By Gregg Bell
UW Athletics Director of Writing
OXFORD, Miss. -- The Huskies waited 10 years to get back to the NCAA tournament.
They waited six more hours at Oxford-University Stadium Friday to play.
And, hotty toddy, now they have to wait one more day.
Washington’s NCAA regional opener here Friday afternoon against Georgia Tech was postponed until Saturday at 11 a.m. Pacific time by on-and-(mostly)-off rain.
With the infield covered by a tarp, the Huskies had fun and stayed loose with pepper games and fist pumping with a home crowd roaring for the game to begin. Ace starting pitcher Tyler Davis did some long toss in the outfield during two-plus hours of sun while the regional's decision-makers waited and waited for rain that still hadn't come as of 2 ½ hours after the game had been called. Davis (10-2, 1.75 ERA) will start tomorrow when Washington (39-15-1) tries again to play Georgia Tech (36-25).
There is a 30-percent chance of thunderstorms at game time.
"We're still going to be ready. We'll be fine," catcher Austin Rei said as he boarded the Huskies’ bus back to their on-campus hotel. "It's the frickin' playoffs. When was the last time we were in the playoffs?
"We're going to be ready."
Lindsay Meggs, the Pac-12's coach of the year, took a positive view of the washed-out day. He noted UW got to take batting practice on Swayze Field for the first time; its scheduled practice there Thursday morning was rained out.
To him, Friday became what was supposed to be UW's Thursday here, and Saturday will become what was supposed to be Friday.
Friday was still a hoot for these loose Huskies, though.
They got to the field at 12:10 p.m., with Davis in the home-side dugout playfully asking his teammates "Who has the sunscreen?"
That became a joke as the weird afternoon unfolded.
UW took batting practice in the muggy air and sun at 12:45. It was off by 1:20 -- just in time for the first rain. That cancelled Tech's BP and brought the tarp out for the first time.
At about 2:30 a monsoon-like downpour flooded the bottom walkways of the stands and left pools of water across the outfield.
The tarp came off the field shortly before 3 p.m. The Ole Miss grounds crew had it groomed and ready for both teams to take infield by about 3:30, 25 minutes after the scheduled first pitch.
But the teams never took the field. Officials were waiting for another rain cell to pass through, and a lighter, 20-minute shower did, at around 4.
From then until past 6 p.m. sun drenched the field. The Huskies got out from their dugout -- they weren't allowed inside Ole Miss' home clubhouse at any time because Georgia Tech did not have a comparable accommodation on the visitors' side -- and began playing "pepper." Non-catchers put on catcher's masks and catchers pretended to pitch to half-swinging batters in a mock "game" between UW's dugout and the deployed tarp.
Then, the increasingly loud fans beyond Swayze Field's right-field bleachers began to go Bad News Bears with a chant of "Let them play!"
Then they broke into this: "LET'S GO HUSKIES!"
The Dawgs players responded with huge grins and fist pumps from across the field.
"Yeah," Rei said, "that was Braden Bishop's dad. Sure enough, there he was. That was funny."
Yes, Randy Bishop, father of the Huskies' speedy center fielder, became a local hero -- a "ROCK STAR!" in the tweeted words of UW assistant coach Tanner Swanson. He was out in the right field stands (in the black W shirt below, top left of the photo) leading the Ole Miss' students' and fans' cheers for the Huskies and for his son.
"just enjoying the hospitality!!" Randy Bishop tweeted back.
"I think it was pretty obvious that one thing we aren't is tight," Meggs said back at the team hotel Friday evening. "We're a loose group this week. That's going to help us."
Rei thought the whole, seemingly frustrating day was a gas.
"Oh, we're going to have fun. We are going to have fun, no matter what,” he said. “And in a rain delay we can have more fun than normal. A couple guys dressed up in catcher's gear.
"It was a pretty fun time, actually."
Rei, who was in Friday’s never-used lineup as UW's No. 3 hitter for the third consecutive game, admitted it was a tad frustrating but added "you just have to have fun with it.
"It's one of the best settings in college baseball,” he said. “They are called the Swayze Crazies? They are pretty crazy."
Finally, at 6:12 p.m., the stadium's public-address system stopped playing Rick Astley (yes, on top of everything else today the entire stadium got “Rick rolled”) long enough to announce both UW's game and the Ole Miss-Jacksonville State nightcap had been postponed to Saturday because of "field conditions and impending weather."
Davis just smiled through the sun and shrugged as he boarded the bus for another night of preparation for the biggest start of his life.
"I'm the kind of guy that no matter how many delays or whatever, I just want to go out there and pitch," the semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top player said. "Today, tomorrow, doesn't matter to me.
"I'm not worried about it."
Saturday, May 31
Game 1 - No. 3 Georgia Tech vs. No. 2 Washington - 1 p.m. CT (11 a.m. PT)
Game 2 - No. 4 Jacksonville State vs. No. 1 Ole Miss - 5 p.m. CT (3 p.m. PT)
Sunday, June 1
Game 3 - Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser - 11 a.m. CT (9 a.m. PT)
Game 4 - Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner - 3 p.m. CT (1 p.m. PT)
Game 5 - Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 loser - 7 p.m. CT (5 p.m. PT)
Monday, June 2
Game 6 - Game 5 winner vs. Game 4 winner - 2 p.m. CT (12 p.m. PT)
Game 7 - If necessary game - 7 p.m. CT (5 p.m. PT)