Gabbie Plain recently threw back-to-back no hitters.
That’s news to Gabbie Plain.
Or, at least, it was. The University of Washington’s sophomore right-hander served up seven hitless innings in a 2-0 Husky Classic victory over Northern Illinois last Saturday, walking three batters and striking out 15 in seven blisteringly beautiful innings. The next day, she repeated the feat in a 1-0 win over Seattle University, striking out 10 while surrendering a single measly walk.
Over the course of a weekend, the 6-foot sophomore became the first pitcher in Husky history to throw back-to-back no hitters.
But besides the box score, what was the common thread?
“Throughout the entire game I didn’t even realize (I was throwing a no-hitter) until right at the end when people came out to high-five me,” Plain said with a smile and a shrug on Wednesday. “I was like, ‘What?’”
This is nothing new. When she became just the second Husky freshman in history to throw a perfect game against Utah last April, Plain “literally had no idea until I caught (teammate Julia DePonte) jumping on me.”
Through all 14 innings, 42 outs and 25 strikeouts last weekend, Plain was blissfully oblivious to her own athletic achievements. She met her excellence with absolute ignorance, unaware of its existence. There was no pressure. How could there be?
First she’d have to acknowledge her own dominant déjà vu.
“I feel like I can be kind of off in my own world (during games), cheering, just going out and doing my own thing, being with the team,” Plain said. “I feel like even if someone were to say I was throwing a no-hitter, I don’t know if I would actually realize what they were saying.
“It doesn’t process in the actual time frame that something like that’s happening. I think that’s pretty cool, because I don’t know how I would react if I knew I was (throwing a no-hitter).”
When she’s pitching, Plain exists in her own world, and that’s a special weapon. It’s a place where she has compiled a 9-0 record and a 0.90 ERA in 14 appearances this season, striking out 90 in 62.1 innings while allowing just three total home runs. It’s a place where the Sydney, Australia, native racked up a 22-5 record with a 1.01 ERA in a dazzling debut last spring.
There’s no crowd noise there, no walk-up music, no television cameras, no pressure, no homework hanging over her head, no drama, no distractions.
Just the next moment. The next opportunity. The next pitch.
“What makes her super successful at this time in her career, in the middle of her second year, is the consistency of her approach,” said Washington head coach Heather Tarr. “The moment is what the moment is and you create the opportunity for yourself to be present on the pitch, and you’re not thinking about getting the result or doing this to the hitter. You’re just executing for that moment.
“It’s collective moments, whether it’s 80 pitches in that game or 140 pitches. You’re trying to make sure you’re there every pitch. That definitely absorbs you in the process and doesn’t get you caught up in the scoreboard. I think that’s probably one of the harder things to do as a competitor, to stay off the scoreboard and not think like a fan.”
A fan, for example, would have known that only seven other Pac-12 pitchers have thrown back-to-back no-hitters since 2000, and only five other Huskies have notched three or more no-hitters in their career. A fan might have known that in her first 46 collegiate appearances, Plain has compiled a 31-5 record with a 0.98 ERA, and that just four Seattle batters last Sunday even managed to reach the outfield.
A fan might have let the magnitude of the moment seep into their subconscious and affect their focus.
Plain, meanwhile, was deliberately oblivious — obsessed with each individual pitch.
“I think both she and (senior pitcher Taran Alvelo) are at the point in their careers where they know their capacity and they can physically be where they need to be, because they can mentally stay where they need to stay,” Tarr said. “So being able to 1.) physically execute the pitch, but 2.) mentally be where you need to be pitch to pitch, going through your routine, being consistent in your behavior, your thoughts, your process, yields the outcome.
“When they’re syncing up, when those things work together, the competition doesn’t necessarily matter. It just matters what you’re doing.”
That theory will be put to the test this weekend. Because, no offense to Northern Illinois and Seattle U, but they’re nowhere near UCLA. No. 5 Washington (22-3) will open Pac-12 play by hosting the No. 1 Bruins in a three-game series on Montlake, starting on Friday.
Plain — the reigning conference and NFCA National Pitcher of the Week, who has retired 52 consecutive hitters in her last three starts — carries a 22.2-inning scoreless streak into Pac-12 competition.
Maybe she’ll defy the odds and deliver a third consecutive no-hitter.
But if she does, rest assured: Gabbie Plain will be the last to know.