Taran Alvelo, pitching her first game since suffering a high-ankle sprain at the end of April, helps the Huskies beat the Gophers, 15-7, in an NCAA regional championship game. UW moves on to face Alabama in a Super Regional next weekend.

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Facing Minnesota for the third time this season, and the second time this weekend at Husky Softball Stadium in the NCAA regional championship game, UW got a nice boost from the return of its best pitcher, Pac-12 co-freshman of the year Taran Alvelo.

Sunday marked Alvelo’s first game back since suffering a high ankle sprain at the end of April. Playing with a brace on her right ankle, and limping occasionally when fielding, Alvelo struck out three, walked two, gave up four hits and pitched four innings to help the Huskies beat Minnesota, 15-7.

“We wanted to throw her yesterday but didn’t think that was a good first opportunity for her to (pitch) in a situation like that. She hadn’t really pitched in a game for like three weeks,” UW coach Heather Tarr said of Alvelo, who picked up her 18th win of the season, a team high. “So we decided today to let her go in the beginning and to let her go as long as she could go, and she gave us some good innings.”


UW @ Alabama, NCAA Super Regional, 6 p.m., ESPN2

With the win, the 11th-seeded Huskies (39-13) advance to the NCAA Super Regional for the 10th time in the last 12 years. They will play No. 6 seed Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in a best-of-three series beginning Friday at 6 p.m. PT. Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and a third game, if necessary, would be on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

But the Gophers (43-14) didn’t go down without a fight. Trailing 12-2 going into the bottom of the fifth, and in danger of losing in five innings due to the eight-run mercy rule, Minnesota rallied for five runs to force a sixth inning.

The Gophers were aided by two errors from the UW defense and some shaky pitching that forced the Huskies to use three pitchers to get three outs. Alvelo hit Minnesota’s first two batters and was subbed out for Hailey Bator. But in her second appearance in two games, Bator struggled, striking out one, walking two batters and giving up a hit and three runs. After Minnesota pulled to 12-7 on a three-run double by Sam Macken, Bator was relieved, and Madi Schreyer came in to finish off the inning.

“I’m just proud of our team,” Tarr said. “We gave up five runs in that inning, and it could have been an easy meltdown. But we came right back and scored enough to get to the run rule again. It wasn’t easy. They’re a tough team, they’re scrappy, and we knew they weren’t going to go down without a fight.”

In the sixth inning, the Huskies scored three runs on hits from Tannon Snow, Dani Braun and Ali Aguilar, then tightened up their defense behind Schreyer to clinch the win and omit the need for a seventh inning.

UW opened up strong against Minnesota starter Sara Groenewegen, who had pitched two games the day before, and looked less crisp than she did in UW’s 5-2 win over Minnesota on Saturday.

Aguilar had a leadoff double, Groenewegen walked Kimberlee Souza, and then Casey Stangel cleaned up with a line-drive double to left-center field that allowed Aguilar to score the first of UW’s three runs in the opening frame.

Groenewegen gave up three hits, three earned runs and a walk in the first inning, so in the second inning she was replaced by lefty Nikki Anderson.

“We thought we needed to switch it up,” Minnesota coach Jessica Allister said when asked why she pulled her starter so early. “They had a pretty good game plan against her going in. They were pretty comfortable in the box against her.”

UW-Alabama Super Regional

What’s at stake: Winner of best-of-three series advances to Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. Game 1: Friday, 6 p.m., ESPN2Game 2: Saturday, 2:30 p.m., ESPNGame 3, if necessary: Saturday, 5:30 p.m., ESPN2

But that wasn’t enough to quiet the Huskies’ bats. UW scored in every inning, steadily increasing its lead over the Gophers with an RBI single from Taylor Van Zee in the second, and a solo home run by freshman catcher Morganne Flores in the third that flew out to center field and hit a trombone in the Husky band’s section of the grandstand bleachers.

Aguilar, who went into the game No. 2 nationally in home runs, hit a three-run home run to give UW a 12-2 lead going into the bottom of the fifth. Aguilar led UW’s offense, going 4 for 5 at the plate, with four RBI, a home run, a double and a single.