Last season, Gabbie Plain admittedly struggled during non conference play, posting a career-worst 2.76 ERA in 10 starts.
This year, she made sure things got off to a different start, tossing a five-inning perfect game as the No. 2 Washington softball team knocked off Southern Utah in its season-opener, 8-0.
Seven strikeouts of Thunderbirds (0-1) batters highlighted Plain’s dominant performance as she added to her impressive collegiate résumé. In 64 career starts, Plain has thrown three no-hitters and two perfect games, joining Danielle Lawrie as the only Washington pitchers with multiple perfect games.
On the offensive side, the Huskies were just as dominant, tallying eight runs on 10 hits in just four innings at the plate.
Two Thunderbirds errors gave the Huskies an early opportunity in the first and a Kelley Lynch RBI double and Jadelyn Allchin RBI walk led to an early 3-0 lead.
A power surge followed in the second inning, as junior Baylee Klinger smacked a two-run home run that was followed by a solo shot by junior Sami Reynolds. The Huskies strung a few more hits together in the second to push the lead to 7-0.
Reynolds tacked on a second RBI in the third inning with a single to left as the Huskies put themselves in position to run-rule the Thunderbirds.
Plain closed the door in the top of the fifth with two straight strikeouts as she joined Lawrie as only the second Washington pitcher to open the season with a perfect game.
The strong start is a major change from last season when Plain struggled to readjust to collegiate rules. She spent much of the 2019-20 offseason preparing for the Tokyo Olympics with the Australian National Team, and upon her return, took many starts to get her feet back underneath her. A large number of illegal pitches were called against Plain and she looked uncharacteristically uncomfortable early in the year.
With Bubba Nickles returning to the UCLA roster this season, Plain will be key for Washington as it heads into Pac-12 play next month. If she can pitch like she did during her first two seasons at Washington, there is reason to believe the Huskies (2-0) can keep up with the Bruins and compete with anyone in the country.
Baylee Klingler saves the day versus Dixie State
The second game of the day wasn’t so perfect for the Huskies.
Facing Dixie State, the UW batters were unable to produce much against starter Carissa Burgess. Through five innings, the Huskies were shut out and only managed two hits off of the sophomore pitcher.
Despite the slow start, Lynch and relief pitcher Brooke Nelson were able to keep the Huskies in the game, striking out nine Trailblazers (0-1) batters. The Blazers were able to plate a run in the third inning off of Lynch to take a 1-0 lead.
It took until the sixth inning for the Huskies to finally muster something off of Burgess. Redshirt senior shortstop Sis Bates led off the inning with a slap single to shallow left field, putting the tying run aboard. Tying the game up wasn’t in the mind of Klingler, as she smacked her second home run of the day to put the Huskies up 2-1.
A SilentRain Espinoza sacrifice fly gave the Huskies an insurance run, but the Trailblazers wouldn’t go down without a fight.
The Trailblazers put runners on the corners with no outs in the top of the seventh inning to put pressure on Nelson. Head coach Heather Tarr then called on two relief pitchers, senior Pat Moore and freshman Sarah Willis, but they were unable to prevent damage, as Dixie State took a 5-3 lead.
Freshman outfielder Lilly Agan started the seventh inning rally with a leadoff single. A Taryn Atlee foul out and a fielder's choice brought up Klingler with the Huskies down to their final out.
For the second inning in a row, and third time on the day, Klingler launched a ball over the outfield wall, tying things up at 5-5. In just two games, Klingler is already more than halfway to her 2020 season total of five home runs.
A Sami Reynolds double, a hit batter, and two straight walks would plate the sixth and final run of the day for the Dawgs, as they beat the Trailblazers 6-5.
Washington will be back in action tomorrow morning with another game against Southern Utah at 10 a.m. The second game of the day will be at 3 p.m. versus tournament hosts UNLV.
Reach reporter Anthony Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb
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