her fully ready for UW on Saturday. The Fresno State grad transfer is 19-8 with a 2.32 ERA, and more famously pitched a complete game when Texas finally ended Oklahoma’s bid for a perfect season with a 4-2 win on April 16.
UT has multiple position players that the Huskies have seen before. Jefferson is the only holdover from Texas’ last trip to Seattle, when the teams faced off in the 2018 regionals (she went 2-for-11 that weekend overall, but 0-for-3 against the Huskies, all of which came against Plain).
More interestingly — with former Oregon Head Coach Mike White taking the job at the start of the 2019 season, multiple Ducks followed him to UT, and a pair are still around as grad students: starting catcher Mary Iakopo and utility player Lauren Burke. Burke went 3-for-4 with a homer and a double in the only recent regular-season meeting between Texas and Washington, an 8-6 Texas win at the 2020 Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif. (about two weeks before the rest of the season ended up getting wiped out due to COVID). Neither Burke nor Iakopo faired very well against UW in their freshman year at Oregon in 2018: part-timer Burke went 1-for-5 and starter Iakopo went just 1-for-12.
Seattle Regional Schedule
- Texas 6, Weber State 0
- Washington 9, Lehigh 2
- Sat, 2pm, ESPN: Texas at Washington
- Sat, ~4:30pm, ESPN+: Lehigh vs Weber State (loser eliminated)
- Sat, ~7pm, TV TBA: Loser G3 vs Winner G4 (loser eliminated)
- Sun, 3pm: Winner G3 vs Winner G5
- Sun, ~5:30pm: Rematch of G6 if necessary