Same formula, same result.
Senior pitcher Taran Alvelo got the second-ranked Huskies started against Kentucky and sophomore Gabbie Plain finished the Wildcats off.
With the stakes much higher this time, the two combined on a five-hitter, and Morganne Flores hit her fourth homer in three games, leading UW to a hard-fought 3-0 win over Kentucky on Friday night at Husky Softball Stadium in the opener of the best-of-three super regional.
“Everybody is even at this point and you are going to have to fight for every single thing you get,” said UW coach Heather Tarr.
Washington (49-7), the No. 3 seed in the tournament, can earn a trip to the Women’s College World Series with a win in Saturday night’s game that begins at 7. If Kentucky wins, the teams will play again Sunday night.
Three months ago at a tournament in California, the Huskies beat Kentucky 4-2, with Alvelo coming one out from a shutout. When Alvelo got into trouble, Plain got the final out with the potential tying run at the plate.
Plain, who threw a no-hitter Sunday against Mississippi State to win the Seattle Regional, came in much earlier in this game. She entered in the top of the fourth with two outs and runners on first and third, and promptly struck out Mallory Peyton to end the threat and preserve UW’s 2-0 lead.
“Just a real good feel for the game,” Tarr said on making the pitching move at that time. “Obviously, we have two really good pitchers that can combine well together in a game. We just felt the need to do that at that point, and it worked out for us.”
It didn’t get any easier after that, but Plain kept getting out of trouble unscathed.
Plain escaped another big jam in the fifth inning as the Wildcats had runners on first and second and two outs, with SEC player of the year Abbey Cheek at the plate. Plain got Cheek to ground out to first on a full count.
Then, after Flores gave UW a 3-0 lead with a towering homer to left field in the bottom of the fifth, Kentucky put runners on second and third with one out, and there they stayed as Plain got a pair of ground outs.
Cheek also made the game’s final out with a runner on, one of nine base runners for Kentucky.
“Changing pitchers in the middle of the game I thought was a great coaching move,” said Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson. “They pitched a great game. We had our chances but they made great pitches when they needed to.”
Kentucky (36-23), the No. 14 seed in the tournament, threatened to score in the top of the first when Alex Martens hit a long drive into the gap in left-center field with a runner on first and two outs. But left fielder Sami Reynolds got a great read on the ball and made a nice running catch to end the half-inning.
In the bottom of the first inning, Reynolds hit a long sacrifice fly to left field to score Sis Bates, who led off with a double.
“I thought that set the tone for them,” Lawson said of Bates’ leadoff hit that led to the run.
The Huskies added a run in the third inning when Amirah Milloy led off with a single to right field that was booted by the outfielder, allowing the speedy Milloy to get to third. Bates followed with a single to right field to score Milloy.
With Kentucky getting base runners in every inning but one, Flores’ homer felt like a big run.
“I’m feeling pretty comfortable,” said Flores, who has 22 homers, 17 more than the next highest player for UW. “I am trying to see good pitches and put good swings on good pitches.”
In the end, three runs proved plenty with Plain making a few great escapes.
“Gabbie is just a competitor, that’s how she is all the time,” Bates said. “She is very good at being present in the moment.”