The Husky softball team is down, but not out.
Michigan put Washington on the brink of elimination from the NCAA tournament Saturday afternoon, getting great pitching and a pair of sixth-inning home runs to defeat the Huskies 2-1 at Husky Softball Stadium.
Washington was 30-0 in regional games at home under coach Heather Tarr before the defeat, and it will need another winning streak to advance to a super regional.
The Huskies needed three victories to advance to the regional and got the first one late Saturday night, defeating Seattle University 8-0 behind Pat Moore’s no-hitter in a game that ended close to 11 p.m.
Now, they need to beat Michigan twice Sunday, starting at 5 p.m.
“This team has got its best ahead of them, and we believe that,” said Tarr.
With the way Washington’s Gabbie Plain and Michigan’s Alex Storako were pitching in the first game of the day, it was clear that one timely hit — and just one run — might decide the outcome. For Michigan, it was two big hits that decided it — back-to-back home runs from Lou Allan and Taylor Bump with one out in the sixth.
“Two great teams and two great pitchers,” said Michigan coach Carol Hutchins, in her 37th season as the Wolverines coach and the winningest coach in NCAA history.
Plain worked out of trouble in the second inning, allowing a single and a double after getting the first two outs. That put runners on second and third, but they didn’t go any farther as Plain easily handled a grounder back to the circle for the final out.
Plain was in another jam in the fifth, hitting a batter and throwing a wild pitch to put a runner at second base with no outs. After a strikeout and a ground out to third, she once again fielded a comebacker to strand a base runner at third.
But Plain threw a pitch to Allan in the top of the sixth inning that she could not escape from. Allan sent the 2-1 pitch well over the wall past left-center field, giving Michigan that elusive run. Minutes later, the Wolverines had another one as Bump hit a ball just over the left-field fence.
“I felt like we were on Gabbie Plain the entire game,” Allan said, despite the fact her team was scoreless for five innings.
Meanwhile, fifth-ranked Washington was having trouble putting any pressure on Storako, with few hard-hit balls until Morganne Flores came up with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The senior catcher crushed a pitch well over the left-field wall for her 11th home run of the season.
Storako settled down from there, finishing off a three-hitter for the Big Ten champion Wolverines (38-6).
Tarr said she knows it will be a challenge beating Michigan twice, “but we’re excited about the opportunity to play again.”
“These guys earned it,” she said. “They were up at 7 o’clock in the morning and they had to be here at 8 o’clock for a COVID test. There is no team that is going to be tougher through this whole thing.”
Seattle University 6, Portland State 5
Seattle U overcame early jitters to keep its season alive in the second game of the evening.
The Redhawks had no time to celebrate, with its game against Washington starting 30 minutes after their victory.
Seattle U made three errors in the top of the first inning that led to two unearned runs. The Redhawks rallied, taking a 6-3 lead with four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ally Choate’s two-run single gave Seattle U a 4-3 lead. Carley Nance and Cherise Silvan added run-scoring singles in the inning for the Redhawks.
Shi Smith was the winning pitcher, throwing 1 2/3 innings of relief and allowing a two-run homer in the sixth. Nance came in to pitch in the seventh inning and retired Portland State in order to save Seattle U’s victory.
Seattle U was 3-0 against Portland State (15-26) this season
Washington 8, Seattle U 0
Senior Pat Moore pitched a no-hitter for Washington (43-12) in a five-inning game as the Huskies survived an elimination contest to earn a rematch against Michigan.
The Huskies improved to 3-0 against Seattle U (30-21) this season, having beaten the Redhawks 5-0 and 4-1 in March.
“Never,” Moore said when asked when she last threw a no-hitter. “It was a lot of fun.”
Washington took control in the late game with five runs in the third inning to take a 6-0 lead.
The defeat did not diminish a fine season for Seattle U, making its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, the first two in school history.
“I am just proud of those six (departing) seniors,” said Seattle U coach Geoff Hirai of Madison Cathcart, Cherise Silvan, Alyson Matriotti, Stephanie Merwin, Bailey Thompson and Ally Choate.
Hirai said he wanted to take them out during the middle of an inning to get a standing ovation, but the run-rule shortened game spoiled that plan.
“They left a huge mark on this program and I can’t thank them enough,” Hirai said.