Offensive struggles against softball’s top pitchers continued for No. 5 Washington versus Stanford on Friday evening.
The Huskies’ offense was incapable of stringing hits together against Cardinal ace Alana Vawter, who carried a shutout into the sixth inning, as the UW lost, 4-1.
Starting her second consecutive game, Washington senior pitcher Gabbie Plain (28-2), was less-than herself, allowing four runs, three of which were earned, on six hits across six innings.
It seemed as if Plain was going to repeat Thursday’s shutout performance, throwing a 1-2-3 first inning, but as the Cardinal (31-19, 9-11 Pac-12) saw more pitches, they began to build confidence.
In the second inning, two straight hard hits gave Stanford a 1-0 lead. After it looked like Plain was going to escape the second inning, second baseman Taryn Atlee committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt which allowed another run to score, lining up Plain for just her second loss of the season.
Junior Baylee Klingler had the UW’s only two hits until the sixth inning.
Washington’s only run came in the sixth, when senior Noelle Hee cut the Stanford lead in half with an RBI-single.
A killer blow came in the bottom of the inning, though, when Eleni Spirakis hit a two-run home run, extending the Cardinal lead to 4-1 and essentially slamming the door on the Huskies’ (40-11, 17-5) comeback attempt.
Vawter (21-8) finished what she started, throwing a 1-2-3 top of the seventh to give Stanford its first win versus Washington since 2017.
Washington’s loss opened the door for UCLA to win the Pac-12. The Huskies will finish second in the conference, regardless of the outcome of the rest of the series against the Cardinal.
Game 2 struggles continue for UW
The non-conference game of doubleheaders has been a problem all season long for the Huskies. Without Plain in the circle, Washington has looked for other pitchers to get the job done, but has little success from its younger arms.
With sophomore Kelley Lynch in the circle in Game 2, the struggles continued.
For the first time all season, the Huskies lost back-to-back games of a doubleheader, being run-ruled by the Cardinal, 8-0.
Lynch (5-7) has not recorded a win since April 6, as her ERA continues to blossom. Walks were again a problem for the rise ball pitcher, who was tagged for one run in the first inning after a walk and a near-home run put Stanford ahead.
In the second inning, the Cardinal continued to swing the bat well.
A triple and a double put another run across, as Lynch was removed after just 1-plus innings of work. Her ERA now sits at 4.50.
Freshman Sarah Willis was then called upon to clean up the mess. Although she didn’t allow another ball to leave the infield, a run scored on a groundout, extending the Cardinal lead to 3-0.
Disaster struck in the third inning. The Cardinal chased Willis, took advantage of some poor defense from the UW, and jumped on sophomore relief pitcher Brooke Nelson, pushing their lead to 7-0 and essentially putting a dagger into the heart of the Huskies.
One more run in the bottom of the fourth put the run-rule into play, and with offense continuing to be a problem for Washington, the game ended prematurely.
Despite putting runners on in four of five innings, the UW had no answer for Cardinal senior Maddy Dwyer (3-1), who became the first pitcher to shut out the Huskies since San Diego State’s Maggie Balint on Feb. 26.
With two losses to a Stanford squad that carries a losing record in Pac-12 play, Washington might regret its performance come Sunday when the NCAA Tournament bracket is released.
Top-eight seeds are rewarded as host sites for Super Regionals, should they advance to the second weekend, and the Huskies are likely to be on the edge following the two losses to the Cardinal.
Ranked No. 4 in the USA Softball Poll and No. 5 in the NFCA Coaches Poll, the UW will surely drop down now. More concerning is its RPI, in which it is ranked 14th.
Washington’s final chance to add to its resume comes Saturday, May 15 at 3 p.m. in the rubber match of the Pac-12 games with Stanford.
Reach Co-Sports Editor Anthony Edwards at email@example.com. Twitter: @edwardsanthonyb
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