Washington Baseball and Washington Softball making deep postseason runs in the same year is not something that happens often. In fact, prior to 2018, it had never happened.
Although they were not able to take home the title in Oklahoma City, the softball team made their 13th appearance in the Women’s College World Series, coming just short of their second title. Meanwhile, the baseball team is about to make its first ever appearance in the College World Series. Together, they make the UW the first Pac-12 school since 2011 to go to the CWS and the WCWS in the same season.
In addition, four current Washington players were selected in the MLB Draft this past week. Both teams have been remarkable, and their seasons have run more parallel than you might think.
Overcoming Injury Scares
A theme of both teams’ seasons was key players going down with injuries. Starting catcher Morganne Flores tore her ACL in a preseason practice, sidelining the 2017 Pac-12 leader in RBIs. Undaunted, the Huskies went 28-0 to start 2018 and held on to the No.1 ranking for a large chunk of the season. Freshman Emma Helm shouldered the majority of the catcher’s burden in Flore’s absence. She started 50 games and batted .212 with three home runs and 19 RBIs, providing stability behind the plate.
On the baseball side, many key contributors missed time at some point in the year. Willie MacIver missed the first 21 games of the season after breaking the hamate bone in his hand. Fellow MLB draftee AJ Graffanino missed 32 games with a hamstring injury in March. Numerous others, including Joe Demers and Mason Cerillo, were unavailable to play for some period of time.
Still, head coach Lindsay Meggs was able to piece together effective lineups game after game, and the team finished the regular season with 30 wins. This includes a victory in the last series of the season over No.1 Stanford, propelling Washington into the postseason.
Positively Perfect Pitchers
Of course, we can’t talk about these teams without mentioning the dynamic duo of Demers and Gabbie Plain.
Demers threw the first perfect game in program history, needing just 84 pitches to do it against UC Riverside. It was only the fifth perfect game in the history of the conference, and the UW’s ninth no-hitter ever.
Plain threw the seventh perfect game in Washington Softball history in early April, with only two balls reaching the outfield all game. The Australian freshman became the first Husky to achieve the feat since the legendary Danielle Lawrie back in 2010.
They are the first pair to throw perfect games in baseball and softball for the same school in the same year. Both were named to All Pac-12 teams and honored for their achievements alongside Felix Hernandez at Safeco Field.
After both teams ended the season on winning streaks, they quickly got to work dismantling their postseason competition.
On the softball end, Washington did what they do best: win when the lights are bright. The Huskies ripped through Boise State, Texas, and No.25 Minnesota in regionals, allowing only three total runs in the three games. In the next round, they made quick work of familiar foe Alabama in two games en route to the UW’s second straight WCWS.
In Oklahoma City, they dismantled No.4 Oklahoma twice and got revenge on No.1 Oregon for sweeping them towards the end of the regular season.
No.6 Florida State proved too much for Washington in the championship series, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the team’s remarkable run.
The baseball team, on the other end, has found itself in uncharted territory.
In the Conway regional, the Huskies went up against Coastal Carolina and Connecticut, their mascot rivals from the east coast. In Game 1 of the regional, Washington dismantled UConn 7-1 in the teams’ first meeting ever. They beat Coastal Carolina 11-6 the next day, and UConn again the day after that to punch a ticket to the Super Regional against Cal State Fullerton, who upset Stanford in the earlier round.
Washington wasted no time proving it belonged on the big stage, winning Game 1 8-5. Although the Huskies dropped Game 2, a fortuitous 10th inning in Game 3 sent the Huskies to the College World Series in walk-off fashion.
The softball team will have some work to do in the offseason. The team will lose five key seniors, including Julia DePonte and Kirstyn Thomas, who were tops on the team in home runs with 15 and 12, respectively. They will also lose Trysten Melhart who, along with Plain and Sis Bates, was named to the WCWS All-Tournament Team.
But maybe most importantly, third baseman Taylor Van Zee will also be departing from the team. The tandem of Van Zee and Bates helped make Washington defensive infield one of the best in the Pac-12, and also one of the Pac-12’s most charismatic.
Still, the team can look for leadership in Bates and pitching ace Taran Alvelo. Look for Alvelo’s lackluster performance against Florida State to fuel her in 2019. Despite the important departures, expect Washington to be right up there in next year’s preseason Top 25.
Baseball doesn’t have to think about the off-season just yet. As they head to the CWS, the Huskies have all of the tools to make some noise in Omaha. Demers had yet another perfect game through six innings in Game 3 against Fullerton, and six different players drove in runs, including MacIver and Graffanino.
No matter what happens, these two teams’ postseason runs have combined to write an exciting end to a legendary sports year at the University of Washington.