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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Commentary: This Husky softball team is moving on by raising your pulse rate

Behind pitcher Ruby Meylan, who came in to finish the game in the seventh, Washington wins its way into the College World Series.  (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times)
Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The ticket prices on the secondary market cleared triple digits easily. Can’t help but wonder if Huskies pitcher Lindsay Lopez was aware of that.

Skeptics might say the junior struggled in her outing Saturday, allowing a base runner in each of the six innings she took the mound. Others might say she’s just a master entertainer whose performance epitomized this Washington softball team’s postseason thus far.

Plenty of UW squads have made the Women’s College World Series. But it’s hard to think of many — if any — that have elevated their fans’ pulse rates like this one did in that pursuit.

Seeing the words “WCWS BOUND” scrawled across the JumboTron seemed like an impossibility at one point last weekend, but after Washington’s 2-0 win over Louisiana in Game 2 of the Super Regionals, those nine letters have never looked sweeter.

“Husky softball continues in 2023” said Washington coach Heather Tarr — her final words of Saturday’s news conference.

It was just six days earlier, of course, that Husky softball looked doomed when the team trailed McNeese State 6-0 in the final half inning of Game 3 of the Seattle Regional. Then, the Huskies rattled off seven runs to cap an unprecedented postseason comeback and advance to the Super Regional.

And though UW’s 8-0 win in Game 1 vs. Louisiana may have made it seem as if a return to Oklahoma City was inevitable, the Ragin Cajuns’ effort in Game 2 quickly quelled that certainty.

Louisiana threatened in every inning of the game. It got runners to first and second in the first inning before Lopez struck out the next two batters. It got a runner to first in the second frame before Lopez logged another K and forced a ground out. The third inning saw two Ragin’ Cajuns reach base before third baseman SilentRain Espinoza made the defensive play of the game to keep the score tied at 0-0. There was a crucial double-play in the fourth, too, but mainly it was Lopez dealing: coming up with clutch throw after clutch throw en route to seven strikeouts — which matched the number of hits she allowed.

“Lindsay was really good when she got runners in scoring position and buckled down,” Louisiana coach Gerry Glasco said. “Big pitches. … Lindsay was outstanding.”

Washington finally got to Louisiana pitcher Meghan Schorman in the sixth inning when Madison Huskey brought home Baylee Klingler — who led off the inning with a double — via a sacrifice fly.

The Huskies added an insurance run in the seventh when pinch runner Brooklyn Carter stole home, taking advantage of a Louisiana battery that momentarily lost focus. Then, pitcher Ruby Meylan relieved Lopez in the bottom of the seventh and sent the Huskies back to the grandest stage.

After the victory, Tarr, who has now reached eight Women’s College World Series as the Huskies head coach, was asked if this year’s felt any differently than previous ones given the nature of some of the wins.

She quickly, and perhaps unexpectedly, began tearing up.

“It’s extra special with this group in a lot of ways. This is for me personally the last group that really knew my parents and how big of a deal my parents have been to my life,” Tarr said. “When we won that game on Sunday [when down 6-0], I haven’t really ever felt this, but I knew my parents were there. I’ve never really felt that. It just makes you believe in things that are spiritual and extra special.”

There is a row of gold-colored seats along the first baseline where Tarr’s parents used to sit. Her father, Vic, died peacefully in 2020 after struggling with dementia. Her mother, Ardee, died of cancer in February of 2022.

Heather said she was still processing the deaths before the start of last season but that it hit much harder before this one. It got to the point where she was asking if she still wanted to coach because she used to do it for them.

“I’ve kind of found my space now again,” Tarr said.

And her team has found its way back to Oklahoma City.

You never know what can happen once you reach that eight-team tournament. Sometimes the overwhelming favorite cruises, sometimes the underdog shocks the country.

These Huskies won’t be the favorites this go-round. But they’ve already pulled off the impossible. How hard can the improbable really be?