Victoria Hayward slammed a home run on the third pitch the Huskies saw and right-handers Bryana Walker and Kaitlin Inglesby combined on a two-hit shutout to lift the Huskies to a series-clinching 1-0 victory over Missouri in an NCAA Super Regional.
COLUMBIA, Mo. — By her admission, University of Washington junior outfielder Victoria Hayward is not a power hitter.
“I think I’m better when I’m playing more of a short game,” she said. “Long balls and homers aren’t really my strengths.”
Hayward picked a perfect time to reverse that trend and flex some newfound muscles.
She slammed a home run on the third pitch the Huskies saw and right-handers Bryana Walker and Kaitlin Inglesby combined on a two-hit shutout Friday to lift the Huskies to a series-clinching 1-0 victory over Missouri in an NCAA Super Regional at University Field.
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Washington (43-15), which won the opener of the best-of-three series, 2-1, in eight innings Thursday, advances to the Women’s College World Series for the 11th time in school history.
The Huskies will face the winner of the Oregon Super Regional in the double-elimination WCWS, which begins Thursday in Oklahoma City. Oregon faces Nebraska beginning tomorrow.
Hayward also had the game-winning RBI in Game 1 — a ringing double in extra frames. A left-handed leadoff hitter known for slapping her way on base, Hayward finished 4 for 6 with two RBI against Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas (24-6), one of the top pitchers in the nation.
“Victoria came through all weekend long,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said. “As a leadoff hitter, she hasn’t had too many opportunities.
“But she got a chance to shine this weekend.”
Hayward slammed a 2-0 offering over the right-field wall before many in the crowd of 1,351 had a chance to settle into their seats.
“I was just looking for a hard pitch to square up,” Hayward said. “I got the one I was looking for.”
Hayward’s blow was more than enough for the deadly one-two pitching duo of Walker and Inglesby. Walker, who pitched two innings of hitless relief on Thursday, started Friday and carried a no-hitter into the sixth before giving up back-to-back singles to Emily Crane and Jenna Martson.
Inglesby, who threw six innings and allowed one run in Game 1, came on to end the threat. She promptly mowed through the heart of the Missouri order, inducing three successive ground outs.
“The best part of (Walker) and I as a pitching staff is that no one is the No. 1 starter and no one is the No. 1 reliever,” Inglesby said. “We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get this team through seven innings.”
Walker and Inglesby received plenty of defensive help. Sophomore outfielder Kylee Lahners robbed Mackenzie Sykes of a two-run homer in the first inning, a play that ended up saving the game. Lahners sprinted to the deepest part of the park and reached over the wall to haul in the long drive.
“I just went back to the fence and said, ‘Wow, this is going to go over,’ ” she said. “I tried to get my glove up there and I just reached over and got it.”
Walker (19-7) was so impressed that she sprinted to the outfield to congratulate her teammate on the inning-ending play.
“I had to go give her a great big hug after that,” Walker said.
Washington is making its first trip to Oklahoma City since finishing third in 2010. The Huskies, who won the national title in 2009, had lost in Super Regional play each of the past two seasons.
Tarr’s crew is 5-0 in postseason play this season and has outscored its opponents 15-2.
“I couldn’t be more proud of a group of people that I’ve coached, and I’ve coached some pretty good ones,” Tarr said.