On a summerlike evening in Seattle, the Washington softball team got hot early Thursday and breezed to an 8-0 victory in six innings over Iona in the NCAA regional tournament in front of 1,066 spectators at Husky Softball Stadium.
The 12th-seeded Huskies (34-13) next face Brigham Young, a 7-2 winner over Northwestern earlier in the day, Friday at 1 p.m. In the regional’s four-team, double-elimination format, the winner of that game Friday moves on to championship at noon Saturday.
Freshman shortstop Ali Aguilar ripped a grand slam in the first inning as Washington needed just six hits to get past Iona starter Carly Argyle, who yielded 10 walks.
Meanwhile, UW senior Kaitlin Inglesby was dominant against the Gaels (24-23), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion from New Rochelle, N.Y., giving up just a second-inning ground-ball single before retiring the final 14 batters she faced.
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Inglesby recorded five strikeouts with no walks to improve to 14-4.
“I struggled right off the bat and got three balls on the very first batter,” she said.
“Once I was able to settle down, get in my rhythm and throw good pitches in good spots, I think I was able to locate (pitches), and my defense really worked behind me. I was keeping them off balance, which is good.”
The Huskies, who have won 10 of their past 11 games, scored their first seven runs on just three hits in the first three innings as Argyle walked six.
In the first, an infield single by Victoria Hayward was followed by three walks, bringing Hayward in with UW’s first run. Aguilar then turned on a 3-1 pitch and drove it far beyond the wall in left-center for a 5-0 lead.
“I knew I had to get a good pitch to hit,” Aguilar said. “It came, middle-out, so I just swung.”
Two walks and an error to open the third gave Washington a 6-0 lead. A sacrifice fly brought in Kylee Lahners, aboard via her second walk of the night, for a 7-0 lead.
The Huskies stranded two base runners in both the fourth and fifth innings before they loaded the bases in the sixth on a single by Inglesby and two walks before Dani Braun was hit in the back to force in the decisive run for the eight-run margin for the mercy rule.
Coach Heather Tarr, who has won regional rounds in eight of her first nine seasons at UW, was pleased with her team’s play in its first game against a team outside the tough Pac-12 in two months.
“There are a couple of things we’re going to continue to emphasize — that is, getting a good pitch to hit and swinging at the ones you’re supposed to,” she said.
“We don’t gauge the opponent, ever. We just want to play Husky softball, and this team makes it pretty easy to do that. We want to continue to improve. As long as we’re improving and getting better with every single opportunity, that’s all we’re trying to focus on right now.”
In the early game, BYU (34-21) held one of the nation’s better offenses to just four hits to win its 16th consecutive game. The Cougars, with five freshmen starters, scored five in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run double by Mercedes O’Connor. Northwestern (33-17) entered the game ranked ninth in Division I in batting average but managed just two runs in the fifth.
Northwestern (33-17) and Iona meet Friday at 3:30 in an elimination game.