Washington softball wins NCAA regional
Shawna Wright doubles in winning run in eighth inning of Huskies' 2-1 victory over North Carolina, advancing UW to super regional against No. 14 Oklahoma
Special to The Seattle Times
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Danielle Lawrie figures Washington's 2-1, extra-inning victory over North Carolina in an NCAA softball regional final Sunday was a case of the right person making the right play at the right time. And for a change, the spotlight found someone other than Lawrie.
Freshman catcher Shawna Wright ripped a game-winning double down the left-field line to drive in Jenn Salling from second in the bottom of the eighth inning to lift the third-seeded Huskies to the win in front of 1,760 at Husky Softball Stadium and advance UW to the super regional.
The Huskies (48-6) will host 14th-seeded Oklahoma (46-10) Thursday and Friday at times still to be determined.
Washington, which had led 1-0 since Niki Williams led off the second inning with a home run to left, needed to play an extra inning after North Carolina (42-20) ended a streak of 25 scoreless innings by Lawrie in the top of the seventh with a single, wild pitch and game-tying double by Ally Blake.
In the bottom of the eighth, Salling dropped down a bunt that North Carolina mishandled, allowing Salling, following a headfirst dive into first, to scramble to second with one out.
Next up was Lawrie, who was 0 for 7 in two games against UNC ace Danielle Spaulding. The Tar Heels intentionally walked Lawrie, UW's home run and RBI leader, to get to cleanup hitter Wright, who had struck out in her previous two at-bats.
"I'm 0-fer all day, so I had to expect they were going to do that (walk Lawrie) to get to me," said Wright, who was feeling glum about a seventh-inning pitch that got past her and allowed UNC's Brittany McKinney to advance to second following a leadoff single. "I had to be ready."
Wright hooked Spaulding's first pitch deep but foul down the left-field line. Two pitches later, Wright scorched a grounder just inside the third-base bag and into the corner that brought Salling home with the winning run.
After she was walked, Lawrie (38-2), who struck out 15 (one shy of her season high) and gave up just three hits, sensed something good was due for Wright.
"A bunch of us have struggled at the dish, myself included," Lawrie said. "That's why I was surprised when I got walked. I haven't really done anything. But when I got to first base, there was something in my stomach where I was thinking, 'You know, it's Shawna's time.' "
• UNC's Spaulding pitched an eight-inning no-hitter earlier Sunday, striking out 18 to defeat Nebraska 1-0 and advance the Tar Heels into the regional final. Spaulding (21-7), still mending from a midseason broken bone in her pitching hand, has six no-hitters this season.
Lawrie sought her out after the game.
"I told her I think she's one of the best pitchers by far that I think I've ever faced," Lawrie said. "Don't get me wrong — I'm a competitor. But when you see great talent, you've got to let them know."
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