May 29, 2010

By Jim Whiting
Special to NCAA.com

SEATTLE - Anyone predicting the demise of the Washington Huskies and reigning Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie after their 6-1 beatdown by the Oklahoma Sooners in Thursday's Super Regional opening game was premature.

After notching a 3-0 win in the opening game on Friday, the Huskies rode Lawrie's arm - she finished with 17 strikeouts - and freshman catcher Shawna Wright's bat (and legs) to a 4-0 victory in the nightcap and the opportunity to defend their Women's College World Series title.

After Lawrie struck out a pair in the top of the first - in addition to walking Amber Flores (her Thursday nemesis after stroking three home runs) yet again on four pitches - to show that she was still strong despite a 124-pitch effort in the opening game, the Huskies struck quickly in the home half.

Jenn Salling reached on an error and with one out, Lawrie lined a long single off the wall in left center. Then Wright drove the ball over the left field fence - the Huskies' only homer in the three-game set - to ignite her team and the crowd of 1,694 - and give Lawrie a 3-0 cushion.

Visibly more animated that she had been Thursday, Lawrie gave up a leadoff double to Haley Nix to open the second, then struck out the side. She did the same thing in third, in addition to issuing the now-obligatory walk to Flores. She fanned two more in the fourth to bring her total to ten.

After two quiet innings, the Huskies missed a golden opportunity in the fourth. Hooch Fagaly led off with a walk, and Taylor Smith advanced pinch runner Maggie Wagner to second. Wagner appeared to be caught too far off second, but an error on the ensuing rundown - the Sooners' third of the game - put runners on second and third with no outs. But after a strikeout, Wagner was cut down at home on a close play and Jenn Salling lined out softly to first base.

The Sooners threatened in the fifth. Chana'e Jones dropped a bloop single into left, then pinch hitter Brianna Turang beat out a high chopper. A groundout advanced the runners to second and third and brought up Flores, who walked for the sixth time in the evening to load the bases.

Lawrie fanned Jessica Shults looking on a 3-2 pitch. Cleanup hitter Lindsey Vandever sent right fielder Kimi Pohlman to the warning track for the third out as Lawrie worked her way out of the jam.

Wright played a crucial role in creating a fourth Husky run in the fifth. After hitting into a fielder's choice, she alertly took second when Sooner pitcher Keilani Ricketts didn't return to the pitchers area in a timely manner. Her move proved crucial when Oklahoma left fielder Haley Anderson momentarily bobbled Niki Williams's single and pinch runner Amanda Fitzsimmons streaked around to score and extend the Washington lead to 4-0.

Lawrie retired the Sooners in order in the top of the sixth, but they didn't go out quietly. They put two on with one out in the seventh and the dangerous Flores at bat. After hitting a long foul to left, Lawrie caught Flores looking on a 3-2 pitch, her only official at-bat of the evening. Lawrie then got Shults looking on a full count to end the game.