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Originally published Friday, May 20, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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UW softball: Boek gets Huskies rolling for regional

In a gesture appropriate for a season in which predictability has been fleeting, the Washington softball team presented its coaching staff...

Special to The Seattle Times

In a gesture appropriate for a season in which predictability has been fleeting, the Washington softball team presented its coaching staff with a surprise at practice on Tuesday, the day before leaving for Lincoln, Neb., and its NCAA tournament regional.

"We just decided to wear whatever we wanted," said senior pitcher Ashley Boek, laughing at the team's rare break from its usually businesslike practice protocol. "I wore spandex pants, purple-and-white socks, a side ponytail and big ol' bow in my hair. We all looked like a bunch of weirdos."

Boek helped Washington (31-20) conclude its up-and-down regular season Saturday on a perfectly normal note, striking out a career-high-tying 12 as the Huskies cruised past Oregon 7-1 at home. Two days earlier, Boek, a fastball specialist from Redding, Calif., blanked sixth-ranked Oregon State on three hits in a 9-0 rout.

"She was awesome," said first-year coach Heather Tarr.

It's most beneficial for the Huskies to have the ordinarily quiet and composed Boek (17-12, 2.50 ERA) on an upswing as Washington enters its 12th straight NCAA tournament.

The 21st-ranked Huskies, the top seed in their four-team regional and the 16th seed overall, open play at 5 p.m. today on the Nebraska campus against three-time Missouri Valley Conference champion Creighton (44-11). The field for this double-elimination round also includes No. 22 Iowa (48-12) and No. 25 Nebraska (35-21) and runs through Sunday.

Washington vs. Creighton


NCAA tournament regional,

first-round play

Where: Bowlin Stadium, Lincoln, Neb.

When: 5 p.m. today

Radio: KKNW (1150 AM)

Records: UW 31-20, CU 44-11

The Huskies had an erratic nonconference season, then opened their Pac-10 schedule 1-5. UW almost dropped out of the coaches' Top 25 poll for the first time since 1993.

"My pitching paralleled what was happening to the team," said Boek of her struggles. "I honestly can't tell you what I can attribute it to. It caught me by surprise."

She seemed to rediscover her old form in a 1-0 loss to California on April 30, in which she gave up just three hits.

"I was able to throw a complete game with seven good innings, instead of five bad innings and two good innings," she said. "It felt more like me on the mound."

Caitlin Noble, a freshman from Eastlake, helped stabilize UW's pitching during Boek's struggles, going 14-8 and with 225 strikeouts in 157-2/3 innings — the fourth most strikeouts in the Pac-10, 18th nationally and the fifth-best season total in Washington history.

Boek, meanwhile, finished with 175 strikeouts and ranks second in UW history with 795 career strikeouts. A psychology major, Boek says working with former coach Scott Centala last season helped her learn more about the mental part of the game.

"With the ups and downs, it was hard to have a lot of confidence on the mound," she said. "But the success we've had the last few weeks has given us confidence. We're excited to play right now."

Notes

• Catcher Kristen Rivera, named co-Pac-10 player of the year, likely will become UW's first four-time All-American. One of 10 finalists for USA softball player of the year, Rivera is batting .373 with 19 home runs and 51 runs batted in. Her per-game home-run average (.037) is second in the nation, and her 63 walks are a school record and tops in the nation. Rivera also owns Washington's career home-run record (77).

• Freshman shortstop Ashley Charters leads the team with a .382 average and 15 multi-hit games. She has scored 51 runs and 32 stolen bases in 37 attempts.

• Washington is fourth nationally in home runs per game (1.41), with 72 for the year. UW's run average (5.86) ranks ninth and slugging percentage (.506) is 10th.

• In 2003, the Huskies defeated Creighton 5-1 in a first-round NCAA regional game played on the same field at Nebraska.

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