April 8, 2008
By Christian Caple
College baseball is generally viewed as the little brother to football and men's basketball, rarely drawing crowds near capacity or making the front page of area newspapers.
There are no office pools for the College World Series, few primetime telecasts and a low interest among most schools' student bodies.
But for one night, Washington and Arizona both got to stand in the limelight, showcasing their respective talents under the bright lights of a major league stadium.
The Huskies and Wildcats played a Pac-10 contest inside the cavernous confines of Safeco Field Friday night, marking the second straight year in which the Dawgs have hosted a game at the ballpark that is a staple of downtown Seattle.
Save for the unmistakable "ping" produced by every contact made with the ball by these collegians' aluminum bats, one could have sworn you were watching the Mariners and Indians exchanging base hits and strikeouts in the bitter cold of a spring evening in Seattle, rather than two teams still worrying about homework and exams.
Those in attendance couldn't have asked for a better ballgame. Washington pushed across the game's only run on an Andy Lentz double in the seventh inning, coming away with a 1-0 win against the No. 18 ranked Wildcats.
For UW starting pitcher Nick Haughian, the night couldn't have been more memorable. Toeing the same rubber that Mariners pitchers Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez tossed from just a week ago, the junior from Marysville struck out a career-high 15 batters in a complete game two-hit shutout.
Haughian had never struck out more than eight batters in a game before Friday's outing.
"It was fun, just kind of a rush," Haughian said. "To be honest, it was all kind of a blur."
And even if this was just another Pac-10 game that won't register on the national radar, the sense of excitement emanating from all parties involved could not be ignored.
The crowd of 5,187 - miniscule in the context of a big league ballpark, but by far the largest of the year for a Husky baseball game - seemed to hang on every pitch, engrossed more by the pitching duel playing out in front of them than by the hydroplane races on the jumbo-tron.
"I think it's fun for everyone, because it's such a special occasion," Haughian said. "I think everyone enjoyed themselves."
Coach Ken Knutson agreed.
"It really galvanizes the whole department," Knutson said. "It's awesome. It's just a great feeling to play in this venue."