Young Team Has Bright Future
June 20, 2012
SEATTLE - Their 19th trip to the NCAA Tournament. The fourth super regional in as many years. Ranked as high as No. 3 in the country. Began the season with a 32-1 record. Two seniors drafted by the NPF. A second-team NFCA All-American. A Lowe's Senior CLASS Award All-American. A team record eight academic All-Pac-12 honorees. Three all-region selections. Six All-Pac-12 honorees.
The Washington softball team had yet another impressive year. Head coach Heather Tarr, in her eighth season at UW, led the Huskies to a 39-19 overall record and a No. 14/14 ranking to end the year.
"This was a very good season for us," Tarr began. "Overall, we will take away so much from our experiences."
Washington was one of the hottest teams at the beginning of the season, defeating then-ranked No. 1 Florida in Cathedral City along with wins over ranked opponents such as Georgia, Texas A&M and Nebraska (twice) early in the preseason. UW was named the tournament champion at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., on opening weekend with a 5-0 start. The Huskies also took the tournament title at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., in March with a 4-0 record.
Four seniors who were freshmen on the 2009 national championship team came back with dreams of getting the school's second national title. Jenna Clifton, Kimi Pohlman, Taylor Smith and Nikia Williams were the true leaders of the team; Williams and Pohlman on the field and Clifton and Smith from the bench and in supportive roles. Smith was known as the vocal leader on the team.
Both Pohlman and Williams earned all-region and all-conference honors and Williams was named a second-team All-American by the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Pohlman hit third on the team with a .366 average and a team-best 22 stolen bases. Williams hit .327 with seven doubles, five triples and seven home runs.
"Williams was a huge presence in our offensive line up. She had some big hits for us this season, most notably her three-run home run in the NCAA regional championship against Harvard," Tarr said about her two-time All-American.
Pohlman was the leadoff hitter much of the year but hit deeper in the lineup towards the end of the season. She played most of the year in center field before moving to left in the postseason.
"Pohlman's speed gave us a lot of options this season. Moving her around in our lineup was a key to some of our successes. She is a great hitter when runners are in scoring position. She had some great timely hits one being against Arizona when we needed it most," Tarr added.
"Clifton and Smith provided us needed runs as pinch hitters off the bench," Tarr continued on about the seniors. "They were outstanding role players for us, always doing what the team needed them to do at any moment."
Despite the four senior leaders, this was a very young group for coach Tarr. Three of the starting infielders were freshmen, Courtney Gano, Kimberlee Souza and Kylee Lahners, along with a redshirt sophomore first baseman in Hooch Fagaly. Sophomore Victoria Hayward also started 54 games in the outfield and some at first base while batting second.
"Offensively we saw a lot of growth in our younger players," Tarr said. "Hayward comes to mind as a very bright spot for our future. She had the highest quality at-bat percentage over the course of the season. Her pressure on the defense numbers that come from walks, stolen bases and strike outs was very high. The freshmen infielders not only became one of the best defensive infields in the country, each of them gained knowledge of what it takes to compete offensively in the Pac-12."
At the plate, sophomore pitcher/DP Kaitlin Inglesby led the team with a .385 batting average and 63 RBI. She was named a second-team All-American by the NFCA.
"Kaitlin was our most clutch performer at the plate. Her 63 RBI was impressive this season. She has such a great eye at the plate and her continued growth as a hitter will allow her to be aggressive with pitches she needs to hit and her numbers will continue to improve," Tarr said.
The pitching depth was deep, but also young, with two sophomores and a freshman getting the job done. Inglesby led the way with a 19-11 record and a 2.31 ERA in 197.0 innings. She also had five saves. Bryana Walker went 10-6 with a 2.36 ERA and Kasey Stanchek posted a 10-2 record with a 2.83 ERA.
"Our pitching developed a lot throughout the season," Tarr said. "Kaitlin learned a lot about beating teams two to three times over the course of a season, Bryana learned how to get ahead of hitters and force them into positions where they have to hit her best pitches. Kasey developed into a great compliment to Kaitlin with her ability to spin the ball to locations and planes that are opposite of what Kaitlin can do."
Tarr also mentioned that junior Jerrin Fa'asua and sophomore Marki Creger-Zier will be huge keys to the future success of the program if they can both stay healthy. Both can play in the infield or outfield.
"Their ability to stay healthy will allow us to have consistent depth. Jerrin's play in centerfield throughout the postseason was key for us. From the runners she threw out and the home run she robbed, she was a tremendous asset to our defense," Tarr mentioned.
"Shawna was our postseason player of the year. She played her best when it was needed. Her work this season with our three woman pitching staff was incredible. Getting the pitching staff on track and their improvements is going to help us as we move into next season. Lindsay helped us in the bullpen with the pitchers with her selfless, team first attitude. Her contributions as a catcher in some of our preseason games and several conference games allowed Shawna some rest so she could be at her best when it was needed."
Walk-on Kelli Suguro "was a good option for us as a left-handed pinch hitter," said Tarr. "She had a key RBI for us in conference versus Arizona."
Sophomore Whitney Jones made a huge personal sacrifice for the team, switching to a left-handed hitter and Tarr says "her best softball years are ahead of her. She is a warrior for us and a team leader first."
Of course the Pac-12 is always difficult, and every single team this year was ranked or receiving votes at some point. UW opened up league play with Pac-12 newcomer Utah, sweeping the series. After that, UW dropped three close games at Cal, a familiar foe they would face in the Super Regionals.
Although the Pac-12 season wasn't what the Huskies hoped for, the young team learned how to fight through a grueling schedule and have the tools it takes to be stronger next season. Even though the conference season didn't play out the way the Huskies would have liked, they still got the No. 16 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and hosted Texas Tech, Maryland and Harvard. UW came out 3-0 and with the title to head to Cal for Super Regionals.
Even though the four seniors didn't get their second national championship, they left a great legacy at UW and helped the young UW team achieve success. With all of the talent coming back for 2013, coach Tarr and the Huskies have high hopes of going back to the WCWS.