New and improved Huskies begin postseason play
Washington is better in a number of areas than the Husky team that won last year’s NCAA softball championship
FILE - In this June 1, 2009, file photo, Washington’s Danielle Lawrie pitches against Florida in the second inning of an NCAA softball tournament championship series game in Oklahoma City,. Lawrie has won the Honda Award as the nation’s top college softball player on Tuesday, June 9, 2009. The junior from Canada helped send the Huskies to their first national championship. (AP Photo/File)
Last year’s run to history is something head coach Heather Tarr preferred to be left in the past.
“From the get-go, we’ve really kind of thrown that word in the trash — the repeat, or the defend — because it’s not really the same team,” Tarr said this week.
And so today, the 2010 UW softball team begins its quest for the program’s first national championship in 11½ months.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that the Huskies are the defending champions, and the beginning of the postseason only makes the target on UW’s back that much bigger. When the top-ranked Huskies (45-6) play host to North Dakota State (33-23) in an NCAA regional game at 5 p.m. today, the college softball world will no doubt be watching.
But it’s not exactly a new role for a team that won it all last June.
“How we’ve been able to deal with that, with having the target on our back and being the hunted — versus the hunter — we’ve done a very good job of that,” Tarr said this week. “So going into the postseason, we just do what we do.”
For the good part of two seasons, the Huskies have done it better than anyone in the country. This year’s squad, despite losing seniors Ashley Charters, Alicia Blake, Ashlyn Watson and Lauren Greer to graduation, has certainly brought back memories of the 2009 squad. UW has been ranked No. 1 in the country for most of the nation, and star pitcher Danielle Lawrie has found a way to actually improve on her national-player-of-the-year performance from last season.
Lawrie has more wins (35, up from 32 during the 2009 regular season), more shutouts (21, up from 18) and strikeouts (407, up from 398). Her 0.99 ERA is only slightly higher than the 0.78 she posted during the 2009 regular season, and she has shown dramatic improvement as a hitter (.322 batting average and 14 home runs, as compared to .247 and four last season).
The 2010 Huskies also have better numbers in runs per game (6.0, up from 4.98), batting average (.310, up from .294) and winning percentage (.882, up from .804).
But Tarr isn’t overly interested in hearing any of that. New team, new year.
“If it was the same team we had last year, with Ashley Charters, Alicia Blake, Ashlyn Watson and those seniors,” Tarr said, “then it might be like: ‘All right, guys, here’s our rally cry. Here’s how we’re going to motivate ourselves to defend the title.’ But we had a whole new group of people that got to emerge and step up.”
Outfielder Kimi Pohlman has emerged as the Huskies’ top hitter (.385 batting average), while shortstop Jenn Salling (.364) and first baseman Niki Williams (.349) have also shown improvement at the plate. Freshmen Shawna Wright (.306) and Hooch Fagaly (.301) have made immediate impacts at the plate and while replacing Blake as UW’s catchers.
It may be a new team, and a new season, but this year’s Huskies have the same goal.
“Last year was a single year,” Tarr said. “It’s different motivation this year.”
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