Just when it looked like the Washington softball team might have given away its NCAA regional opener Friday night, the Huskies took it back.
Washington responded from a four-error top of the fifth inning that allowed Lehigh to take a one-run lead by bringing out the big bats.
Freshman Kinsey Fiedler hit a homer to right field to tie it in the bottom of the fifth, and junior Jadelyn Allchin followed shortly after with a three-run homer to right field.
Senior Baylee Klingler added a three-run homer to center and not long after that Washington was celebrating a 9-2 victory at Husky Softball Stadium that was much more intense than the final score indicated.
“The biggest thing for us was there was more game to be played and how they scored was on us,” said UW coach Heather Tarr about the message she gave her team after it fell behind 2-1. “Just play the game and get ready to hit.”
That’s what the Huskies (36-15) did, improving to 35-1 in home NCAA regional games since Tarr became head coach in 2005, and will play at 2 p.m. Saturday against Texas (39-17-1), which advanced to the winners’ side of the bracket with a 6-0 win over Weber State (38-11).
One of the top priorities for the Washington softball team this season was to develop reliable pitchers to back up ace Gabbie Plain.
Tarr said earlier in the week that she felt that had been accomplished and proved Friday night that wasn’t just talk, giving the ball to junior Kelley Lynch and to fifth-year senior Pat Moore before bringing in Plain in the mistake-filled top of the fifth inning.
Lynch, the 2019 national high-school player of the year, battled through 3 1/3 scoreless innings, and Moore was cruising until the defense let her down.
Moore, entering the game with runners on first and second and one out in the fourth inning, promptly got a pair of strikeouts.
Moore got a quick out in the fifth, then struck out the next hitter, Carley Barjaktarovich. But catcher Jenn Cummings, who had given UW a 1-0 lead with a homer in the third inning, dropped the pitch. Her throw to first hit Barjaktarovich, allowing her to reach base.
A single and a throwing error put runners on second and third, and the Huskies brought in Plain to clean up the mess.
It appeared she might succeed, getting a ground out to third base that kept the runners on second and third. Plain then got Addie Kittel to hit a grounder to Fiedler at second base.
But Fielder’s throw pulled Brooke Nelson off the bag and Nelson’s errant throw home allowed a second run to score. Suddenly it was silent at the stadium.
But not for long, not with the Husky offense waking up in a big way. Fiedler hit her 10th homer of the season. Allchin hit her seventh and Klingler hit her 23rd, leaving her two shy of the team record.
“This offense is pretty dangerous … so we don’t think we are ever out of the game,” Tarr said. “Sometimes you might think, where is it? Where is it? You saw it. There it is.”
Allchin’s three-run homer that broke a tie was perhaps the biggest hit of the night. With two strikes, she was just trying to put the ball in play hoping to find a hole. She did more than that.
“It felt good, but anything can happen to it,” she said of the ball that landed in the right-field seats.
Plain, a fifth-year senior, then finished off the Mountain Hawks (30-19-1).
Texas’ win was not as dramatic. The Longhorns rested their top pitcher, Hailey Dolciini, and Estelle Czech (11-1) made the move work, throwing a five-hit shutout. She was backed by an offense that had 13 hits, including a homer from Janae Jefferson.
Lehigh plays Weber State at 4 p.m. Saturday in an elimination game. The winner of that game will play the loser of the Washington-Texas game at 7 p.m. in another elimination game.