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Opening Week: #10 Washington Meets #17 Nebraska in Mexico

It’s time to let the bats fly. The first of two ranked opponents this weekend is here.

NCAA SOFTBALL: MAY 23 Playoff Regional - Michigan v Washington
Washington Huskies celebrate defeating Michigan Wolverines 10-5
Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Puerto Vallarta is almost upon us and what does that mean? 2024 Softball is here and with new players filling in the ranks previously filled by juggernauts such as Baylee Klingler, the question becomes: can the Huskies maintain their prestige?

All signs point towards yes.

And it starts February 8, 2024 against the #17 team in the country – The Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The Cornhuskers come in boasting the #17 ranking which is good enough right now for at least no. 5 seed in the playoff tournament. Taking a look at the roster the biggest name that stands out is Jordy Bahl who is one of USA Today’s potential Player-of-the-Year. In 2022 and 2023 the Junior pitcher was a top ten finalist for such an award.

What makes her special? In forty-six starts as a pitcher she controls a 44-2 record and is nearly unstoppable with a .99 ERA. What makes her scarier is this ace and starter for Thursday has experience beating Washington already – that matchup a February 11, 2023 game when she was a pitcher for Oklahoma.

It remains unknown at the Dawg Pound why she left the number one team in the country for Nebraska, but this single handedly elevates the Cornhuskers into contention. When she was Freshman of the Year in 2022 she fanned 14 hitters against UCLA and had a total of three no hitters (one solo). At the 2023 WCWS she notched almost 25 scoreless innings.

Thankfully, there is a game changer. Washington put 4 runs on the board against her in the previous matchup in 3.2 innings and only lost the game when pitching collapsed and gave up 5 runs. Jordy doesn’t lose, but one of her closest calls came to the Huskies.

But every Ironman has a suit or QB an offensive-line. What protects Jordy and gives her the space to work, or as gen Z puts it: cook?

D1Softball ranked Billie Andrews, star shortstop at 88 nationally in 2023 and 42 for this past preseason. The senior bats .335 for her career and demands another 76 walks for an OBP of .422. She will be a scary hitter for the Huskies to face but defensively she also has a fielding percentage of .928.

The SS is a power hitter today for someone of her frame raking in 43 home runs, 330 total bases and 112 RBI in 159 games played. She averages three total bases for every 5 at bats and can be lethal, providing an all around hitting experience that can be best related to a Xander Bogaerts type of hitter. Andrews also doesn’t strike out often – only 28% of the time she draws an out.

The rest of Nebraska’s lineup will be the spot to exploit since Bahl will likely control the boards. The key for Washington to win this game will be by connecting early and forcing the pitcher to work, something they’ve done already. On the other side of the plate field the ball with purpose and don’t expect strike outs to come easy.

The game is tomorrow at 4:30 PM.