Heather Tarr said with a bit of a knowing smile that the Husky softball program chose not to have a network camera trained on it during this year’s NCAA tournament selection show.

It was a year ago that Tarr, UW’s coach, had her players walk out of the room when the Huskies were bafflingly — and infuriatingly — underseeded by the committee. With ESPN’s cameras rolling for what had been expected to be a celebration, they filed silently out when the Huskies, despite being rated fifth in the national polls and posting a 41-11 record, got a No. 16 seed. That doomed them to a Super Regional trip to No. 1 Oklahoma, where they were swept in the best-of-three series.

Longtime Husky softball announcer Mike Brown, who was an eyewitness, described the scene in his new book, “Painting A Purple Picture: 25 Years Calling Play-By-Play For The Washington Huskies Softball Team”:

When Kentucky was announced at #14, Heather had seen enough. She was livid, raising her voice for all to hear. In 24 years, I had never seen her so upset. She told the team to walk out when they were announced and shown on TV. ASU was #15. Then Washington at #16.

‘Let’s go,’ said Heather, and the team, on national TV, walked out. No display of excitement like the other teams. No looking at the camera. Just a straight path to the door. Heather stood in the aisleway staring at the camera with arms crossed until ESPN changed the shot, then she left.

By contrast, Tarr said “the room jumped for joy” Sunday when the Huskies were announced as a No. 13 seed, more in line with their No. 10 national ranking. The Huskies’ RPI, cited as a prime culprit for the low seed last year, had improved by virtue of their typically aggressive nonconference schedule, which had been curtailed by COVID in 2021.


“We weren’t sure,” Tarr said of their seeding. “You never know what’s going to happen in these times. I mean, assumptions only get you so far.”

The Huskies will be favored in their regional beginning Friday at Husky Softball Stadium against Texas, Lehigh and Weber State. The winner likely will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to face fourth-seeded Arkansas — a team the Huskies beat twice in a February tournament in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Tarr calls this one of her favorite teams to coach in her decorated career that includes seven trips to the World Series, a national title in 2009 and a runner-up finish in 2018. She believes the Huskies have yet to play their best softball. Any team with two-time All-American Gabbie Plain on the mound and National Player of the Year finalist Baylee Klingler in the batter’s box has a chance to go far — if not all the way — despite some bumpy spots this season.

“I think this team has every reason to believe in itself,” she said.

Tarr would like to see the Huskies strike a blow for the Pac-12, which has seen its place in the national hierarchy wane somewhat in recent years despite a title by UCLA in 2019. It’s a topic she has strong feelings about, centered on her belief that the conference needs to do more to promote the sport.

“The conference absolutely needs to reassert itself,” she said, “without getting on my pulpit and speaking with regards to the Pac-12 Network and how much more it could actually do for softball specifically. All the sports, but softball — it’s kind of ripe for the taking now.


“We are not being showcased as we should. Our broadcasts aren’t commensurate with our level of play. And that’s no disrespect to those that are producing; it’s just a standard fact.”

Tarr has an investment in the growth of softball overall as the coach of the U.S. women’s national team, an honor bestowed on her in October. And she has a passionate belief in the sport based on a lifetime spent immersed in it, first as a player and then as coach.

“Our sport is beautiful,” she said. “It’s beautifully played on TV, and we’re lucky for that. We’re just lucky to be a part of the growth of it, because I think it’s still scratching the surface for what it can be and what it will be in the future.”

Top-seeded Oklahoma (49-2) will be favored to defend its national title (with the Huskies well aware that one of the powerhouse Sooners’ two losses was to UW’s regional foe, Texas). UCLA, Arizona State and the Huskies all drew regional seeds, and four other Pac-12 teams made the 64-team field. The SEC blew everyone away with 12 tournament teams, which is telling to Tarr.

“We (the Pac-12) decided to add softball in ’94, and the SEC added softball in the late ‘90s,” she said. “I think maybe about 10 years into it, their conference decided, ‘We’re going to push this.’ I kind of see softball as like the little sister to football in that conference. They definitely see it as something that’s hopeful and something big behind it, regardless of what the NCAA contracts have with TV and all that kind of stuff.”

Tarr would love to see the Pac-12 give softball that same kind of nudge, a sentiment that has already been conveyed to new commissioner George Kliavkoff. And even though the cameras were off Sunday, she hopes that when they start to roll Friday, the Huskies are ready to showcase some postseason highlights of their own.