Top Husky Moments Of 2009: National Champs ... Finally!
Jan. 6, 2010
The Washington softball team went into the 2009 Women's College World Series with a bit of a chip on its shoulder, having watched four Pac-10 teams win National Championships before them and also having to watch the SEC get all the attention going into the tournament, with No. 1 Florida the overwhelming favorite to win the SEC's first softball title.
But the Huskies boasted the National Player of the Year in Danielle Lawrie and not only were playing for their own pride, having been to eight previous World Series and coming up empty handed, but also playing for conference pride as the Pac-10 which - despite having won 21 of the 27 NCAA Division I softball championships - was being overlooked by their rivals from the south.
The Huskies came in riding a wave of momentum after their uber-emotional 15-inning Regional victory over UMass followed by a far less stressful Super Regional sweep of Georgia Tech, with Danielle Lawrie looking as strong and as motivated as ever. UW also had the confidence in knowing they had played - and defeated - six of the seven other teams in the series, including a 1-0 victory over Florida early in the season.
The Series started with one of those familiar foes in Georgia, but UW was able to squeak by in the opener, 3-1, on the strength on freshman Niki Williams' two-run home run. Next for UW was the defending national champion Arizona State Sun Devils, who had Lawrie's number unlike any team in the regular season. Having allowed 12 runs in 16 previous innings to the champs, Lawrie was out to prove herself and that she did, throwing a two-hit shutout over eight innings while sophomore Morgan Stuart sent the Huskies into the semifinals with a walk-off single for a 1-0 extra-inning win.
With the SEC momentum building after they sent three teams to the semifinals, the Huskies continued to carry the banner for the conference as the lone West Coast team remaining. After dropping a heartbreaking, nine-inning 9-8 game to Georgia that put them on the brink of elimination yet again, the Huskies fought back and knocked the Bulldogs out later that night, with Lawrie coming back from a rough outing earlier in the day to strike out 12 and belt a grand slam, sending UW into the Championship Series with a 9-3 win.
The finals turned out to be the SEC-Pac-10 showdown everyone hoped for, pitting the No. 1 Gators and No. 3 Huskies along with the nation's top two pitchers in Lawrie and Player of the Year runner-up Stacey Nelson.
The Huskies made a statement in game one, shocking the Gators and much of the crowd with an 8-0 blowout behind Lawrie's two-hit shutout and senior Ashley Charters' big game. The offense was clicking on all cylinders finally after a season of inconsistency, with freshmen like Williams (World Series-records of seven RBI in a game and 10 in a series) and Kimi Pohlman and sophomores Stuart and Jenn Salling peaking at the right time.
Facing elimination, the Gators put up a fight in game two the following night, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning but the Huskies showed they were determined to end things right then and there. After answering right back with two of their own in the bottom of the first, the Huskies pushed across the go-ahead run in the third inning then sat back and watched as Lawrie got stronger with every inning. After the Gators put the tying run on base in the bottom of the seventh inning with their semifinal hero and senior superstar Ali Gardner at the plate, Lawrie turned it up a notch and fittingly ended the season with a strikeout, giving the Huskies the program's long awaited first National Championship.
Lawrie would go on to be named the Most Outstanding Player, while Charters, Pohlman, Stuart and Williams were named to the All-Tournament team. But it was a total team effort that finally brought the right hardware back to Seattle for the school's third national championship of the 2008-09 school year.