No. 15/21 Huskies Open Season At Red Desert Classic
Feb. 4, 2009
RED DESERT CLASSIC
The Canyons Softball Complex, St. George, Utah
Friday, Feb. 6, 2009
No. 15/21 Washington (30-25-1 in 2008) vs. No. 12/13 Tennessee (50-16) 12 p.m. PT
No. 15/21 Washington vs. BYU (44-20) 2:30 p.m. PT
Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009
No. 15/21 Washington vs. Southern Utah (20-34) 10 a.m. PT
No. 15/21 Washington vs. Loyola Marymount (38-18) 12:30 p.m. PT
Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009
No. 15/21 Washington vs. Utah (28-27) 10 a.m. PT
Live stats for all games available via Gametracker, www.gohuskies.com
The No. 15/21 Washington Huskies kick off the 2009 campaign at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah. The Huskies get the season started in style with a top-25 showdown against No. 12/13 Tennessee on Friday in the season opener, followed by a battle with host and 2008 NCAA tournament participant BYU Friday afternoon. Washington plays another doubleheader Saturday against Southern Utah and Loyola Marymount before facing Utah on Sunday. All games will be available via Gametracker on www.gohuskies.com.
The Huskies will welcome back three of their biggest stars to the diamond this weekend - junior All-American pitcher Danielle Lawrie, senior All-American infielder Ashley Charters and senior All-Pac-10 outfielder Lauren Greer - who all redshirted in 2008 and return at full strength this season.
This weekend marks Washington's second-ever trip to the Red Desert Classic. The Huskies went 6-0 in the tournament in 2000 en route to a 62-9 season - the most wins in school hisory - and a berth in the Women's College World Series.
SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION
No. 12/13 Tennessee (50-16, 14-12 SEC in 2008)
Series vs. UW: Tennessee leads 2-1
About Tennessee: The Huskies face a tough test in the season opener, taking on the No. 12/13 Lady Vols who return 10 letterwinners from a team that went 50-16 in 2008 and is just two years removed from a Women's College World Series berth. The Vols are led by NFCA All-South Region selections junior Tiffany Huff (C-1B, .313 avg., 50 RBI), senior Lillian Hammond (OF - .349 avg., 23-24 SBs) and sophomore Ashton Ward (P - 27-5, 1.88 ERA). Tennessee has advanced to the College World Series in three of the last four seasons, with last season being the exception after they were knocked out in the NCAA Regionals.
Series History: Friday will mark just the fourth game between the two teams with the Vols holding a 2-1 edge. The teams last faced off in 2005 when Tennessee edged UW 2-1 with eventual USA Olympian Monica Abbott firing a one-hitter and striking out 18 batters. UW's lone win against the Lady Vols was a 12-1 victory in 1999.
BYU (44-20, 14-6 Mountain West in 2008)
Series vs. UW: BYU leads 2-1
About BYU: While the Cougars are not ranked in either preseason poll, they received votes in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and are coming off a 44-20 season in which they advanced to their fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament. The Cougars return 12 players from last season led by sophomore pitcher Paige Affleck who led BYU with a 1.42 ERA in 2008. Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year Kristin Delahoussaye will also return after batting .363 with a .505 on base percentage last season.
Series History: The Cougars maintain a 2-1 series edge over the Huskies but the teams have not played since the 2002 season when BYU knocked off the Huskies, 6-4. In fact, UW's lone win against BYU came in the 2000 Red Desert Classic when the Huskies defeated the Cougars, 8-2.
Southern Utah (20-34, 12-9 Summit League 2008)
Series vs. UW: UW leads 5-0
About Southern Utah: The Thunderbirds were Summit League champions and NCAA Tournament participants in 2006 and 2007 before having an off year in 2008. Southern Utah returns all but three starters from last year's squad including junior pitcher Kristina Brooks, who logged Southern Utah's first NCAA tournament win as a true freshman back in 2007, along with All-Summit League second team selection Aly Daniels.
Series History: The Huskies have won all five times the teams have faced off and have scored eight runs in each of those five contests. UW first played Southern Utah in 1995, coming away with an 8-4 win. The teams next battle came in the 2000 Red Desert Classic, with the Huskies earning the 8-1 victory. Since then, UW has won by scores of 8-2 in 2001, 8-0 in 2006 in the NCAA Regionals and 8-0 again last season at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.
Loyola Marymount (38-18, 13-7 PCSC in 2008)
Series vs. UW: UW leads 2-0
About Loyola Marymount: The Lions return 15 players from a team that went 38-18 overall and finished second in the Pacific Coast Softball Conference, just missing out on an NCAA berth. LMU returns two first-time All PCSC selections, including junior J.J. Hartung, who posted a .405 batting average last season, and senior Chelsie Tysdal, who belted 11 home runs. Honorable mention All-PCSC pitcher Melissa Dykema returns to the circle looking to lead the Lions into the postseason.
Series History: Washington leads the series 2-0, scoring an 8-0 win in 1995 and a 5-2 victory in 1997.
Utah (28-27, 10-10 Mountain West in 2008)
Series vs. UW: UW leads 13-1
About Utah: The Utes are in their second season under head coach Amy Hogue and begin with high expectations are being picked to finish last in their conference in 2008 but battling for the league lead all season. Junior outfielder Kara Foster returns to provide some punch to the lineup as the All-MWC selection ranks third in school history with 35 home runs. Utah carries four pitchers on their roster, led by Ashley Smuda, who earned All-MWC recognition as a freshman last season.
Series History: The Huskies have dominated the Utes in their long history together, holding a 13-1 advantage in the series. After losing a 4-1 decision to Utah in 1993 - the first year of the Husky softball program - Washington has won the last 13 meetings between the two teams. The teams last squared off in 2008 at the Kia Klassic in Fullerton, Calif., with UW earning a 7-3 victory. The teams faced each other twice in the 2000 Red Desert Classic, with Washington winning decisions of 14-1 and 8-0. The Huskies have put up seven or more runs against the Utes on seven occasions.
2008 SEASON IN REVIEW
The Huskies are coming off their 15th consecutive postseason appearance in 2008 after posting a 30-25-1 overall record, including a 7-14 ledger in the difficult Pac-10 conference. UW was without three of their stars for the entire season - All-Americans Danielle Lawrie and Ashley Charters and All-Pac-10 selection Lauren Greer - but several players stepped up and UW got contributions from a handful of freshmen to keep the postseason streak alive. The Huskies advanced to the Houston regional of the NCAA Tournament where they defeated Texas twice but fell to host Houston twice to end their season short after a 2007 College World Series appearance.
UW was led by catcher Alicia Blake, a second team All-Pac-10 selection who led the team with a .345 batting average and tied for the team lead in home runs with freshman Morgan Stuart. Lone senior Caitlin Noble finished her career strong in the circle, going 13-9 and striking out 152 batters to move up to No. 4 on the UW career charts.
The Huskies are back to full strength in 2009, with All-American pitcher Danielle Lawrie back after spending the 2008 season training with the Canadian National Team and competing in the 2008 Olympic Games. Additionally, two-time All-American Ashley Charters returns to the lineup after taking the 2008 season off to have hip surgery. Also returning is All-Pac-10 outfielder Lauren Greer, who sat out last season after shoulder surgery but should be ready to add some pop to the Husky lineup.
With Lawrie on the mound and Charters back at the top of the lineup, the Huskies look poised to challenge for their first national championship and ninth Women's College World Series appearance. The Huskies have a balanced lineup of speed and power, with Charters, juniors Bailey Stenson and Amanda Fleischman and senior Marnie Koziol providing speed and versatility. Meanwhile, Greer, Lawrie, sophomore Morgan Stuart and senior Alicia Blake look to add power to a lineup that will be solid from top to bottom.
Experience will be one of the Huskies' biggest strengths in 2009 as they retain 10 holdovers from the team's 2007 College World Series run when they advanced to the national semifinals.
WELCOMING THE NEWCOMERS
With a veteran-laden team, Washington's five newcomers may find it hard to work their way into the lineup on a consistent basis, but fifth-year head coach Heather Tarr expects to get solid contributions from her freshman class of Jenna Clifton, Felecia Harris, Kimi Pohlman, Taylor Smith and Niki Williams.
Both Clifton and Harris will help the Huskies with their versatility, as both figure to see time in the pitching circle, taking some of the pressure off Danielle Lawrie. Harris will also be a threat at the plate, adding some power to the Husky lineup. Clifton could also see time in the outfield, along with Smith and Pohlman. The speedster Pohlman, who Tarr says is just a hair slower than Ashley Charters, could see time in the outfield, on the basepaths and at the plate with her ability to bunt, slap and hit the ball in the gap.
Williams, meanwhile, could be the newcomer who sees the most playing time as she proved in the fall and during spring practice to have an innate ability to drive in runs. She could see time at third base in a loaded Husky infield.
TOUGH ROAD AHEAD
The Huskies will face one of the most challenging schedules in the nation in 2009, taking on five of the eight teams that advanced to the 2008 Women's College World Series and 18 teams that participated in the 2008 NCAA tournament. UW will also face 13 teams ranked in the USA Today/NFCA Top-25 preseason poll, including six of the top eight teams. The Huskies get their first test immediately, taking on No. 12/13 Tennessee in the season opener.
In addition to a difficult preseason schedule, which features College World Series participants Florida and Alabama, the Huskies will also embark on an always-difficult Pac-10 schedule. The Pac-10 has historically been the most powerful conference in college softball, with the league winning 21 of the 27 national championships contested in the sport. The conference has also had at least three teams advance to the College World Series in 10 consecutive seasons. Six of the eight Pac-10 teams which have softball are ranked in the preseason top 15.
WASHINGTON IN THE POLLS
After finishing the 2008 season unranked - the first time since the program's inaugural season in 1993 UW did not finish the season ranked - the Huskies earned respect from around the nation by earning rankings in both the USA Today/NFCA poll (21st) and the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll (15th). Additionally, ESPN.com columnist Graham Hays selected the Huskies No. 4 in his preseason top-20 countdown.
UW PICKED THIRD IN PAC-10
Also showing UW plenty of respect were the Pac-10 coaches, who picked Washington to finish third in the conference after the Huskies tied for fifth last season. The Huskies received two first-place votes and 36 total points to finish just behind 2008 Women's College World Series participant UCLA and defending national champion Arizona State.
UCLA was picked to finish first with 43 points, including three first-place votes, followed by Arizona State, which received 41 points and two first-place votes. Washington followed with 36 points, ahead of Arizona (34), Stanford (31), California (19) and Oregon and Oregon State, which tied for seventh with 10 points each.
CHARTERS, LAWRIE NAMED TO PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST
Washington senior infielder Ashley Charters and junior pitcher Danielle Lawrie were two of 50 players named to the 'Watch List' for the 8th Annual USA Softball National College Player of the Year Award, as announced by the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA).
The two-time All-American Charters was named to the same watch list last season before having to redshirt the season due to an injury. She was named First-Team All-Pac-10 and Second Team All-American in 2007, leading the Huskies back to the College World Series where she was named to the All-Tournament Team. She was also named to the Top 50 Watch List prior to the 2007 and 2006 seasons.
Lawrie, an All-American in 2007, redshirted last season as well while she trained with the Canadian National Team and competed in the 2008 Olympic Games. The First Team All-Pac-10 selection and First-Team All-American was one of 25 finalists in 2007 for the USA Softball Player of the Year award. She went on to pitch a no-hitter and a one-hitter in the 2007 College World Series to lead the Huskies into the national semifinals. She was also the lone freshman on the 2006 Top 50 Player of the Year Watch List.
Washington has opened each of its 16 seasons with a multiple-team tournament, accruing a 59-17-1 record. The Huskies have gone undefeated in four of those tournaments (1996, 2000, 2002, 2003) and are 12-4 in season openers after defeating Loyola-Chicago last season, 3-0.
HUSKIES ON THE AIRWAVES
KKNW AM-1150, through rights-holder Washington ISP Sports Network, will carry 10 Husky softball games during the regular season and will carry all postseason games. Longtime baseball play-by-play man Mike Brown returns for his 12th season behind the microphone, while John Cowley delivers color commentary for his ninth season with the Dawgs. All games will air live on KKNW, and are also available over the internet at www.GoHuskies.com.
HUSKIES ON TV
Washington has been selected for one television games this season. The Huskies May 7 game against Stanford will be broadcast by Fox Sports Net at 1 p.m.
The 18-player Washington roster includes 13 returning letterwinners and five newcomers. The 2009 team is comprised of seven seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and five freshmen. A total of 11 players hail from Washington, four from California and one each from Arizona, Oregon and British Columbia.