Once again, the No. 1 Washington softball team fell behind late. Once again, the UW had to go deep into its pitching staff. And once again, the Huskies came out winners, beating No. 17 Texas Tech 11-5 in eight innings to end its run at the St. Pete Clearwater Elite Invitational in Florida.
Washington nearly won the game in controversial fashion. With one out in the top of the eighth, sophomore Megan Vandegrift — starting the frame in scoring position due to the tiebreaker rule — stole third. Freshman Kelley Lynch, at the plate, stepped back after taking the pitch, into the path of Texas Tech catcher Kelcy Leach, whose hand hit her bat, sending the throw down way wide. Vandegrift got out of her slide, sprinted home, and despite Texas Tech’s arguments, the run held up, and Washington led 6-5.
Two pitches later, Lynch bombed her second home run of the weekend over the fence in left field, and the possible interference mattered less.
Seven batters after that, with four more additional on the scoreboard, it barely made a difference.
Junior Gabbie Plain — Washington’s fourth pitcher of the day — finished the win with a clean bottom of the eighth, after having spent the previous 10 minutes on the basepaths in the top of the eighth inning instead of in the dugout.
Plain (4-1) earned the win, allowing just one hit and striking out three in 3.1 innings of work. Having to enter the game in the batting order, she also drew a walk and scored a run.
For the second straight game, Lynch started in the circle but had troubles with control. This time, her leash was even shorter, and she was pulled just one out into the game with the Huskies trailing 3-1. Brooke Nelson came in and settled things down for 3.2 shutout frames. She gave way to Pat Moore in the bottom of the fifth, who struggled, allowing two runs to give the Red Raiders a 5-3 lead.
Head coach Heather Tarr changed up her batting order going into Sunday, putting sophomore left fielder Sami Reynolds in the leadoff spot for the first time in her career. Just the third UW player to hit at the top of the order in the past two seasons — after Sis Bates and Taryn Atlee — Reynolds went 1-for-3 with a triple, a walk, and three runs scored.
Also higher up than usual was sophomore third baseman SilentRain Espinoza, who went 2-for-5 and drove in Washington’s first two runs of the game.
Washington came back from its first two-run deficit in the top of the fourth on doubles by Espinoza and Livy Schiele. The Huskies came back from their second in stages, plating one run in the top of the sixth on a Schiele single, and a second on a Baylee Klingler groundout in the seventh to extend the game.
Washington was supposed to follow up the game with an exhibition against Team USA, but with its first matchup going long, the second was canceled. The National Team is still set to play the UW at Husky Softball Stadium on March 12.
The Huskies will come back west to play in the Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic next weekend in Cathedral City, California.
Reach Managing Editor Josh Kirshenbaum at email@example.com. Twitter: @J_Kirshenbaum
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