The Huskies they are back in the postseason for the second time in three seasons, drawing many cheers and much relief from players and staff at UW.
As they flew out to Salt Lake City to start the final series of the Pac-12 baseball regular season on Friday, the Huskies had many reasons to feel good about not only an NCAA tournament berth but their potential for deep run in the postseason.
They were considered the top team out West, they were playing for their first outright conference championship in 19 years and, if all went well in Salt Lake City, there was chatter that the Huskies might even host an NCAA regional this week.
Instead, Washington lost two of three games at Utah, which claimed its first Pac-12 championship by handing the Huskies a humbling 21-7 defeat in the regular-season finale Sunday. Making matters worse, the bus coming to pick up the Huskies in Salt Lake City broke down, delaying the team’s return to Seattle. The Huskies didn’t arrive back at UW until late Sunday.
So what seemed like such a certainty a few days earlier — that NCAA tournament bid — was no sure thing Monday morning when the NCAA field was announced. Then nearly 30 minutes of the selection show aired without mention of UW. Doubt began to creep in.
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Finally, the Huskies were announced — they are back in the postseason for the second time in three seasons, drawing many cheers and much relief from players and staff at the UW baseball facility.
“It’s just such a crazy moment,” UW coach Lindsay Meggs said. “I mean, we’re playing for the Pac-12 championship yesterday, we’re the No. 1 seed in the West going into the weekend, so you have to assume — common sense tells you there’s no way we won’t continue to play regardless. But you’re sitting in that room and you don’t see your name up there (for awhile) and things start running through your mind.
“Ultimately, it’s just a nice moment to see your name up there and see your guys get excited, and I’m really happy for them.”
The Huskies (32-21, 17-13 Pac-12) are the No. 3 seed in the four-team Nashville, Tenn., regional tournament and will open against second-seeded UC Santa Barbara at noon PT Friday on ESPN3.
Host Vanderbilt, the 2014 College World Series champion and the CWS runner-up last year, is the regional host and top seed. Xavier is the regional’s No. 4 seed.
“We knew we had a good chance to get into the postseason, and I think once we saw our name come up we just let loose and we were finally able to relax a little,” UW pitcher Alex Nesbitt said. “The last 24 hours were a little up and down just because of the weekend. But we what we had done this year would probably get us in.”
In 2014, UW advanced to its first NCAA tournament since 2004, losing its regional in the championship game at Ole Miss. The Huskies are expecting a similar experience as they prepare to play at another SEC power this week.
“I think there was over 10,000 people (at Ole Miss) in the stadium. They were your best friends off the field, that Southern hospitality, but once you’re on the field, man, they were coming at you,” UW infielder Chris Baker said. “But it was awesome. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of.”