UW returns to Women's College World Series
Danielle Lawrie threw a pair of shutouts, striking out 17 in the deciding game as the defending NCAA champion Huskies defeated Oklahoma 3-0 and 4-0 to earn a trip back to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.
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It was like the final season of "Lost" condensed into three softball games: mysterious, inexplicable events all resolved in a dreamy, reassuring finale.
One night after a hard-to-fathom performance in which she was shelled for five home runs, Danielle Lawrie rebounded with back-to-back shutouts in must-win games to lead Washington, the defending national champion, back to the Women's College World Series.
The reigning national player of the year mowed down the lineup that bulldozed her Thursday night in a startling 6-1 pasting. On a chilly night, Lawrie struck out a combined 27 while tossing a two-hitter and a five-hitter as she willed the Huskies to wins of 3-0 and 4-0 over 14th-seeded Oklahoma on Friday in front of 1,694 at boisterous Husky Softball Stadium.
By winning the best-of-three super regional, the Huskies (50-7) advance as one of eight qualifiers to the Women's College World Series which begins Thursday in Oklahoma City. It will be UW's third World Series appearance in Lawrie's last three seasons as a Husky.
The tournament's No. 3 seed heads to its 10th Women's College World Series — and fifth since 2003.
What changed from one night to the next for Lawrie?
"I had a good talk with my dad," she said, noting that he left before Thursday night's game was finished. "When he's hurting, I'm hurting.
"I told coach (Heather) Tarr that I need to see that game film, When I was watching it I didn't feel that I was competing. Bottom line, it just comes down to if I was to finish here, that was not how I would ever want to go out.
"It comes down to where you've got to find something deep inside. Tonight I feel that I competed every single pitch that I threw and yesterday I didn't."
This time Lawrie did not have to do it alone. After scoring just four runs in its last three postseason games, UW's offense gave Lawrie an early cushion in both games: a one-run lead in the second inning of the first game and a momentum-grabbing three-run home run in the first inning of the second game by freshman catcher Shawna Wright.
Yet Lawrie (40-3) was the story on the night, particularly in Game 2 when nine of the first 10 outs she recorded were strikeouts — five of them with the third strike taken looking.
She battled through the night's moment of high drama — a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fifth in Game 2.
With UW ahead 3-0, Oklahoma's eight and nine hitters opened the inning with singles. Two batters later, with the runners at second and third after a sacrifice, Lawrie once again pitched around her nemesis, OU's Amber Flores. Flores, who drilled three homers off Lawrie Thursday, drew her third walk of the game, and her fifth walk in seven at-bats over the two games.
With the bases loaded and facing Oklahoma's top hitter, Jessica Shults, Lawrie rallied from a 2-0 hole to strike her out looking.
Cleanup hitter Lindsey Vandever then launched a fly ball deep to right that Kimi Pohlman circled and finally caught on one knee a step in front of the warning track.
Lawrie acknowledged UW's plan was to be careful with Flores. "We said we'll put her on and when we've got to throw to her, we've got to throw to her. Just battle with the other eight."
Cleanup hitter Lindsey Vandever then launched a fly ball deep to right that Kimi Pohlman circled and finally caught on one knee a step in front of the warning track. Pohlman looked precariously in her glove as the ball almost appeared ready to pop out.
Lawrie was not flawless — she allowed base runners in all but two of the 14 innings she pitched — but remained steady. In the first game, she struck out 10, walked four and hit two batters.
In the nightcap, she fanned 17 (her season high) and walked four. She struck out the side in the sixth and upped her school-record season shutout record to 24.
The night's sweetest moment: She struck out OU's last two hitters in the seventh of game two, Flores and Shults, on called strikes with two runners on base.
"I think it's sweeter because as a team we collectively got better," Lawrie said. "Every single pitch, we battled. I didn't care if it was going to go 20 innings. We were ready to go to battle."
Playing as the visiting team in Game 1, the Huskies got to Oklahoma starter Keilani Ricketts (32-10) in the second when Niki Williams tripled to right and scored on a double by Taylor Smith.
Washington added two more in sixth after loading the bases on consecutive by Pohlman, Lawrie and Wright. Hooch Fagaly drew a walk to bring home Pohlman. Lawrie scored on an infield grounder.
In the first inning of the second game, Jenn Salling got aboard via an error and Lawrie singled. Wright then belted a 1-0 pitch that cleared the left-field wall by 30 feet.
The Huskies added a run in the fifth on an RBI single by Williams. The Sooners (47-12) committed four errors in Game 2. Washington's offense produced six hits in the first game, five in the second game.
Tarr found the whole experience redemptive and energizing.
"The game of softball, sports in general, will test you," the sixth-year coach said. "There are times in seasons where you really are tested and your backs get put against the wall.
"This whole season, our coaching staff has been on edge thinking, what's going to be that thing for us? And we hadn't had it. It's been an easy ride that whole time. Not much really came our way and anytime we lost; we bounced right back, it was no big deal.
"Last night, I think, really put us to a test," she said. "I know we had to dig really deep. We had to dig deep into our guts and into our hearts. Obviously, it starts in the circle and it starts with Danielle being able to rebound from a crazy game last night. It just speaks to her and what this team, program and culture are about.
"It's about staying the course and loving the game, regardless of what happens. Sometimes the game kicks you in the butt, and sometime it pays you back."
WASHINGTON 3, OKLAHOMA 0
|Washington||010 002 0 — 3 6 0|
|Oklahoma||000 000 0 — 0 2 1|
WASHINGTON 4, OKLAHOMA 0
|Oklahoma||000 000 0 — 0 5 4|
|Washington||300 010 x — 4 5 0|
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