If you were expecting venom, you mainly got smiles.
Washington softball coach Heather Tarr breathed out carbon dioxide Wednesday — not fire.
After the sixth-ranked Huskies drew a 16 seed for the NCAA Division I softball tournament, some probably wanted to see Tarr take a Louisville Slugger to the selection committee’s credibility. Only problem is that she’d have had to twist her head 180 degrees to do so. She’s only looking ahead.
What happened Sunday seemed like less of a mistake and more of a misdemeanor. Not only was Washington seeded at least 10 spots lower than where three major NCAA softball polls have them, they were below schools such as Arizona and Arizona State, who seemed to have far less impressive resum
This means if the Huskies escape the four-team regional they’re hosting — which runs Friday through Sunday — they’ll almost surely have to beat top seed and No. 1-ranked Oklahoma on the road to advance to the Women’s College World Series. Tarr’s reaction? Bring it.
“The game will go on. The game does not know what seed we are,” Tarr said. “The game doesn’t know anything but the fact that it will go on and we will be ready to compete and that we’re excited to be at home. We’re honored to have this opportunity again.”
Why react any other way at this point? Why go on a diatribe about disrespect the way other Pac-12 coaches did earlier in the week?
It’s not that those diatribes were unjustified. Arizona coach Mike Candrea and UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez ripping the committee for under-seeding Pac-12 teams was necessary.
Yes, their RPIs were lower than many of the teams seeded above them. But in a pandemic year, when scheduling highly ranked nonconference opponents was difficult, if not impossible at times, RPI probably shouldn’t have been given as much weight as it does in previous years.
But now that the grievances have been expressed, it’s on to the task at hand. It’s like when Tiger Woods would curse after a bad shot to get the anger out of his system, then restore his supreme focus for his next shot.
The Huskies appear to have been criminally under-seeded. Why not turn that frustration into fuel?
The truth is, they were likely going to have to play Oklahoma if they wanted to win the national title regardless of where they were seeded. Whether it’s in Norman (the Sooners’ home city) or Oklahoma City (site of the Women’s College World Series) is probably not of great significance.
The Huskies are beyond simply getting to WCWS, anyway. The program went three consecutive times from 2017-19, losing in the semifinals twice and in the championship series once.
The goal is winning it — not simply participating. And if they were to do it as a disrespected 16, wouldn’t that make it that much sweeter?
Of course, thinking about Oklahoma at this point would be a mistake, and probably not one the Huskies will make. In addition to Seattle U and Portland State, 20th-ranked Michigan will come to Seattle for this weekend’s regional.
That’s who the Huskies are focused on the moment.
“We’re just thinking about Friday,” UW outfielder Sami Reynolds said. “As you guys know, the postseason gives everyone a different feeling in their chest and in their brains and in their hearts, so I think in general we’re just looking forward to competing.”
And the Huskies have the horses to compete. They have Gabbie Plain (29-2) — possibly the best pitcher in the country — who won eight more games than any pitcher in the Pac-12, and whose 302 strikeouts were 67 more than second place. They have shortstop Sis Bates, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year who was a unanimous first-team All-American in 2019 (there was no All-American team last year.) They have infielder Baylee Klingler, whose .414 batting average is second in the Pac-12 and whose 16 home runs are fourth.
They have a team that can — and has — beat just about anyone.
So yeah, getting No. 16 seemed wrong, but that is in the past. Memories are made on the field, not during the selection show.
The Huskies were under-seeded. They don’t plan on underperforming.