Pitcher perfect? Almost.
Washington sophomore Gabbie Plain, taking advantage of a second chance to face Mississippi State and slugger Mia Davidson, was spectacular, throwing her third no-hitter of the season.
The only base runner she allowed, a leadoff walk in the second inning, was erased by Plain’s great defensive play.
Throw in Morganne Flores’ third homer in two days and Emma Helm’s three-run blast and it added to a resounding 8-0 victory in the championship of the Seattle Regional at Husky Softball Stadium on Sunday night, giving the Huskies their fourth straight trip to the super regionals.
It was the third time the Huskies defeated Mississippi State (35-23) this season, having beaten the Bulldogs 7-5 in February, then 6-1 Saturday to earn a spot in the regional championship. The Huskies had two chances to win one game Sunday, but took care of business in the first game.
The Huskies (48-7), ranked No. 2 and the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, will host a super regional against No. 14 overall seed Kentucky (36-22), which also swept its regional. The opener will be either Thursday or Friday night and it will be announced Monday.
Three months ago, Plain had one of her worst performances of the year in a 7-5 win over Mississippi State, with Davidson homering in all three of her at-bats and driving in all five of her team’s runs.
This time, it was Plain who put on the show. She struck out 10, including Davidson twice. Plain improved to 21-2 and extended her streak of not allowing a run to 28 2/3 innings.
“I knew what had happened in the past, but I was ready to go out there,” said Plain, who shut out Fordham 2-0 in the regional opener Friday. “I was just having fun with my teammates. My team was having so much fun and I just got caught up in the moment.”
Washington, officially the visiting team, gave Plain an early cushion, scoring two runs in the first with the help of a Mississippi State error.
That was more than enough support for Plain, who helped herself with her defense in the second inning. After the leadoff walk, Candace Denis hit a hard liner back up the middle that Plain snagged. She followed with a quick throw to first base for a double play, bringing the crowd of 1,452 to its feet.
In the fifth inning, Plain deflected a line drive up the middle, and it went right at shortstop Sis Bates, whose throw beat Montana Davidson by a step, bringing the crowd to its feet again.
“That was just reflexes,” Plain said. “I was purely getting out of the way of a ball that was hit way too hard.”
The fans were back on their feet in the seventh inning as Plain got Fa Leilua to pop out to center field for the final out.
Meanwhile, the Huskies had plenty of offense. Flores, who homered twice off Mississippi State starter Emily Williams on Saturday, just missed getting another homer off Williams in the first inning when a ball hooked just foul. She didn’t miss in the fifth, hitting a towering homer over the left-field fence for her 21st of the season.
Just like her two homers Saturday, it followed a single by Bates opening an inning, and it gave UW a 4-0 lead. Four hitters later, Emma Helm hit a three-run homer to right, and the only suspense was whether Plain would complete the no-hitter.
And she certainly didn’t disappoint.
“To have someone hit three home runs off you, that is pretty humbling — I don’t know if that has ever happened in Husky softball history — and for her to watch the film and get ready for today, that says a lot about her abilities,” said UW coach Heather Tarr about Plain. “I’m just proud of our whole team.”