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Originally published Friday, March 9, 2012 at 8:02 PM

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Washington makes home softball debut this weekend

The Huskies are 19-1 and ranked in the top five in national softball polls.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Not bad for the first month of a new season: a 19-1 record, six wins over ranked teams (one over a former No. 1) and a top-5 ranking in two polls: No. 4 (coaches' poll) and No. 3 (ESPN).

The Huskies follow their auspicious start with their Husky Softball Stadium debut this weekend, the two-day Husky Classic with two games Saturday: 3 p.m. vs. Seattle U (4-7) and 6 p.m. vs. North Dakota (6-11). Washington plays the same teams Sunday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Pac-12 play begins in two weeks.

Coach Heather Tarr, in her eighth season, is leaning heavily on youth, starting three freshman infielders — Kylee Lahners at second base, Courtney Gano at third and Kimberlee Souza at shortstop. Lahners has hit a team-best six home runs. Three sophomores are also regulars, including ace pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby.

Senior Kimi Pohlman, who has missed six games the past two weeks due to a concussion, is hitting .478. Sophomore Victoria Hayward (.388) and senior Niki Williams (.293) give Washington a robust-hitting outfield.

Washington is hitting .321 and has scored five or more runs in 17 of its 20 games. The Huskies have seven run-rule wins (where an eight-run lead ends a game early), but they have also won squeakers and had to rally for wins.

"Our clutch hitting has been good," Tarr said. "We're a youthful team with veteran leaders."

Like last year, Inglesby has been impressive in the circle and at the plate. The 6-foot-1 Portland native is 10-0 with a 1.46 earned-run average — not overpowering (46 strikeouts in 67 innings) but effective. She's hitting .377 and leads UW in runs batted in (22).

What is UW's potential? Picked to finish sixth in the Pac-12 in a preseason coaches' poll, the Huskies beat No. 1 Florida 5-2 on Feb. 23 and two days later were defeated (no-hit, in fact) by one of the nation's elite pitchers, Missouri's Chelsea Thomas. Inglesby did not pitch in the 2-0 loss.

"We're good," Tarr said, "and we have to get better and extract lessons from each game we play. We have a long season ahead."

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