Everything looks clearer to Kylee Lahners this season.
The junior third baseman, wearing glasses this year for the first time in her career, stroked a no-doubt home run over the left-field wall in the first inning to help lift the Washington softball team to a 5-2 win over Utah Friday night in its Pac-12 opener and first home game of the season in front of 799 at Husky Softball Stadium.
Lahners and seniors Hooch Fagaly and Marki Creger-Zier each had two hits as the fifth-ranked Huskies (20-4, 1-0 Pac-12) produced 10 hits to back up senior Bryana Walker’s four-hitter against the Utes (9-9, 0-1), the Pac-12’s last-place team in 2013.
Lahners is hitting .437 and leads UW with 10 home runs and 35 RBI. She had three homers and 13 RBI in each of the first two weekends this season. Some credit goes to her specs, which she began wearing in fall practice.
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“It’s a new thing this year,” said the Laguna Hills, Calif., native. “I realized my eyes were not the best. I can’t really see far away, so I’d say it’s helping big time this year.”
How so? “Seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand,” she said. “From a defensive standpoint, seeing the ball off the bat, I can see a lot clearer. It’s not something blurry that’s coming at me; I can actually see the speed of the ball. Good eyes help.”
On a full count, Lahners parked a changeup deep to left. “Something slow and low,” she said. “The umpire called a low change earlier in that at-bat and I thought, ‘’OK, if it’s low again, don’t leave it up to the umpire.’ Just take a hack.”
Utah tied the score at 2-2 in the top of the second, aided by an obstruction call on UW’s infield during a rundown. In the bottom of the inning, junior second baseman Kelli Suguro powered a ball off the wall in right-center to drive in Creger-Zier for a 3-2 lead. Suguro, a Kentridge grad, also made a diving catch of a soft liner in shallow right with two runners on to end the sixth.
UW went up 4-2 in the fourth on a pinch-hit single to center by Dani Braun, scoring freshman shortstop Ali Aguilar from second. In the fifth inning, a one-out double to right by Fagaly drove in Victoria Hayward from first for the final run. Hayward gunned down a runner at home from center in the first inning.
Walker walked three and struck out two in six innings to raise her record to 12-2. Kaitlin Inglesby struck out two while throwing 27 pitches in the seventh for her first save of the season.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Walker said. “It’s definitely not the best game I’ve pitched all season, but it was good enough to win.
“I think the first couple of innings for all of us were a bit rocky. It was our first time on our home field. We’re a little bit nervous, really excited. I think all of us collectively settled down and there was an entire deep breath — ‘OK, let’s go.’ ”