Despite managing just one hit, the Washington softball team used two clutch at-bats by Kaitlin Inglesby and 13 strikeouts by Bryana Walker...
Despite managing just one hit, the Washington softball team used two clutch at-bats by Kaitlin Inglesby and 13 strikeouts by Bryana Walker to pick up a 2-1 win over Portland State in its NCAA regional opener Friday night in front of 1,085 at Husky Softball Stadium.
“We definitely don’t want to make a habit of this,” UW coach Heather Tarr said, “but the right team won tonight.”
The Huskies (38-14), seeded No. 11 in the NCAA tournament, advance to play Hawaii (44-11) Saturday at 1 p.m. in a pivotal game in the double-elimination format.
The winner of that game moves into Sunday’s championship game at 1 p.m. The loser will play a must-win game Saturday at 6 p.m. against the winner of a 3:30 p.m. game between Portland State (25-30) and Minnesota (35-18).
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Hawaii, ranked 20th in the latest coaches’ poll, defeated Minnesota 3-0 earlier Friday.
Walker (15-7), on the upswing after a Pac-12 campaign where she went 3-4 in 12 starts, effectively mixed pitches throughout the strike zone Friday night, fanning the first four batters she faced. She walked none, allowed just three hits and struck out at least two batters in five of her seven innings.
Yet Portland State went ahead 1-0 in the top of the fourth when senior Carly McEachran, a Jackson High School graduate, sent a 2-2 pitch arcing high down the left-field line until it curved around the foul pole for a home run.
“I was just telling myself to see a good pitch and swing hard,” McEachran said.
Walker, who set a career high in strikeouts, shrugged at the memory.
“Sometimes you miss a spot and it gets hit,” she said. “I left that ball a little bit up, and that ball that was a little bit up went a little bit higher and a little bit out.”
A deflating moment?
“The first thing Shawna (Wright, her catcher) said to me was, ‘Hey, we’re going to get you a run.’ I never doubted that for a second,” Walker said.
“When the situation got tougher, she got tougher,” Tarr said. “It could be easy to cave when you gave up a big home run, but she believed in herself to keep the team on her back, and the team believed in her enough to score her a run.
“I feel it made the team mad. The fact that we answered right away sent a message.”
The Huskies tied it in the bottom of the fourth when Hooch Fagaly walked and Inglesby, UW’s RBI leader, ripped a double to right-center, bringing home pinch-runner Marki Creger-Zier.
In the fifth, two walks and an error loaded the bases for Inglesby. Portland State pitcher Anna Bertrand (21-16) got Inglesby in an 0-2 hole, but Inglesby reached out and poked the next pitch to center for a sacrifice fly, bringing home Jennine McNeill.
“We weren’t satisfied with what we had been doing leading up to that,” Inglesby said, recalling when UW went down 1-0. “At that moment, we said we had better step up right now. It’s the offense’s turn to get us back in it so Bry can shut it down.”