CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Comeback for the ages? Just part of UW Huskies softball team’s identity

May 25, 2023, 2:47 PM

Pac-12 UW Huskies Jadelyn Allchin...

UW Huskies OF Jadelyn Allchin celebrates her home run on May 23, 2021. (Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

(Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SEATTLE — You can find the acronym scribbled somewhere on Joe Maddon’s old lineup cards.

What the acronym ultimately means is “Do not be a fan.”

The big league manager used it as a reminder to make decisions based on data and objective thought, not emotion. His credo made it to UW Huskies softball coach Heather Tarr, via the University of Washington’s sports psychologist, and the coach offered it Wednesday as a partial explanation for why her teams continue to captivate for feats of resiliency and endurance.

A fan could be forgiven for changing the channel when the Huskies fell behind 6-0 to McNeese in the fifth inning of last Sunday’s regional championship game, or when they came to bat in the seventh facing the same deficit (though if they watch enough UW softball, they should probably know that’s a bad idea).

A fan could reasonably lament the opportunity UW was about to squander, with No. 10 seed LSU cleared from the bracket by Louisiana, and No. 2 seed UCLA stunningly bounced on the first weekend, too.

A fan might already have been irritated by the idea of UW losing, two years in a row, as a favored host in the regional round.

There was no logical reason for any fan to believe the Huskies — or any team, really — would erase a six-run deficit in a single inning after going scoreless in their previous 13.

So, don’t be a fan. Or, should a player feel compelled to deviate, they could embody the belief of two fans senior pitcher Brooke Nelson spotted sitting in the outfield, rally caps at the ready, even at a time when “everyone and their mom (was) thinking our season was over.”

“You can get caught up in the stats, or the external parts of where you’re at in the moment,” Tarr said. “We just have to resign ourselves — we’re competitors in the arena, and we have to compete one pitch at a time. We can’t control things (thinking) as if we were fans.”

From the UW Huskies softball team’s perspective, there was no logical reason why Madison Huskey couldn’t lead off with a single. Or why Jadelyn Allchin couldn’t drive her home with a double, and score two batters later on a sacrifice fly. And why couldn’t Kelley Lynch pinch hit and drive home another run with a single to center field?

Now it’s 6-3. A walk and a couple fielder’s choices load the bases. There are two outs, but Sami Reynolds is perfectly capable of firing a double to the left-center field fence, scoring everybody, right? Now it’s 6-6, and here’s Huskey again, and at this point, why wouldn’t she deliver the go-ahead double beneath the glove of a diving center fielder?

As soon as Baylee Klingler slid across with the tying run, Nelson grabbed backup catcher Sydney Stewart and headed to the bullpen. That’s where she watched Huskey’s double fall in.

“At that point it was just kind of, ‘OK, they had our back and scored seven runs in one inning,’” said Nelson, who pitched the final three innings of UW’s 7-6 victory to earn the win. “Now it’s our job to have their back and get three outs for this team.”

She did, after allowing a leadoff single, and UW can hang the mental snapshot of its postgame celebration (video below) beside a couple other dramatic triumphs that punctuate Tarr’s résumé.

Without naming the opponent or the season, Tarr made reference on Wednesday to Washington’s legendary, 15-inning win against Massachusetts in 2009.

UW was the No. 3 overall seed and a legitimate title contender, but had to play on the road because the NCAA required host teams to have stadium lights. UMass proved a formidable regional host. Ace pitchers Danielle Lawrie and Brandice Balschmiter battled deep into a chilly night in Amherst, and Huskies outfielder Amanda Fleischman robbed what would have been a game-winning home run in the bottom of the eighth. UW finally broke through with five runs in the top of the 15th to win 6-1, an all-time gut-check en route to the Huskies’ first national championship.

Tarr noted that UW also went 13 innings without scoring that night, just as it did through a 1-0 defeat to McNeese earlier Sunday and the first six innings of the decisive second game.

“Not that we want to be habit-makers of those types of experiences,” Tarr said. “But there are certain things in seasons that are turnarounds, or weird things that happen that you get through and really fuel you, and you can say, ‘If we can do that, then there’s no stopping us.’”

Just two years ago, the Huskies lost to Michigan on the second day of the regional round, then needed to beat the Wolverines twice on Sunday to advance. All-American Gabbie Plain threw every pitch of both games, the first a 2-0 shutout, the second a 10-5 victory that saw UW fall behind 5-1 and then score nine unanswered runs, seven of them in the fourth inning.

Allchin led off that inning with a home run. Klingler hit an RBI double. Reynolds reached on an error and scored. Huskey doubled in two runs.

Sometimes, resiliency is born from institutional knowledge. UW nearly accomplished another Sunday comeback last year, losing to Texas on Saturday, then defeating the Longhorns the following day — 2-1, thanks to Huskey’s two-run homer in the sixth inning — to force a decisive final game. The Huskies trailed 3-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh. They scored twice — Reynolds came home with the first — and had the tying run on base when Michigan recorded the final out, ending UW’s season.

In Sunday’s first game against McNeese, Tarr felt like the Huskies hit the ball hard and had chances to score despite their seven zeroes. She believed those tough-luck moments instilled hope, saying that “this pendulum is literally stuck right here, and once this pendulum goes that way, look out. Now, we didn’t, like, craft it to happen in the seventh inning, after we were down by six. But we also believe that there’s no way we can be held down that long with this team and this offense, regardless of what was happening.”

UW hosts Louisiana in a best-of-three Super Regional series this weekend at Husky Softball Stadium. Tickets are sold out. Win, and the Huskies advance to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2019. UCLA is a big obstacle cleared, but there is no logical reason to bet against No. 1 Oklahoma to win its third consecutive national championship.

And for the UW Huskies softball team, there is no reason to think about any of that. Friday’s first pitch is at 7 p.m., with the broadcast on ESPN.

“There was no, ‘Oh my gosh, we did it.’ Yes, we did it, and yes, we made some form of history, which was really great for us,” Allchin said of Sunday’s aftermath. “We still watched the videos and were like, ‘Wow, we did that.’ But now it’s like, ‘OK, now we have to win the next pitch, win the next game. It’s on to the next. We aren’t done yet.’”

This article was originally published at OnMontlake.com, the new home for Christian Caple’s full coverage of UW Huskies football (and sometimes other UW sports). Subscribe to On Montlake for full access to in-depth UW coverage.

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