Danielle Lawrie strikes out a career-high 24 as the Huskies win the longest game in program's history to advance to Super Regional against Georgia Tech
AMHERST, Mass. — While the University of Washington softball team won’t be renting lights to host any NCAA tournament games this season, it sure got a lot of use out of the towers that Massachusetts rented for the Amherst Regional this weekend.
A courageous pitching performance by starter Danielle Lawrie, and a five-run outburst in the top of the 15th inning, allowed the third-seeded Huskies to win 6-1 and advance to next weekend’s Super Regional at Georgia Tech in a best-of-three series.
It was the longest game in Washington softball history, surpassing a 13-inning loss to Arizona State in 2006, and followed a seven-inning game when UMass beat the Huskies 5-1, forcing the second title game.
Both squads scored early runs in the second game, which started at 5:05 p.m. Pacific, and lasted deep into a chilly New England night, finally ending after 5 hours, 13 minutes.
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But the tireless pitching of Lawrie (35-7) and UMass starter Brandice Balschmiter (34-6) let the 1-1 tie run through 14 innings.
Each pitcher threw complete games in the first game. Balschmiter threw 114 pitches in Game 1 and Lawrie 144. Their arms got no rest in Game 2. Balschmiter threw 243 pitches and Lawrie 251. Lawrie had a career-high 24 strikeouts and Balschmiter, who did not walk a batter, had 14 strikeouts.
“When you’re playing a game like that it’s not that you’re tired,” Lawrie said. “You’ve got to look at what you’ve done to get there. You’ve got to look at all the money you’ve put in the bank. And you’re not done spending.”
Of her game with Lawrie, Balschmiter said: “Going to the line [after the game], there was a respect, a mutual moment. We both pitched our hearts out tonight.”
Said UW coach Heather Tarr: “Probably the most amazing game I’ve ever seen played between two teams and two pitchers. I don’t even know how to put in to words the leadership that Danielle put out there. She willed the game to be won by her team.”
The Huskies (44-11) finally broke through in the 15th with the bases loaded when Jenn Salling beat out an infield hit to third base, allowing Dani Stuart to score. Lawrie and Morgan Stuart tacked on a pair of two-run singles for insurance.
Along the way there were home runs taken away at the wall or hooked foul, bang-bang plays at the plate and impossible escapes from some tough spots on the mound. Lawrie, who gave up seven hits and walked six, ended 10 innings by strikeout.
“That was an epic, and I have some very very distraught people on my hands right now,” UMass coach Elaine Sortino said. “They gave it everything they had, and someone was going to have to lose.”
The Huskies survived a scare early in the eighth when Reeves hit a towering fly ball to deep right that was caught inches from the wall by Amanda Fleischman.