Lawrie Pitches UW Into Super Regionals With Epic Performance
May 18, 2009
AMHERST, Mass. - After five hours and 13 minutes, 15 innings and 251 pitches, Danielle Lawrie still had enough gas in the tank to end the greatest game in Washington softball history in fitting fashion: with a strikeout.
Lawrie struck out a school-record 24 batters and the Huskies broke out for five runs in the 15th inning, defeating UMass 6-1 in the winner-take-all deciding game of the NCAA Division I Regionals at the UMass Softball Complex to advance to next week's Super Regionals at Georgia Tech.
The third match-up in three days between two of the top pitchers in the country finally lived up to the hype - and then some - after two average games between the two teams on Saturday and earlier on Sunday. Sunday night's final game had it all, including brilliant pitching, game-saving defensive plays and, finally in the 15th inning, some clutch hitting by the Huskies.
The longest game in UW history carried the No. 3 Huskies into next weekend's Super Regional against Georgia Tech, which is best-of-three games. The series is slated to start on Friday in Atlanta.
UMass (41-10) defeated Washington (44-11) in a must-win game Sunday afternoon, getting to Lawrie for two home runs in a 5-1 win. The teams then changed dugouts and uniforms as the Huskies became the visiting team after being the home team earlier in the day.
After being held to just three hits against Brandice Balschmiter (34-6) in the first game, the Huskies looked like they might make a statement in the second game when they jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Ashley Charters led off the game with a triple and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Jenn Salling.
But UMass came back in the fourth inning with a solo home run to left field by Samantha Solato to tie the game.
That would be the last run either team would score over the next 10 innings as both pitchers worked in and out of trouble, with their defenses making spectacular plays to save several runs.
UMass gunned down two Husky runners at home plate in extra innings, once in the ninth and again in 10th inning, while UW's Amanda Fleischman made a game- and season-saving play in the eighth inning, reaching over the wall in right field to bring back a potential walk-off home run.
With Balschmiter cruising, having retired 12 in a row in the extra frames, the Huskies finally broke through in the 15th. After the inning started with a ground out, Alicia Blake, Niki Williams and Charters all singled to load the bases but Balschmiter looked like she might escape again when she recorded her 13th strikeout of the game. But Salling followed with the game-changing play, hitting a ground ball to the third baseman who looked toward second but then decided to throw to first, but it was too late to get the hustling Salling who beat the throw, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
With UMass' 2-3-4 hitters waiting in the bottom of the inning, the Huskies then exploded for some much-needed insurance, getting back-to-back, two-run singles by Lawrie and Morgan Stuart to extend the lead to 6-1, which was more than enough for Lawrie.
UMass showed they still had some fight left when they started the inning with a single and put another runner on base after a UW error. But the next batter hit a hard ground ball to Stuart, who stepped on third and threw to first to complete a crucial double play. Lawrie then fittingly recorded her 24th strikeout of the game, which she celebrated by dropping her hands to her side with a sigh of relief and letting out a smile as her teammates mobbed her in the circle.
"This team has worked so hard and the thought of us going home tomorrow, that just couldn't happen," Lawrie said. "I told the girls earlier this season that I would never give up on them."
Neither side would give up or give in but it was Lawrie and the Huskies who were able to gut-out the win. All told, the team's played seven hours and 49 minutes on Sunday over 22 innings. Lawrie threw a total of 396 pitches (144 game one, 251 game two) in the two games while Balschmiter threw 357 (114, 243).
Ashley Charters went 4-for-7 with a double, a triple and two runs in the game and finished 8-for-19 in the series (.421). Salling, meanwhile, showed the skills that led her to be a First Team All-American her freshman season, going 2-for-6 with a double, a run scored and two RBI in the game to complete the weekend 8-for-14 (571).
Lawrie, Watson and Blake also had two hits in the game, with Lawrie going 2-for-7 with two RBI, Watson 2-for-4 and Blake 2-for-6.
Lawrie improved to 35-7 with the win, one shy of the UW single-season record for victories. Her 24 strikeouts in the game give her 454 for the season, three shy of her own single-season record. She also has 1,298 in her career, which moved her up to fifth in Pac-10 history and 16th in NCAA history.
● Lawrie is the 15th pitcher in NCAA history with at least 24 Ks in a game. The record is 28, set by Northwestern's Eileen Canney in an 18-inning game in 2006 and was also accomplished by Cristin Vitek of Baylor in a 16-inning game in 2004
● The combined 38 strikeouts by Lawrie and Balschmiter are the fifth-most in NCAA history. The record of 40 was set in 2006 by Virginia Tech's Angela Tincher and Nevada's Jordan McPherson. There have been a combined 39 strikeouts in a game three times.
● UW's previous record for the longest game was in 2006 when they fell, 5-4, to Arizona State in 13 innings.