SEATTLE – With 14 letter-winners returning from last season’s Washington softball team that earned the program’s 11th appearance in the Women’s College World Series, the 2014 squad is preparing to make a statement of its own.
The No. 3 Huskies return nearly every starter from last year’s team and add five capable newcomers, plus a returning redshirt freshman.
Washington opens the 2014 campaign on Friday, February 7 at the UNLV/SportCo Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas vs. No. 18 Baylor at 9:00 a.m. The Huskies will play five games over three days, facing Baylor, the University of San Diego, Arkansas, UNLV, and UC Davis.
The team is anchored by the veteran leadership of its seven seniors: Marki Creger-Zier, Hooch Fagaly, Victoria Hayward, Kaitlin Inglesby, Whitney Jones, Bryana Walker, and Mercedes Wetmore. The Huskies also return juniors Kylee Lahners, Kimberlee Souza, Kasey Stanchek, and Kelli Suguro, as well as sophomores Dani Braun, Courtney Gano, and Jennie McNeill, and redshirt freshman Makenzie Pletcher. Looking to make their first contributions to the Huskies this season are junior college transfer Hailey Bator, and freshmen Ali Aguilar, Kimberlee Myers, Bridget Raftery, and Rylleigh Zbaraschuk.
Collectively, the Huskies are primed to build on last season’s 3rd place finish at the College World Series.
After posting a regular season record of 38-15, the Huskies clinched their 20th consecutive trip to the postseason in 2013.
The Huskies defeated Portland State and Hawaii in the NCAA Regionals in Seattle to advance to their 8th straight NCAA Super Regionals appearance. The Huskies then defeated Missouri in Columbia, Mo. in two games at the NCAA Super Regionals.
In their first game at the WCWS, the Huskies defeated Nebraska, 4-3, in eight innings, as Souza hit a walk-off home run. After falling to Tennessee, 1-0, in game two, the Huskies rebounded to defeat Michigan, 4-1, in game three, scoring all four runs in the 6th inning. The Huskies season ended in later that night, as eventual-National Champions Oklahoma downed the Huskies, 6-2.
“This team is really going to benefit from that experience,” head coach Heather Tarr said. “For this team to finish third at the College World Series last year and bring that experience with them this year, it brings a ton of confidence to them.”
The Huskies opened at No. 3 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association preseason poll and at No. 5 in the ESPN/USA Softball preseason poll, their highest preseason rankings in either poll since 2010. The Huskies also earned a tie for the top spot in the preseason Pac-12 Coaches poll. The Huskies received four first-place votes and 60 votes overall, tying with Arizona State. But the Huskies are more focused on daily improvement and being the best team they possibly can be.
“Our goal with this group is to make a statement for this year’s team,” Tarr said. “We discussed as a group the preseason rankings. It’s a great honor for people to recognize your program, but why not be better than that? That was last year’s team. Let’s not put limits on what this year’s team can do. Let’s not just limit ourselves to going to the College World Series. Let’s go beyond what we even can imagine right now. Let’s be the greatest team that Washington has ever had.”
The Huskies finished 2nd nationally in team fielding percentage last season and return the majority of their starters from a year ago. With Inlgesby, Walker, and Stanchek returning, the Huskies have back every pitcher who won a game for them last season. Offensively, the Huskies return the core of their lineup. Leading the way at the plate are seniors Hayward, Inglesby, and Fagaly.
Hayward and Inglesby have both been named to the Top 50 Watch List for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.
“We want to be the best defensive team we’ve ever been,” Tarr said. “We want to have the deepest pitching staff in the country. We want to achieve offensive numbers that we’ve never had as a program. First and foremost, we want to protect our culture and take care of our culture and who we are.”
After five non-conference tournaments on the road to start the season, the Huskies will open their home schedule against Pac-12 foe Utah on Friday, March 14 at 5:00 p.m. at Husky Softball Stadium.
“It’s a great chance for our fans and our community to see another great Husky softball team this year,” Tarr said.----------------
· The 2014 season is just two days away. The Huskies open the season Friday, February 7 vs. Baylor in Las Vegas. The Huskies complete 2014 schedule is available here.
· Reserve season tickets for the 2014 season today. Single-game tickets for the Huskies 12-game home schedule go on sale Wednesday, February 26. More information is available here.
· The Huskies open their home schedule Friday, March 14 against Pac-12 foe Utah at 5:00 p.m. at Husky Softball Stadium. Promotions include "Softball Friday Night Under the Lights" and Professor Appreciation night, where professors with an invite gain free admission, and faculty and staff tickets are just $3.
· New this year to Husky Softball is the Team of the Game promotion. Youth softball team with players currently in 8th grade and under, plus two coaches, will receive free General Admission tickets, be on the field with the Huskies for the national anthem, and receive an autographed team poster, as well as a group welcome during the game. Family and friends can also purchase General Admission tickets at a discounted rate of $3. Space is limited. To sign up, contact email firstname.lastname@example.org