There’s a book called Accidental Genius by a man named Mark Levy, who encourages using writing to generate brilliant ideas.
I’m wondering if he might pen a follow-up called Accidental Geniuses, which would center on what the NCAA Division I Softball selection committee did to Washington.
I don’t know how jacked up the city of Seattle would be for the upcoming super regional under normal circumstances. Considering the Huskies have made the Women’s College World Series in each of the past three seasons, I imagine the casual sports fan’s interest might not be piqued until UW punched its ticket to Oklahoma City.
But this matchup against top-seeded Oklahoma is different. This best-of-three series on the road is personal. The perpetually mighty Huskies have become a Cinderella thanks to the stepmother that is the selection committee.
This isn’t a column about the disrespect the committee showed Washington by slapping it with a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament earlier this month. That opinion has been expressed in this space and myriad others. This is about the idea of a city rallying behind a team that has a chance to make its most memorable run in program history. And it would start with what has to be the most anticipated super regional in the country.
Washington already reeled in fans with its theatrics in last weekend’s regional. It needed two straight wins vs. Michigan after losing its opening game vs. the Wolverines, and came back from four runs down in the third game to beat them.
If the seven innings in the third contest was a musical, the seven-run fourth inning was the showstopper. Twelve batters, six hits. Just as people may have started thinking the committee was right, the Huskies grabbed a megaphone and shouted them down. As UW coach Heather Tarr said after the game: “We have a bunch of bad blank women on this team that want to win.”
But wanting to win and actually beating the top-ranked team in the country are wildly different. The Sooners didn’t have much drama in their regional. They smashed Morgan State 19-0 in their opener, beat Wichita State 7-5 in their next game, then destroyed Wichita State 24-7 in their second meeting. Not surprising given that Oklahoma is 48-2 on the season and have won via mercy rule 33 times. The Huskies, by contrast, have won 13 games by mercy rule.
But the Huskies also have Gabbie Plain — likely their best pitcher since Danielle Lawrie, who willed UW to the national title in 2009. Plain’s 331 strikeouts are the second most in the nation, and she’ll likely take over the top spot now that Georgina Cornick (333 strikeouts) and her South Florida Bulls are out of the tournament.
Plain is the reason the Huskies’ 45-12 record might not look so slight compared to the Sooners’ 48-2. She, after all, is 32-3.
Still, Oklahoma may be more unstoppable than Plain is immovable. The Sooners have three of the nation’s top 12 players for home runs per game, including No. 1 Jocelyn Alo (28 total homers, .56 per game), and No. 2 (tie) Tiare Jennings (25 homers). They average 11.52 runs per game — 3.9 more than any other team in the nation (and almost twice as many as the Huskies’ 5.89) — and that’s with 33 of their games cut short.
There’s a buzzsaw, and then there’s a giant juggling three buzzsaws at once. That’s essentially what Washington is up against.
But as a fan, would you want it any different?
If the Huskies — ranked sixth in the country — drew a No. 14 seed, there would have been some complaints, but the story wouldn’t have blown up the way it did. If Washington was facing, say, third-seeded Alabama, there would intrigue, but not to the level that Oklahoma produces. This is as super as a super regional can get around here. And if the Huskies win and advance to the WCWS, my guess is a lot of people in the area will be glad the selection committee seeded them where they did.
Tarr said last week that the game doesn’t know who’s seeded where. This is true. But the people do. Now those people get to see if the Huskies can prove they were as disrespected as they thought.