The Huskies open the NCAA softball tournament on Friday against Portland State.
In 2009, the third-seeded Washington softball team won the NCAA championship but played every postseason game on the road. Why? Husky Softball Stadium had no lights, and thus no scheduling flexibility to fill night slots on ESPN’s programming schedule.
Donors ponied up to get lights installed before the 2010 season. Since then, Washington has hosted a four-team regional during the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament each year. A fourth straight regional on UW’s home turf opens Friday.
Washington has not lost a game in the past three regionals, going 3-0 each weekend. This year’s challenge, though, could be tougher.
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The 11th-seeded Huskies (38-15) open at 6 p.m. Friday against Big Sky champ Portland State, an unimposing 25-29. A looming hurdle could come Saturday if UW is matched against Hawaii.
The Rainbow Wahine (43-11) are ranked No. 20 in the most recent coaches poll (UW is No. 11) and feature a pitcher, senior Kaia Parnaby of Australia, who shares the Division I lead in victories (37-5). Senior outfielder Kelly Majam is the active NCAA career leader in home runs (72).
Hawaii is the only Big West team in the 64-team tournament. The Pac-12 has eight, the SEC 11. Hawaii and UW split two games at a tournament in February, and Hawaii defeated Pac-12 champion Oregon, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, on Feb. 16.
Washington coach Heather Tarr says UW’s strengths are pitching and fielding. Junior ace Kaitlin Inglesby (21-7, 2.01 earned-run average) went 13-4 in Pac-12 play. Junior Bryana Walker (15-7, 3.11) went 3-4 in conference games after bearing the majority of the nonconference load.
“Pitching is keeping us in games,” Tarr said. “Bryana has thrown great in her last couple of outings. The combination of the two of them is nice to have. We’re looking to continue to get reliable performances from them and just worry about putting runs on the board.”
• UW is hitting .315 as a team, 23rd in the country. Top hitters are juniors Victoria Hayward (.374), Hooch Fagaly (.368), Inglesby (.361) and Kentridge grad Kelli Suguro (.324). Hayward, Fagaly and Inglesby earned first-team All-Pacific Region and All-Pac-12 honors this week.
• Pac-12 schools have won 23 of the past 30 NCAA titles (UCLA 11, Arizona 8, Arizona State 2, UW and California 1 each). But just three Pac-12 teams are seeded this year; UCLA and Arizona, which played for the title in 2010, are unseeded and playing on the road this weekend. The three seeded Pac-12 teams are Oregon, Arizona State and UW. Last year, six were seeded.
|Washington’s record under coach Heather Tarr in the NCAA softball tournament:|
|*Regional round played at UW.|