The Washington Huskies stellar softball season came to an end on Sunday with a 5-2 loss to the number one seeded Florida Gators at the NCAA Women’s College World Series at USA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
After opening the series with a 3-1 win over Pac-12 rival Oregon, the Huskies moved on to face defending champions the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Huskies whose prolific scoring offense has slowed in the series found themselves up against a tough pitcher in the Sooners’ Paige Parker. The final score was again 3-1 but this time Washington was on the losing end.
Their only run was a sixth inning home run by senior Ali Aguilar that went over the right field fence.
The loss moved the Huskies into the elimination bracket. In the double-elimination tournament it was now win-or-go home and Washington once again found a Pac-12 rival in their path.
This time it was the UCLA Bruins (48-15) who made their way to this match-up after an opening round loss to the LSU Tigers and then defeating the Texas A&M Aggies 8-2 to gain the face-off with the Huskies.
Pitching again was the name of the game as Washington sophomore pitcher Taran Alvelo continued her tough performance in the series. Alvelo had pitched every inning up to this point.
Her counterpart was freshman Rachel Garcia of the Bruins and hitters on both sides found it hard to get a run across the plate.
Washington struck first with the only run of the game when senior Ali Aguilar repeated her feat from the night before hitting a home run in the exact same spot and same inning, sixth, as she did against Oklahoma. This gave the Huskies the 1-0 win over UCLA eliminating the Bruins from the tournament.
“Kind of a surreal game for us in terms of our pitching and defense,” said Washington head coach Heather Tarr. “I’m just really proud of how we’re able to stick together from last night’s tough loss.”
The win put the Huskies on track to face the Gators in the first semifinal. As Alvelo made her fourth start in a row the start of the game was not what she expected.
Florida scored first with a solo home run by junior Kayli Kvistad in the first inning. They added four more runs in the second which resulted in Alvelo (35-9) leaving the game.
Washington brought in Madi Schreyer with two outs in the inning. Schreyer pitched the next four and 1/3 innings giving up one run in the fifth before freshman Samantha Manti took over in the seventh to finish the game.
The Huskies tried to mount a comeback with two outs in the bottom of the seventh with a two-run home run by junior Julia DePonte after junior Taylor Van Zee reached on an error.
The Huskies finish the season 50-14 and despite their season ending sooner than they wanted they were happy to have accomplished their goal of making it to the WCWS.
“My message to this team after we lost was just we did it the right way. We truly can leave this season with no regrets.” said coach Tarr. “The best part about this team is the growth that we had and the way in which we experienced the growth…being honest with each other, holding each other accountable and when things were wrong we fixed them and we didn’t let things fester we continued to develop relationships amongst each other. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of young women.”
Sunday’s play in the semifinals marked the program’s first Final Four appearance since 2013. Saturday’s win against the Bruins also gave Washington its first 50-win season since 2010.
Oregon worked their way through the elimination bracket defeat Baylor 7-4 and LSU 4-1 to take on Oklahoma in the second semifinal. The Ducks took a 2-0 lead in the second but the Sooners countered with four in the bottom of the inning to go on to take the win 4-2.
Oklahoma faces Florida in the best of three championship series starting Monday, June 5th. The Sooners are trying to win back-to-back championships while Florida, who did their own repeat winning titles in 2014 and 2015 seek to get back the trophy.