There was nothing elegant about Washington’s 8-3 loss to Florida State on Tuesday. Nothing pretty about that Women’s College World Series defeat. But if you’re willing to step back from the micro and look at the macro, you have to admit it: That was one hell of a run.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The first reaction for any Huskies fan is that their team just got destroyed.
There was nothing elegant about that 8-3 loss to Florida State on Tuesday. Nothing pretty about that Women’s College World Series defeat. Nothing for players to console themselves with after a 2-0 sweep in the best-of-three final.
But if you’re able to zoom out for a second — if you’re willing to step back from the micro and look at the macro, you have to admit it: That was one hell of a run.
“It was a long road getting Washington back here, and I’m super proud of the achievement,” said Huskies softball coach Heather Tarr. “I remember my junior year. We lost to Arizona, and it leaves you with a bitter feeling. This feeling is different for what they were able to do throughout their entire journey.”
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Perhaps that reeks of Pollyanna-inspired spin, but there is something to Tarr’s words. Before the Huskies’ season began, they lost starting catcher Morganne Flores to a torn ACL.
Demoralizing? In theory. But the Huskies’ surge to the country’s No. 1 ranking via its season-opening 28-game win streak suggested otherwise.
Suddenly the Dawgs were the envy of the nation — the golden (and purple) children of the softball world. Were they ever going to fall?
Actually, yeah. In fact, they did it quite often toward the end of the regular season.
A six-game losing streak at the hands of UCLA and Oregon in April recalibrated the expectations for this program. Maybe those demolitions through the first part of the year were simply the byproduct of inferior competition.
National-championship threats don’t lose a half-dozen times straight, do they?
Actually, yeah. In fact, before falling in Game 1 of the WCWS final Monday, the Huskies never lost again.
This is why UW jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning Tuesday felt like a restoration of order. That 1-0 loss the night before was for dramatic purposes only. A title would feel more fitting if the Huskies had to take two straight to win it, and that’s what was going to happen.
Until it was clear that it wasn’t.
Florida State came back with eight unanswered runs, seven of which came off Washington starter Taran Alvelo. The Seminoles cut the deficit to one in the first thanks to a two-run home run by Anna Shelnutt. They added three more in the second, and three more in the fifth as Elizabeth Mason and Jessie Warren each went deep.
Before Tuesday, Washington had only nine games in which it allowed three runs or more, and had never allowed more than seven. So as Florida State left OKC with a title and a trophy, it made sure not to leave any doubt.
You’d think such a result would leave the Huskies devastated, but based on the postgame news conference, that didn’t seem to be the case. Yes. they were emotional — particularly Alvelo — but they were also cracking each other up before any of the questions rolled in.
Maybe the defeat hadn’t quite hit them yet. Maybe they figured laughs were the best way to fend off the pain.
Whatever it was, any tears shed seemed to have more to do with the seniors departure than it did falling just short of a second national title.
“It’s always been a dream to play at OKC, and to get back and play Husky softball, it’s been the most incredible journey. I feel blessed and lucky,” said Huskies senior third baseman Taylor Van Zee.
“This journey really has been a dream come true for all of us,” added sophomore shortstop Sis Bates. “These seniors have left a legacy that has gone on forever.”
The Husky that had the hardest time sleeping Tuesday likely was Alvelo. She said her biggest regret was not doing her part for the seniors, who had always done their part for her.
She’s being hard on herself. The Huskies had no chance of getting this far without her, and Alvelo plans to come back to Oklahoma City next season.
“I said that last year, and look what happened,” she said.
Perhaps the Huskies will be back. Perhaps they’ll walk away with a title, too. In the meantime, they should be proud of what they achieved.
They didn’t have the chance to mob each other on the field Tuesday like Florida State did, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot to celebrate.