Can history repeat?
Last year, a junior-dominated Washington softball team entered the NCAA tournament seeded modestly at No. 11. The Huskies then won three straight regional games at home, swept a super regional on the road against the No. 6 seed (Missouri) and came within a win of advancing to the championship series of the Women’s College World Series.
This year, a senior-heavy Washington squad is seeded No. 12. Like last year, the Huskies rolled to three straight regional wins and are now headed east again, this time to Gainesville, Fla., where they will face fifth-seeded Florida in a best-of-three super regional.
Like last year, the Huskies have gotten hot late, winning 12 of their past 13. Can UW count on another strong finishing kick to repeat last year’s late surge?
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“From the outside looking in, yeah, it’s very similar,” coach Heather Tarr said, acknowledging the mirrored patterns of the past two seasons. “We’re the underdog again. We have to go and prove ourselves.
“But we don’t have to be different than we are right now. We just have continue to improve with every single opportunity that we have, to play our game. We’ll be ready for it.”
Tarr thinks of her team’s season as a “process,” a series of lesson-learning experiences. Key among them: adapting to injuries at catcher that for a time hindered consistency at the position.
Despite unexpected nonconference losses in February and a 2-6 start in Pac-12 play, Tarr believes UW, at 36-13, is edging closer to becoming a finished product. Like last year, it’s happening at an ideal time.
“There were times when we struggled,” said Tarr, 39, who has guided UW into the tournament’s sweet-16 round nine times in her 10-year tenure. “We’ve recovered from that and learned so much. The sky doesn’t fall when you’re 2-6.
“If you don’t have those struggles then, you may have them later, and you definitely don’t want to have struggles against teams when you’re in the championship segment.”
Senior pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby says self-doubt has not been an issue for UW, even after falling to 2-6 in March after three straight losses to Oregon, the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
“Coming home on the bus ride from Eugene, I don’t think the look in my teammates’ eyes ever showed that we were done or that we didn’t believe in ourselves,” she said. “We knew, yeah, we might not be there right now, but we were going there. It’s cool now to see how far we’ve come.”
• Florida (48-11), like UW, struggled early in conference play. The Gators stood at just 5-6 after their first four weeks of SEC games. Another similarity: Florida dominated three regional opponents, outscoring them 29-0. UW trounced its foes 26-0.
• UW defeated Florida twice in the championship series of the 2009 World Series.
|Huskies vs. Florida|
|Washington travels to Florida to meet the Gators in the NCAA softball super regional round this weekend.|
|Rank (coaches poll)||8||6|
|Conference finish||5th (13-9)||T-3rd (15-9)|
|Conference record low||2-6||5-6|
|Batting average (natl. rank)||.328 (10th)||.311 (31st, tie)|
|Earned-run average (natl. rank)||1.85 (12th, tie)||2.05 (20th)|
|Fielding percentage||.977 (5th, tie)||.979 (1st, tie)|
|Super regionals since 2005||9||7|
|CWS appearances since 2005||4||4|
|Combined score, regional||26-0||29-0|