Sputtering UW hopes to restart softball engine
Washington hopes to revive its softball fortunes after losing 16 of its final 20 regular-season games, the school's worst 20-game stretch.
Special to The Seattle Times
Texas Tech vs. Maryland, 3:30 p.m.; Washington vs. Harvard, 6 p.m.
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Eager to revive a season that began with huge promise but sputtered to a disappointing regular-season finish, the Washington softball team opens the NCAA tournament, its 19th straight, at home against Ivy League champion Harvard (33-13) Friday at 6 p.m.
Husky Softball Stadium is one of 16 regional sites for the first weekend of tournament play. UW's four-team, double-elimination playoff begins with 24th-ranked Texas Tech (40-15) facing Maryland (34-20) Friday at 3:30 p.m.
The 18th-ranked Huskies (36-17), seeded 16th in the tournament, roared through six weeks of nonconference play, building a 29-1 record and winning six games against ranked opponents.
Ranked No. 3 after sweeping its opening Pac-12 series and improving to 32-1, UW lost 16 of its final 20 games, the school's worst 20-game stretch ever. The Huskies lost their last seven games (a program low for consecutive losses) and went scoreless in the last three.
That was then, UW players and coaches affirmed Thursday; time for a restart.
"We're looking at this as a whole new season," said sophomore Kaitlin Inglesby, UW's ace pitcher (18-10, 2.33 earned-run average) and top hitter (.406 batting average, team-best 62 runs batted in).
"It's all about who can play the best for the next three weeks," she said. "If we stick to everything we've been practicing these past few weeks, we're capable of anything. We've proven that at times to everyone in the country."
Inglesby opened the season with a 15-0 record (1.19 ERA), performing so well at an elite tournament in late February (3-0 vs. three ranked teams while hitting 9 for 13) that she was named national player of the week.
Arm trouble began to affect Inglesby in early April, contributing to a 3-10 record in Pac-12 play with an ERA of 3.60.
Inglesby did not throw or hit during UW's bye week and resumed pitching on Sunday with little to no discomfort, she reported
"It was just pain in my forearm," she said. "You feel it when you play, but I was able to block most of it out when I played. I'm feeling good now and that's all that matters.
"It's mild compared to anything (before)," Inglesby said. "It's more mental. I know that I'm tougher than this. It took me a little longer than I wanted to realize that. I understand that now and I'm way past it. I'm great. I'm ready. I'm pumped."
Rest has benefitted Inglesby, coach Heather Tarr said.
"These past two weeks have been nice," she said. "We've gotten the rest, we've had time to work things out. If it's going to help anyone, it's going to help her."
• Harvard assistant coach Brandi Gordon was UW's director of softball operations in 2007 and an assistant at Seattle University in 2008. The Redmond native is in her fourth season with the Crimson.
• Texas Tech coach Shanon Hayes has the Red Raiders in the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive year. Former UW coach Teresa Wilson coached Tech for four seasons (2005-08), going 89-123. Wilson left Tech to be pitching coach at Arizona but is now out of college softball. She was recently named head coach of the Carolina Diamonds, one of four teams in National Pro Fastpitch.