The stakes are clear for the Washington women’s softball team: beat Kentucky in a best-of-three super regional at Husky Softball Stadium and it will earn a trip back to the College Softball World Series in Oklahoma, after getting all the way to the title series last season before losing to Florida State.
But UW coach Heather Tarr is not looking that far ahead yet. She wants her team to give Kentucky its full attention.
“We’re so about what we are doing right now,” Tarr said. “We know what it looks like next weekend (at the College Softball World Series), they know what that (experience) is like, so there’s not much anticipation other than attack today, get to the next pitch. The anticipation is exciting, but we have to take care of what we have now, and if we get to the next stage, we will be in the same situation.”
Friday’s opener is at 6 p.m., and Saturday’s game starts at 7 p.m. If a third game is needed Sunday, it will also be at 7.
The Huskies (48-7), the No. 3 overall seed in the tournament, and Kentucky (36-22), the No. 14 seed, are familiar with one another. UW defeated the Wildcats 4-2 in March in California.
Taran Alvelo got the win, with Gabbie Plain coming in to get the final out after Kentucky scored twice in the seventh inning. Tarr and her players downplayed the previous meeting, noting how much teams change in a couple of months.
“They attack pitches, and they make adjustments, just like we do,” Alvelo said.
The Huskies are as hot as any team in the country, having lost just once in more than two months while winning 28 of their past 29 games. What’s scary for opponents is that Tarr thinks the team can still get much better.
“The exciting part of this group is that we probably have an unlimited capacity to grow, and we might not reach that place even if we extend our season to June 5 (the finals of the WCWS),” she said. “I think this team still has room to grow together. The fact that we’ve been playing pretty well lately feels good, but we still have so much to get through.”
The “playing pretty well” comment might have been a bit of an understatement. The Huskies swept the Seattle regional last weekend, beating Mississippi State 8-0 in the title game behind Plain’s no-hitter.
That does not mean she will start in Friday’s opener of the super regional. Tarr said Thursday that she had not decided if it will be Plain (21-2, 1.21 ERA) or Alvelo (25-4, 1.58 ERA). With those stats, it seems like Tarr can hardly go wrong either way.
“We’re exploring the opportunities, and seeing what is going to be the best mix,” Tarr said. “But in our mindset, with the two of them, we can’t lose.”
For Alvelo, a senior, these will be her final games at Husky Softball Stadium.
“I love playing on our field, but what gets to me more are the practices,” she said. “It’s a little more vulnerable, it’s more me time, or bullpen time or team time. In practice yesterday, I was just sitting in the bullpen, talking with Gabbie, and I was like, ‘I am going to miss this. I am going to miss sitting in the bullpen and being comfortable.’ But when it comes to playing in a game, it’s all about business.”