Washington softball team wins NCAA Regional championship
Bryana Walker fanned 12 batters while recording a five-inning no-hitter as the UW softball team overpowered Hawaii 8-0 Sunday in its NCAA regional championship game at Husky Softball Stadium.
Special to The Seattle Times
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It could be an arms race in Missouri next weekend.
Two days after posting a career-high 13 strikeouts, junior pitcher Bryana Walker fanned 12 batters — eight straight at one point — while recording a five-inning no-hitter as the Washington softball team overpowered Hawaii 8-0 on Sunday in an NCAA regional championship game in front of 992 at Husky Softball Stadium.
The win puts the 11th-seeded Huskies (41-15) in a best-of-three Super Regional next weekend against sixth-seeded Missouri. The Tigers (38-12) needed two games Sunday to defeat Hofstra and advance. Missouri senior Chelsea Thomas (24-4), ranked in the top 10 nationally in earned-run average, tossed a one-hitter in Missouri's regional-clinching 5-0 win.
UW traveled to Missouri for a 2011 super regional, where Thomas outpitched Kaitlin Inglesby, then a freshman, in a two-game Missouri sweep.
"Everybody's laughing that we're going back to Missouri," said Inglesby, who struck out nine against Hawaii on Saturday and improved to 22-7. "Whatever. It's a whole new team than it was last time. Our potential is we're going to decide where our season ends, and we're not ready to end it yet."
Walker (17-7), who had an off-and-on Pac-12 campaign (3-4 in 12 starts), looked untouchable against Hawaii (45-13), ranked 20th in the coaches' poll.
After walking the leadoff hitter, Walker fanned nine of the next 10 hitters. She walked two and never let a ball out of the infield, striking out the side in the second and third innings.
"I'm just happy our pitching is coming around and maturing," said coach Heather Tarr, who is taking UW to its eighth super regional (softball's sweet 16) in her nine seasons.
"One of the neatest things about working with this age group is you can see people go from the bottom of life to the top. That's what makes being a college coach, being involved in college athletics, special."
Tarr noted that Walker did not have much travel-team experience when she came to UW.
"This environment has tested her to the utmost," Tarr said. "When people are in that environment, they figure out ways to be great within it, no matter how long it takes. She's figuring things out."
Walker, who threw a five-inning no-hitter against Delaware last year, is happy to be pitching well in critical games.
"I knew my team needed me to be better than I had been," she said. "Go out and be this ace the team needs to see, because it's going to take Kaitlin and I doing a good job for us to go all the way."
After the Huskies squandered opportunities in the first two innings, Inglesby ignited a five-run third with her team-high 11th home run, a rocket blasted to center with Victoria Hayward on base after leading off with a single.
Following two walks, No. 7 hitter Whitney Jones smacked a three-run homer, just the second of her career, to right field for a 5-0 lead, chasing Hawaii ace Kaia Parnaby (39-7).
The Huskies added three more in the fifth on five singles. Freshman Jennie McNeill, who went 3 for 3, and Shawna Wright each singled home runs. Kylee Lahners scored on a double steal.
UW finished with 12 hits, including three from Inglesby and two from Jones.