Softball Earns Two Big Opening Day Victories
Feb. 6, 2009
ST GEORGE, Utah - The University of Washington softball team couldn't wait to get their Big Three back in the lineup after a year off. On Friday, all three showed just how much of an impact they can have on the diamond.
All-American Danielle Lawrie shut down No. 12 Tennessee in the season-opener, striking out nine to lead the Huskies to a 2-1 victory, while two-time All-American Ashley Charters had a grand slam in UW's 7-3 win over BYU in the nightcap in the Red Desert Classic at the Canyons Softball Complex. Lawrie and Charters along with All-Pac-10 outfielder Lauren Greer, who had three hits on the day, all redshirted in 2008 but all returned with a bang to start the 2009 season.
Not to be overshadowed by those three, Alyson McWherter was the real hero for the Huskies on Friday, however, robbing a pair of home runs against BYU with outstanding catches in centerfield, saving seven potential runs.
"It was a good solid win over Tennessee. They won the first half of the game and we were able to win the second half," Washington head coach Heather Tarr said. "Danielle had a few jitters in the beginning but she got better as the game went on as did our team. Bailey came up and had a big hit at the right time. It's always good to get the first win of the year. I think it took us a minute to realize that this is our team and this is what we're doing, especially for Ashley and Lauren who haven't played in a game in a year so it was nice to have them in the game and find our rhythm again."
Lawrie, making her first appearance in the circle for the Huskies since the 2007 Women's College World Series, earned the victory against the Lady Vols. She redshirted the 2008 season while playing for the Canadian National Team in the 2008 Olympics and showed some early nerves after her nearly two-year layoff from the Purple and Gold. But after allowing a hit and two walks in the first inning which led to an unearned run, Lawrie settled down and allowed just three hits over the final six innings. She struck out nine batters overall including four in a row at one point in the sixth and seventh innings.
Bailey Stenson was the offensive hero of the game for the Huskies, going 2-for-3 and driving in the tying and winning runs with a two-run double in the third inning.
Trailing 1-0 in the third, senior Marnie Koziol led off with a single to left field and stole second before Ashley Charters walked to put runners on first and second for Stenson. The junior, who got the Huskies' first hit of the season in the first inning, lined a ball into the right-centerfield gap to plate both Koziol and Charters, giving Washington the lead.
Lawrie did the rest, retiring the final 10 batters she faced, five via strikeout. Charters went 1-for-2 and scored a run after missing the last year to have hip surgery while Greer went 2-for-3 in her return from shoulder surgery. Sophomore Morgan Stuart also had a hit for the Huskies, who out-hit the Lady Vols, 7-4.
In the nightcap, freshman Felecia Harris made her first career appearance in the circle for Washington and got the win, going 4.1 innings and allowing no runs and just four hits while striking out one. Fellow freshman Jenna Clifton pitched an inning and a third in her Husky debut, while Lawrie came in to pitch the final inning, striking out the side to secure the victory.
The Huskies got on the board first in the second inning on a two-run single by freshman Niki Williams. Morgan Stuart started the rally with a walk then advanced to third on Greer's single, which was bobbled by BYU's left fielder, allowing Greer to move to second. Williams then followed with a shot through the right side of the infield for her first collegiate hit and RBIs.
Washington increased their lead to 3-0 in the third, getting a single from Charters who advanced to second on Stenson's ground ball to the pitcher. Alicia Blake then followed with a shot to third base which she beat out and the throw got by BYU's first baseman, allowing Charters to score from second.
The Huskies broke the game open in the fourth inning when Charters blasted her second career grand slam to straightaway centerfield, scoring Greer, Williams and Fleischman to make the score 7-0. After Greer and Williams walked, Fleischman laid down a perfect bunt down the third baseline to load the bases for Charters. The senior took a 1-0 pitch and drilled it well over the centerfield fence for Washington's first home run of the season and first grand slam since Ashlyn Watson's blast against Alabama in March of last season.
As BYU started to chip away, McWherter provided the heroics with two unbelievable plays in centerfield, saving a potential three-run home run in the fifth inning and a potential grand slam in the bottom of the sixth. With UW leading 7-2 with two on and two out in the fifth, Amanda Vance ripped a ball to deep centerfield, but McWherter leaned over the fence and snagged the ball before it had a chance to go over.
An inning later and with the score 7-3, the Cougars' Jessica Purcell - who had hit a home run in each of BYU's first three games - came up with the bases loaded and two outs and hit a shot to center that seemed destined to tie the game, but McWherter made an even more spectacular catch than the first, stretching to her limit and diving over the fence to snare the ball and save the game for the Huskies.
"It's a sign of what our team is going to be able to do day in and day out," Tarr said of the second game. "It was a team win, everyone contributed. BYU is a great hitting team. Felecia threw some good innings and held them off for a while and Aly picked us up in the outfield big time. She saved a no-hitter last year by doing that but I've never seen anyone do that twice."
The Huskies play two more games on Saturday, facing Southern Utah at 10 a.m. PT and Loyola Marymount at 12:30 p.m. Due to technical difficulties at the Canyons Complex, Gametracker will not be available.