OKLAHOMA CITY — Five years ago, the Washington softball team had its NCAA title hopes dashed when it was swept by Florida State in the championship series at the Women’s College World Series title.
On Saturday night, No. 3 seed Florida State sent the No. 7 seed Huskies to the brink of elimination, winning 3-1 at USA Softball Hall of Stadium in a winners’ bracket matchup.
With a victory, UW would have been one win away from the title series, with two chances to get it.
By losing, Washington will need to beat No. 9 seed Stanford in an elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m., Pacific time, then beat top-seed Oklahoma twice on Tuesday.
Many believe Oklahoma (58-1), which has won an NCAA record 50 straight games, is the greatest college softball team ever.
So the Huskies face a daunting challenge. But they have conquered big challenges before, most notably overcoming a six-run deficit in the final inning of the deciding game in the regional, beating McNeese 7-6.
Washington might have avoided its predicament had it taken advantage of a good opportunity in the top of the second inning.
SilentRain Espinoza hit a one-out single and Florida State pulled pitcher Makenna Reid and brought in ace Kathryn Sandercock.
Rylee Holtorf greeted Sandercock with a single, and after a ground out put runners on second and third, Sandercock hit Sydney Stewart with a pitch to load the bases for star second baseman Baylee Klingler.
Klingler swung at the first pitch she saw, hitting a line drive directly at right fielder Hallie Wacaser, who caught the ball for the third out.
Perhaps buoyed by that escape, the Florida State offense came to life in the bottom of the second inning.
Two singles and an error loaded the bases with one out. Josie Muffley then hit a soft single to left field that just evaded shortstop Holtorf, bringing in the first run.
The Huskies, like Florida State, pulled their starter pitcher with one out in the second inning, bringing in Lindsay Lopez to relieve Ruby Meylan. Lopez gave up a sacrifice fly 2-0 before getting the third out.
But after Lopez came in with the bases loaded, it could easily have been worse.
Washington has 16 come-from-behind wins, and Lopez gave them a chance for No. 17, shutting down Florida State until the bottom of the sixth inning, right after FSU escaped the top of the inning giving up just one run.
After nine straight Husky hitters in a row had been retired, Madison Huskey hit a double to lead off the top of the sixth inning, and scored on a Kelley Lynch single. With two outs, UW had runners on first and third, but pinch-hitter Olivia Johnson grounded out to second base to end the inning.
Florida State added to its lead on a single, a stolen base and a throwing error by Lopez.
UW made it interesting in the seventh inning, opening with two straight singles from Sidney Stewart and Baylee Klingler. But Sami Reynolds flew out and Huskey’s liner was caught by a leaping Muffley at shortstop.
Megan Vandegrift, pinch-running for Stewart took off from second base, and could not get back to the base in time, resulting in a game-ending double play.