It’s no secret that Heather Tarr likes to mix things up in non-conference play.
Throughout the years, the head coach of the No. 8 Washington softball team has often experimented with her lineup before Pac-12 play starts, and this season is no exception. In 15 games, Tarr has rolled out 12 different batting orders and 21 different Huskies have seen the field, a testament to her willingness to give young players early-season experience.
Most of the experimenting has come at the bottom of the lineup, as six different players have batted eighth and three at ninth.
“To have a table-setter at the bottom of the lineup, that’s how we are going to generate, we believe, the best offense that we can,” Tarr said. “Who that is — Taryn Atlee, Kaija Gibson, Jadelyn [Allchin], Lilly [Agan] — we have some options. We are using this part of the season to figure that out. It might not be fixed, it might be agile, it might be different.”
Tarr has usually employed the same “table-setter” strategy. During the 2019 World Series semifinal run, Amirah Milloy batted .319 in the nine-hole, and last season, Atlee made 18 starts hitting at the bottom of the lineup, posting a .441 average.
This season, though, Tarr has shuffled the fifth-year senior, Atlee, into different spots in the lineup. As of late, Agan has batted at the bottom of the order, starting eight of the past nine games. The freshman is batting .500 with seven RBIs since entering the lineup Feb. 19.
Unlike the bottom of the order, the top hasn’t changed much.
Junior Baylee Klingler has batted leadoff in 11 games this season, while fifth-year senior Sis Bates has in just four.
It’s a far cry from past years, when Tarr included her fastest base runners at the top of the lineup, such as Bates. In 2019, Bates batted leadoff in 40 of Washington’s 50 games.
The unconventional power bat at leadoff is something that Tarr is embracing, though, as she searches for the best order with two weeks left in the non-conference schedule.
“People don’t believe in the philosophy of having a power bat at the top,” she said. “We believe in that. Those players that are in the top of lineups get the most at bats. That’s the philosophy there — to keep your three best hitters in those top three spots, whoever they are.”
The strategy has worked out well this season. Klingler has an on-base percentage of .516. She has also made consistent contact, striking out just once on the season and leading the team with seven home runs.
Despite batting at the top of the order, Klingler is tied for the team lead with 15 RBIs, a testament to both her own hitting abilities and those of the players batting before her at the bottom of the lineup.
So far, the team is batting .362 and reaching base at a .465 clip, 11th and seventh best in the nation, respectively.
“I feel like our lineup, we are seriously so well rounded,” Bates said. “There’s nowhere to really hide in our lineup. Coach Tarr, she knows what she’s doing, and wherever we are, that’s what’s supposed to happen.”
As much as Tarr likes to test out different lineups early in the season, once conference play rolls around, she usually stops the experiments and commits to her lineup.
In 2019, the last time Washington played a Pac-12 schedule, Tarr stuck with the same three bats at the top of the order for the last 21 games of the regular season and all throughout the postseason. Bates batted leadoff, followed by Morganne Flores and Sami Reynolds.
This year will likely be no different, with Klingler, Bates, Reynolds, and Flores highlighting the top four of the Washington order.
“Batting behind Baylee is awesome,” Bates said. “Throwing to Baylee, she’s unreal. I can’t imagine being a pitcher and throwing to Baylee, Morganne, and Sami. I can’t imagine that.”
Washington will get one more chance to experiment with the lineup this weekend, when it takes on Hawai'i in Honolulu. The first game is Friday, Mar. 5 with first pitch scheduled for 8 p.m.
After not playing Saturday or Sunday in San Diego, Tarr revealed that Reynolds was bothered by a foot injury. Tarr expects her back in the lineup this weekend with no limitations, though.
Senior Gabbie Plain was named the NFCA Pitcher of the Week, it was announced Tuesday. The senior struck out 36 batters in 20 2/3 innings this past weekend, allowing just one run. It marks the third time in Plain’s career that she has won the award. She was also the last UW pitcher to win the award, back in 2019.
Reach Assistant Sports Editor Anthony Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb
Like what you’re reading? Support high-quality student journalism by donating here.