Huskies Advance To Super Regional With 2-1 Walk-Off Win
May 23, 2010
SEATTLE - Washington freshman Shawna Wright has come up with clutch hit after clutch hit in what will go down as one of the greatest seasons by a rookie in UW history. But no hit was bigger than the one she delivered on Sunday.
After Danielle Lawrie was intentionally walked with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Wright came through with a double down the left field line to score Jenn Salling from second base and send the No. 1 Washington softball team into the NCAA Super Regionals with a 2-1 win over North Carolina in front of 1,760 fans at Husky Softball Stadium.
UW now advances to play No. 14-seed Oklahoma on Thursday and Friday in a best-of-three series at Husky Softball Stadium. Game times have not yet been determined. A single game will be played on Thursday with at least one game on Friday. The "if necessary" game would be played immediately following game two on Friday.
For the second-straight year, the Huskies (48-6) faced the daunting task of going against one of the country's most underrated pitchers in lefty Danielle Spaulding, who threw two no-hitters in her four appearances over the weekend. After Spaulding no-hit Nebraska on Friday to open the weekend, UW used an unearned run to win the first meeting between the teams, 1-0, on Saturday.
Saturday evening then saw a three-hour rain delay that pushed North Carolina and Nebraska's elimination game to Sunday morning, meaning one team would have to win three games in a single day to advance to Super Regionals.
Spaulding looked up to the task, keeping the Cornhuskers hitless again and striking out 18 in a 1-0 eight-inning win to force a re-match with the Huskies, though the double elimination format saw to it that the Tar Heels would have to beat UW twice to advance.
After UW collected just three hits off Spaulding on Saturday, the senior was back at it again despite throwing 112 pitches in the opener. She struck out the side around a walk in the first before making a big mistake to open the second when UW sophomore Niki Williams led off with a long drive over the left field wall to give UW the early 1-0 lead.
Lawrie and Spaulding would then duel over the next six innings, with Lawrie looking unhittable early on. She struck out seven of the first eight batters she faced, including two in the first and all three in the second to put her over the 1,800-mark in career strikeouts, just the fourth pitcher in NCAA history to reach the milestone.
Lawrie struck out two more in the third before the Tar Heels got a leadoff hit in the fourth and put two on with one out after a pop out and a walk. But Lawrie, who fanned 15 in the game for her 25th double-digit strikeout performance of the season, struck out the next two batters to escape.
She then struck out the side in the fifth and fanned the first batter in the sixth to give her six in a row, but after getting out of the sixth with no problems, trouble arose in the seventh.
Before that point, the Huskies had put runners on second in the third, fourth and fifth innings but were unable to push either across and it would come back to haunt them. Carolina would tie things up in the seventh, collecting two of their three hits in the game. Brittany McKinney led off with a single and pinch runner Tisha Mahon would then advance to second on a wild pitch. After Lawrie got Spaulding - UNC's clean-up hitter - to pop up, Ally Blake then came up and hit a hard line drive to left field that drifted over Williams' head, going all the way to the wall to allow Mahon to tie the game.
It was the first run scored off Lawrie all weekend, and snapped her streak of 25-consecutive scoreless innings.
The senior would rebound to strike out the final two batters of the inning, setting the stage for an exciting finish.
After UW went down quietly in the seventh, UNC threatened again in the eighth on an error and a sacrifice bunt that put the go-ahead run in scoring position. A pop out and fly out, however, gave UW a chance to provide the sellout crowd with a happy ending.
Spaulding, whose pitch count for the day was up to more than 200 at this point, recorded her ninth strikeout of the game to start the inning, but Salling then came up and dropped a bunt down the first base line which was fielded by Spaulding, but her throw was mishandled by the second baseman and Salling hustled down to second to put herself in scoring position.
The choice then came down to whether the Tar Heels wanted to take their chances with Lawrie - a senior leading the team with 15 home runs and 57 RBI - or the freshman Wright, who was 1-for-9 on the weekend up to that point.
UNC chose to challenge the freshman, intentionally walking Lawrie. But on a 1-1 count, Wright took an inside pitch and lined it just inside the third baseline and into the corner, allowing Salling to score easily and send UW into the Super Regionals for the second-straight year.
It was a thrilling finish for the sellout crowd, which was watching their Huskies in an NCAA Regional in Seattle for the first time since 2000. They were treated with UW's third walk-off win in their last five home games.
For Lawrie, the 15 Ks matched her third-most this season and gave her 1,811 in her career, fourth in NCAA history. Now 38-2 on the year with 0.94 ERA and 446 strikeouts, she is closing in on - not to mention passing - some of her own records set last year. Her 22 shutouts are a new school record, her 38 wins are second-most behind her 42 last year while her 446 Ks rank third, behind her 521 last year and 457 in 2007.
She went 3-0 over the weekend with a 0.32 ERA, striking out 39 batters and incredibly walking just one in 22.0 innings.
Williams led the Huskies at the plate over the weekend, batting .429 (3-for-7) with her 11th home run of the year, second on the squad. Salling reached base five times in 10 plate appearances, going 3-for-8 with two walks while senior Amanda Fleischman also batted .375 (3-for-8).
The Huskies will now take on the Sooners on Thursday and Friday, whom they defeated, 7-4, back in February. Game times and broadcast information will be released on Monday. All eight NCAA Super Regionals will air live on the ESPN family of networks.