May 9, 2010

Courtesy of Washington

SEATTLE - Of all the accomplishments in Danielle Lawrie's illustrious career, there was one big thing she had yet to experience.

Time to cross walk-off home run off the list.

The reigning National Player of the Year topped herself yet again, launching a game-winning, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the No. 1 Washington softball team to a thrilling 2-1 victory Saturday in front of a season-high 2,080 fans at Husky Softball Stadium.

After allowing a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning to USA National Team member Ashley Hansen, Lawrie came to bat with nobody out in the seventh with freshman Shawna Wright on first, who led off the inning with a single.

The senior then got a pitch on the outside corner and drilled it to straight-away right field, sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

After the game, Lawrie called it the biggest hit of her career.

It was an even bigger hit that she could imagine as the Huskies' win, coupled with second-place Arizona's loss, put them on the brink of the Pac-10 title. UCLA, which was tied with Arizona to start the day, won with a walk-off of their own in a 3-1 victory over Cal. But a win by UW (42-5, 14-3) on Sunday and a Bruin loss would give UW its third Pac-10 title and first since 2000.

Save for the one mistake, Lawrie was again brilliant in the circle improving to 32-2. She allowed just the one run on five hits and struck out 13 with no walks. It was her 11th double-digit strikeout performance in the last 13 games and moved her 21 strikeouts shy of the all-time conference record.

More importantly, as the Huskies head down the stretch, Lawrie's bat is starting to heat up again. The home run - her 12th of the season - was her first since March 19, a span of 21 games and 62 at-bats. She is 4-for-6 with four RBI over the last two games after going 2-for-17 with no RBI over the previous six. She went 2-for-3 in the game, the only Husky batter with more than one hit as they were held to just four all game by Stanford starter Ashley Chinn.

Wright, meanwhile, continued to affect the game on both the offensive and defensive ends in her rookie year. She made two potential game-saving plays with her arm on Saturday.

Stanford started to get to Lawrie in the sixth, with Sarah Hassman reaching on a one-out single. The Cardinal's leading base stealer then broke for second with Hansen at the plate, but Wright - who has gunned down a conference-high 11 runners this year - threw out Hassman for the second out of the inning. Hansen then immediately followed with a deep drive to centerfield, putting Stanford just six outs away from victory, but less one run thanks to Wright, a run that would come back to haunt them.

After UW went down in order in the bottom of the sixth, Stanford (33-16, 5-12) put together another rally in the seventh on back-to-back one out singles by Jenna Rich and Rosey Neill. With Stanford looking for insurance, Lawrie and Wright then combined for the key play of the game, which swung the momentum all in UW's favor.

With Rich taking a big lead at second, Lawrie threw the heat to Maya Burns who swung through the pitch and before Rich knew what hit her, Wright fired down to second from her knees to gun her down, with second baseman Amanda Fleischman applying the tag for the rare 1-2-4 double play.

That fired up the Husky dugout and as often seems to happen, Wright led off the inning and did so in style, lining a clean single to right field to bring up Lawrie.

Then, a day after firing a no-hitter, Lawrie stole the show again with the winning drive to right that helped the Huskies improve to 15-1 at home this year.

The Huskies and Stanford will wrap up the series on Sunday at Noon, after which the Huskies will honor their seniors with a special ceremony as they play their final regular-season game at Husky Softball Stadium. The game, which is sold out with standing-room only available, can be seen live on UWTV or heard on the radio on KKNW 1150 AM.