Washington pitcher Gabbie Plain looked like she was done and only the most optimistic Husky softball fans would have liked their team’s chances trailing by four runs against a Michigan pitcher who had dominated UW the day before.
But somehow, some way, the Huskies rallied from a 5-1 deficit, not only winning, but crushing Michigan 10-5 to beat the Wolverines for the second time Sunday night and win the NCAA tournament regional.
“We have a bunch of bad blank women on this team that want to win,” said UW coach Heather Tarr.
Washington (45-12), the No. 16 seed in the tournament, scored twice in the third inning and seven times in the fourth inning — yes, seven — to take control of the game.
The Huskies’ reward for winning the regional: a berth in a best two-of-three super regional at No. 1 overall seed Oklahoma.
But that can wait for Washington, which had a lot to celebrate Sunday night.
Plain was brilliant in the first game, shutting out Michigan 2-0, setting up a deciding final game.
There was no doubt Plain would take the mound again in the second game, but the Wolverines were ready against a pitcher who was undoubtedly a little bit tired, scoring five runs in the first two innings off the Husky star.
Michigan (38-8) took control early, using a four-run second inning to take a 5-1 lead.
A single, double and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. A ground ball to second base should have gotten one out, but the ball was booted, scoring a run and keeping the bases loaded.
Plain followed with a strikeout, but a single, walk and a fielder’s choice brought home three more runs to make it 5-1, and against a pitcher like Michigan standout Alex Storako, who beat UW 2-1 on Saturday, that seemed like too much of a cushion.
But not so. Plain shut down Michigan the next couple of innings, and the Husky offense got red hot. UW scored twice in the third inning off Storako, and Michigan went to the bullpen to bring in Meghan Beaubien, who had allowed the Huskies two runs in the first game.
The move did not work. Jadelyn Allchin greeted the Wolverine pitcher with a home run and UW was just getting started. Five hits, one walk, an error, a couple of poor defensive decisions and six more runs later, the inning was finally over and UW had a 10-5 lead.
“After they had their inning, I knew we were going to have our inning,” Allchin said. “We weren’t done yet.”
After UW got the lead, Plain did the rest, not allowing a run after the second inning. She finished the game with a strikeout on her 112th pitch of the game and 209th pitch of the night.
Tarr said she thought about taking Plain out of the game during her rough second inning, and was very happy she didn’t.
“But then when we scored (two runs in the third), it was like, ‘All right, Gab is going to give us a chance to stay in the game, and that she did.”
And the Huskies had a win that will be remembered for a while.
“It is one of the more proud games I have been a part of,” Tarr said.
Washington 2, Michigan 0 (first game)
Great pitching from Plain and some early hitting gave the Huskies a victory, forcing a winner-take-the-regional game.
Plain, one of three finalists for national player of the year, allowed the first hitter she faced, Lexi Blair, to hit a single. The Wolverines did not get another hit until Blair singled again with one out in the sixth inning.
Plain walked the next hitter after Blair’s second hit, putting runners on first and second with one out, but worked out of trouble by getting the next two hitters to ground out.
Beaubien threw a no-hitter in the Wolverines’ 2-0 win over Seattle U on Friday, but it took the Huskies just three batters to get their hit — and it was a big one.
UW catcher Morganne Flores crushed a ball into the swirling wind — gusts up to 25 mph — and it cleared the fence in center field to give the Huskies the early lead.
The Huskies added another run in the second inning. Sarah Willis reached base on an error by the second baseman, and scored on a double by Allchin. Willis was tagged by Michigan catcher Hannah Carson and originally called out, but the call was reversed when it was ruled Carson obstructed Willis from getting home.
The two runs of support were one more than Plain received Saturday, and the All-American from Australia made them stand up. She improved to 31-3, allowing two hits, three walks and striking out eight.
Beaubien pitched well, allowing just one earned run, but it wasn’t good enough in a game in which Plain threw her 13th shutout of the season.