ESPN Softball Feature
By Graham Hays. View the entire story here: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/columns/story?columnist=hays_graham&id=6216833.
Some things never change in Seattle, where the rain familiar to all seasons save summer washed out Sunday's finale of the Husky Softball Classic. That Mother Nature is just about the first opponent to shut down Washington's lineup this season suggests that other supposed Emerald City identifiers are more malleable.
Before the rain, Washington scored 36 runs in three games in the tournament it hosted, wins against South Carolina-Upstate (twice) and Seattle University that pushed its record to 19-0 this season. It wasn't the kind of competition the Huskies will face next weekend at the Judi Garman Classic in California, but it hasn't much mattered who coach Heather Tarr's team has faced this season. From Northwestern and San Diego State to Massachusetts and Texas A&M, postseason potential hasn't been enough for opponents to avoid a serious ERA hit against Washington. Only Fordham held the Huskies to fewer than five runs.
Washington scored 216 runs through its first 19 games. It reached double figures on 11 occasions, including two games of more than 20 runs.
Two seasons ago, the Huskies scored 115 runs in their first 19 games and didn't reach 216 runs until April 19, game No. 41. To refresh memories, that team won a national title a little more than a month later.
"It's early in the season, but I like what we're doing," Tarr said recently. "I like just kind of the collection of our offense, the mindset of it."
Some of that -- perhaps much of that -- may stem from the effects of the lineup losing its most productive power hitter of a season ago, a player who led the team in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage. That player, of course, was Danielle Lawrie, who happened to also be one of the best big-game pitchers in the long annals of college softball.
If the Huskies got Lawrie two or three runs of support, they knew they had a good chance to come out with the win. But at just over five runs per game for the 2010 season, they didn't always get her much more than that. Why fill the tank when you can buy just enough gas to get you where you're going?
"When you play behind somebody who you know is going to guarantee a great game, like Danielle, somehow, someway, I don't know why, but teams sometimes that have that don't have an explosive offensive mindset," Tarr said. "I think we were very good offensively, but we weren't crazy, off-the-charts over the last few years. So I think it just gives you a different sense of urgency, maybe not knowing that you have that kind of pitcher."
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