For the second time in three days, the Huskies shut out the two-time defending champions and one of college softball's most explosive offenses to advance to the Women's College World Series finals.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The term Husky softball has been thrown around this week with great regularity by members of the Washington softball team. For those outside of the Pacific Northwest it may have just come off a sports jargon or nothing to take seriously.
But that is no longer the case. After UW beat Oklahoma 3-0 Sunday in the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series, people are starting to understand exactly what the phrase means.
“We’re just playing Husky softball. We’ve been playing Husky softball all year long,” UW’s Julia DePonte said. “We’ve had a couple losses that were a little rough along the way, and I think that helped us a lot. But we’re here because we’re playing Husky softball. That’s what led us here. Now we’re working together, and it’s like we’re all together, together, together. I mean, that’s it. That’s why we’re here. It’s not really a feeling, it’s just we’re playing Husky softball. It’s always a team effort every time.”
Washington will play in the WCWS Championship series starting Monday night at USA Hall of Fame Stadium. The fifth-seeded Huskies will take Florida State.
Most Read Sports Stories
- Gonzaga legend and Basketball Hall of Famer John Stockton draws ire for anti-vaccine comments
- Zion Tupuola-Fetui announces he'll return to UW for fifth season in 2022: 'Let's go to work'
- Seahawks position review: Russell Wilson is still the Seahawks quarterback for now. But who will be behind him?
- Here's how the overtime NFL playoff game between the Chiefs and Bills could have been even better
- Awe and regret: Looking back at new Hall of Famer David Ortiz’s roots in the Mariners organization
The Huskies took a three-run advantage into the bottom of the seventh inning. Oklahoma had one last chance to keep its three-peat hopes alive with the bottom of their order coming to bat. But the Sooners would have to first figure out junior hurler Taran Alvelo, who had shut them down for six innings.
OU’s Caleigh Clifton dropped in a bloop single to start the inning. Alvelo then slipped and threw a wild pitch that sent Clifton to second. Not the start the Huskies wanted.
But Alvelo settled in and got back to work. She struck out Kelsey Arnold and got Lea Wodach and Sydney Romero to ground out and end the game.
In seven innings of work, Alvelo allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked none. It was the second time in three days the Huskies silenced one of college softball’s most potent offenses.
“I don’t think it was so much that things were working for me. I think it was things were working for us as a team, and I knew what my part was, and I knew I had to go out there and execute,” Alvelo said. “I owe it all to these people that are sitting next to me and the rest of the team because no matter how good I pitch, sometimes it’s just not enough. The love and everything I get from every single one of these people is what keeps me going.
“At this point in the season, it’s all or nothing.”
With Alvelo pitching a complete game, it allowed freshman Gabbie Plain to get two full days off and have her ready for Game 1 of the championship series.
“We need her. We are not where we are today without her” UW coach Heather Tarr said. “Gabbie Plain has had a phenomenal season, and she’s amazing too. We’re not Washington without Taran Alvelo. She has performed how she’s needed to perform every time we’ve given her the ball. We’re going to ride her, just like we’ll ride Gabbie the whole way we have them.”
The Huskies (52-8) struck first in the bottom of the first inning. With Sis Bates on first, DePonte singled to right field to knock in a run.
UW’S Kirstyn Thomas came up with a single into right, but instead of staying at second, DePonte tried to take third and was thrown out. OU’s Paige Lowary got out of the inning without giving up any more damage, but the Sooners (57-5) trailed 1-0. The Huskies have outscored opponents 65-9 in the first inning this season.
In the third inning, Lowary gave up a hit and that was enough for coach Patty Gasso. She brought in four-time All-American Paige Parker to take over the pitching duties.
After Parker got an out, she allowed Deponte to single to centerfield, which put runners on first and third. Two batters later Noelle Hee singled into right field to bring home a run.
The Huskies held a 2-0 advantage.
Alvelo found herself in a jam in the fifth inning when she put two runners on. Oklahoma’s Shay Knighten came to bat with two outs on the board and hit a liner into right field that looked like it was going to fall in for a hit. But, just like the last time the two teams met, Melhart came up with the diving catch to preserve the 2-0 lead.
“Your instincts just kick in in that moment and you just go for it,” Melhart said. “Luckily I caught the ball. I knew if I didn’t, that my centerfielder Kelly (Burdick) would be behind me to back me up.”
DePonte added to the Huskies’ hysteria in the fifth with a towering solo homer off Parker that landed in the centerfield bleachers.
“I just think that this whole week has been a process for me, and this whole year has been a process, just about like hitting and stuff,” DePonte said. “You know, you’re nervous. There are a lot of people out there. It’s like a home crowd for them. The first two days I was a little jittery, nervous, and then I just went internally like, ‘hey, you can do this. You’ve been here. I’ve played my whole life.’”