College softball: Ranked No. 1 two weeks ago, Washington aims to get back on track after sixth straight loss
One of the best seasons in Husky softball history is quickly falling back to earth.
No. 4 Washington, a team that led the NCAA in earned-run average entering the weekend, hadn't surrendered more than four runs in a game all year. It hadn't lost a game at Husky Softball Stadium. And not since 2012 had it lost six in a row.
One series against Oregon changed all that.
But it was what went right Saturday that prompted Washington coach Heather Tarr to throw freshman Gabbie Plain a second straight game. After a tough-luck loss in a complete-game performance, Plain was tagged for five runs as No. 2 Oregon completed its three-game sweep of Washington with a 5-3 victory Sunday.
"They're a good-hitting team, so you've got to give them credit," Tarr said. "I think Gabbie would also look back and say, 'I didn't throw my best game in that inning.'"
After breezing through the first two innings, Plain allowed two singles to lead off the third before Jenna Lilley doubled both runners home. Two batters later, DJ Sanders roped a pitch left up in the zone that just cleared the left-field wall, also scoring Lilley. The Ducks added an unearned run when UW shortstop Nawai Kaupe booted a scorched grounder, allowing Shannon Rhodes to reach and later come around to score on a passed ball.
"I'm not sure much changed," Plain said of the difference between the first two innings and the third. "I think they just started to see me. I had pitched the game before, so they had seen me for a whole game and they were already getting on time. It was only a matter of time before they started hitting gaps. Unfortunately that all just came at once."
This Huskies season can be written in three parts.
The herculean Huskies mauled through the nonconference schedule and established themselves worthy of their highest preseason ranking since 2014, eventually climbing to a nine-week reign atop the polls. The heroic Huskies stayed there, clawing back from deficits to sweep Arizona, another top 10 team. But now, these Huskies have been humbled. Swept in back-to-back series by UCLA — now ranked No. 1 in the nation — and Oregon, Washington has been sent reeling into its longest losing streak since dropping seven straight to end the 2012 regular season.
Maybe it's the result of a backloaded schedule, forced to face what are now the top two teams in the country on consecutive weekends. Maybe it's a case of late-season fatigue. Or just some untimely hitting and sloppy play. When your slugging first baseman, Kirstyn Thomas, steps to the plate one swing away and — not once, but twice — grounds into an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play, Tarr leans toward the latter.
"That's just the respect you have to have for the game," Tarr said. "Two, three good teams facing each other the last two weeks ... anything can happen. If one thing gets you down, you can get stepped on and lose the game."
Either way, a Huskies team that was ranked No. 1 and on top of the Pac-12 standings two weeks ago is poised for a precipitous fall in the polls and is out of the conference-title chase. With the victory, Oregon pulled even with UCLA at 15-3 in Pac-12 play. The Huskies, once 12-2, are 12-8 with one series left at Oregon State next weekend — one they almost certainly have to sweep to hold on hope of hosting an NCAA Super Regional should they advance out of the regional.
This article is written by Evan Webeck from Seattle Times and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.