NORMAN, Okla. — Gabbie Plain finally met her match Saturday afternoon.
After containing No. 1 Oklahoma on Friday, allowing just three earned runs, the senior for the No. 16 Washington softball team pitched the worst game of her career Saturday against the Sooners’ juggernaut offense. Unable to keep the ball in the park, the Huskies’ season drew to a close in the Norman Super Regional by way of a 9-1 run-ruling.
“We really were out-dueled by Oklahoma and a really good team,” Washington head coach Heather Tarr said. “Quite possibly one through nine in a lineup some of the best offensive players that are in the game. When you have to deal with that two days in a row, no matter who you are… it’s a very challenging lineup to deal with.”
Despite losing Game 1 by two runs Friday, the Huskies (45-14, 18-5 Pac-12) could’ve, or even should’ve, been leading the series heading into Saturday. They challenged the Sooners (50-10 16-1 Big 12) unlike many other teams this season, limiting the OU’s record-breaking offense to just five hits, but lost by way of many self-inflicted wounds.
Saturday’s loss was a whole different story.
The Sooners jumped on the Huskies early and often, putting up runs in all five innings, tallying 11 hits, and scoring six runs against Plain (32-4), the most she’s allowed in her Washington career.
Similarly to Friday, the Sooner half of the first inning was quite eventful.
Two straight hits opened the game and immediately put the pressure on Plain and the UW defense. Following an out of the box call on OU’s Jayda Coleman to get the first out of the inning, Sooner fans began begging for a call, an illegal pitch call on Plain, to go their way.
Although she was never called for it, the chanting definitely had its effects.
Plain looked awkward on her ensuing windup, launching a wild pitch, only her 6th of the year, high over the head of catcher Morganne Flores, and Oklahoma’s Tiare Jennings hustled home to open the scoring.
Despite the 1-0 deficit, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning was a positive sign for Plain after the wild pitch, escaping trouble as she had all season long.
Plain’s fortunes wouldn’t quite be the same in the second inning.
Living down in the zone to stay away from the powerful OU hitters, Plain struggled to get strike calls for borderline pitches. Another hit and three straight walks brought in the game’s second run, and for the first time all season Plain looked lost in the circle.
“Maybe it wasn’t a low strike zone, it was a high strike zone,” Tarr said. “So you’ve gotta figure out how to pitch to that and there’s really no excuse other than making the adjustment.”
Looking for answers, the Huskies went to left-handed senior pitcher Pat Moore in the third inning to spell Plain and give the Sooners a different look.
The move nearly worked, as Moore got two quick outs, but then the strength of the Sooner lineup emerged.
After Nicole Mendez worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch, eight-hole hitter Jana Johns hit the Sooners’ first home run of the game, a mammoth shot to left-center field, putting the Huskies into a giant 4-0 deficit.
The UW offense didn’t do much in the way of supporting its pitchers, as OU senior Shannon Saile (17-0) dominated, allowing just one run on four hits.
Washington’s only inning with multiple hits, and its only run, came in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Jadelyn Allchin hit a ball off the wall in left-center field, setting the stage for junior Baylee Klingler’s RBI-single to left two batters later that cut the lead to 4-1.
Moore stayed in for the top of the fourth inning, but issued a four pitch walk to the first batter of the inning.
Desperate to stop the bleeding, Washington brought Plain back in to face OU senior Jocelyn Alo. Much like Friday, Alo got the better of Plain, hitting her 30th home run of the season to right-center. The long ball made it 6-1 and was a gut punch to the Huskies after their offense looked to be getting going.
The home runs didn’t stop there, as Kinzie Hansen followed two batters later with her own fence-clearing smash, jumping all over Plain for the Sooners’ seventh run.
Fifth inning production brought the OU lead to 9-1 and put the Sooners just three outs away from victory with the run-rule in play.
Washington tried to extend the game in the bottom of the inning, nearly doing so.
In her final collegiate at-bat, Sis Bates did what she does best, slapping a ball just over the infield for a single to give Klingler another chance.
With two outs and Bates running, it looked like the Huskies might cut into the deficit. Klingler hit a line drive to right field, but Mendez made a fantastic leaping catch, ending the game, and Washington’s season, in dramatic fashion.
“I’m proud of the way that we competed and we gave it our all in that last inning,” Tarr said. “We were one inch away from possibly extending the game to get another opportunity to see what we could do.”
For Washington’s fifth-year seniors Sis, Flores, Kaija Gibson, and Taryn Atlee, their careers conclude in disappointment, as it is the first time since 2015 the Huskies have failed to advance to the Women’s College World Series.
“Super proud of our seniors and the legacy that they’ve left,” Tarr said. “A majority of them, four of them, had to wait a whole year to make this thing happen, and I can’t say enough about their leadership and the legacy that they’ve left in this program. Not only on the field and what they’ve done, but off the field and who they are as people and how they lead.”
Reach Co-Sports Editor Anthony Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb
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