Walk-off homer propels Huskies
OKLAHOMA CITY -- History suggests there aren't always going to be a lot of hits when Washington is the opening act in the Women's College World Series. But it's tough to beat the entertainment.
Six years ago, drawn in the afternoon opener on the first day of games in Oklahoma City, Washington beat DePaul behind Danielle Lawrie's no-hitter, the first and still only no-hitter in the program's 11 trips to the World Series.
This time around it was the Huskies who couldn't seem to find the necessary hits, right up to the moment when Kimberlee Souza drove a walk-off home run over the left-field wall for a 4-3, extra-inning win against Nebraska.
Four runs, three hits. Not a bad way to earn the first World Series win since another group of Huskies celebrated a title four years ago. And not a bad way for Souza to get the last laugh, even if she never really stopped smiling.
Washington took a 2-0 lead on Kaitlin Inglesby's first-inning home run, but that production remained the team's only hit and only runs for much of the day. Even when the Huskies rallied without hits, something went wrong.
With two runners on base in the bottom of the third inning, Souza flew out against Nebraska starter Tatum Edwards to end the frame.
The bases loaded by walks in the bottom of the fifth inning, Souza again stepped to the plate with two outs and her team trailing by a run. In the circle was Huskers freshman Emily Lockman, who had entered in relief just four batters earlier. Souza looked at strike one and then swung and missed at back-to-back pitches for the third out.
Washington eventually got its tying run, courtesy of a triple from Victoria Hayward and a squeeze play that brought her home on Hooch Fagaly's bunt in the bottom of the seventh (Hayward is now a single shy of a cycle of sorts after her double and home run provided the eventual winning runs in Washington's super regional against Missouri).
Surely, then, the chess game was in full effect when Souza stepped in against Lockman to lead off the bottom of the eighth, the details of her previous at-bat running through her mind and the frustration of a tough day fueling her.
"I just knew I needed to be aggressive and get a good pitch to hit," Souza said when asked about any carryover.
So maybe not chess.
Then again, with a split second to decide whether or not to swing at any given pitch, perhaps some hitters are best served not trying to be Garry Kasparov.
"She is what you would want a kid to be in the moment," Washington coach Heather Tarr said. "She could have this happy smile on her face thinking about the next thing. She would probably not even worry about what happened last time -- good and bad."
Tarr did call Souza over for a consult before the final at-bat, but the history she talked about wasn't the at-bat a few innings earlier.
"We talk a lot in reference to things that have happened or how we've adjusted to teams in the past," Tarr said. "So there was a certain situation, gosh, months ago that she made an adjustment to against a pitcher that we've played before. And I just kind of gave her that cue about what she did the last time."
Next thing either knew, Tarr was shooing Souza's teammates away from the third-base line, lest they keep the day's hero from touching the plate.
Tennessee might beg to differ after it earned a place opposite Washington with a win against Florida, which edged the Lady Vols in two extra-inning games earlier this season and claimed the conference title by percentage points, but sometimes it pays to have a short memory.