Down To Two: Huskies Advance To Championship Series
May 31, 2009
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - For the second time in the 2009 postseason, the Washington Huskies were pushed to a deciding game and faced elimination much earlier than they had hoped for. And for the second time they persevered and prevailed.
Just hours after dropping a heartbreaking 9-8 decision to Georgia in nine innings, the Huskies bounced back Sunday night to send the Bulldogs home with a 9-3 victory at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, sending the Huskies into the best-of-three championship series for the first time in school history.
The Huskies (49-12), who advanced to the championship game in 1996 and '99 when it was just a single game, will face No. 1 overall seed Florida, which eliminated Alabama, 5-4, on a walk-off grand slam. Both teams are looking for their first National Championship.
UW got the second game started the way Florida's win ended as Danielle Lawrie hit a first-inning grand slam to put the Huskies up 4-0 and they never looked back. Morgan Stuart also homered in the game and went 1-for-3 after going 5-for-5 in the day's first game. Niki Williams also had an RBI in the game to give her a Women's College World Series record 10 on the week.
Lawrie (40-8) was also solid in the circle after the Bulldogs (47-12) scored a season-high nine runs - seven earned - off the National Player of the Year to force the 'if game.' Just like she did two weeks ago in an 'if game' in the NCAA Regionals at UMass, Lawrie stepped up her game, allowing just three runs on five hits and striking out 12 after fanning just 14 in the previous two games against the Bulldogs this week combined.
The junior had just one rough inning this time, allowing three in the third before retiring 13 of the final 15 batters of the game, nine via strikeout. Her 12 strikeouts give her 501 on the season, making her the first UW pitcher ever to hit 500 Ks in a season and just the fourth in Pac-10 history.
More importantly, the offense was able to give Lawrie enough support and the defense came through with some clutch plays after the Huskies made a season-high four errors in the first game, which lasted over four hours. After going a combined 3-for-14 in the first game, UW's first three batters in the lineup - Ashley Charters, Kimi Pohlman and Jenn Salling - went a combined 7-for-12 in the second game. Charters went 3-for-4 with two runs, an RBI and a triple while Salling was 3-for-4 with a run, a double and two RBI. Pohlman chipped in with a hit and two runs scored.
But it was Lawrie and Stuart who provided the big blasts for the Dawgs, who have hit five home runs in four World Series contests.
Lawrie gave herself a four-run cushion in the first inning with a grand slam, her seventh home run of the season. Charters, Pohlman and Salling each hit singles to start the inning, loading the bases for Lawrie, who went opposite field for the Huskies' second grand slam of the day.
The Huskies kept the momentum going in the second inning, scoring another run on an RBI-triple by Charters. After Lauren Greer singled to start the inning, Georgia changed pitchers, putting ace Christie Hamilton back in, but the three-time All-American Charters greeted her with a triple down the left field line to make the score 5-0. It was the 16th triple of Charters' career, tying the UW career record, and was also her sixth three-bagger of the season, one shy of UW's single-season record.
Georgia got three runs back in the top of the third when Lisaira Daniels led off with a triple and Alisa Goler brought her home with a single up the middle. Brianna Hesson then came through with a two-out, two-run double to make it 5-3.
UW got one of the runs back, however, when Stuart continued her incredible day at the plate, blasting a home run to dead left-center to give her six hits in eight at-bats on Sunday. It was her sixth home run of the season and made her 9-for-15 in the Women's College World Series.
The three runs Georgia scored in the third would be all they could muster off Lawrie, who struck out four in a row and five of six over one stretch.
The Huskies added some insurance in the bottom of the sixth when Williams struck again, lining an RBI single down the left-field line to plate Amanda Fleischman, who was pinch running for Ashlyn Watson. The senior Watson had walked to start the inning and Fleischman was sacrificed to second by Greer then advanced to third on a wild pitch before Williams brought her home with her eighth RBI of the day.
One pitch later, Charters reached on an infield single and Salling then broke the game open with a two-run double to left-center to make it 9-3.
Showing their never-say-die attitude, Georgia tried to mount a rally in the seventh but any hopes were thwarted by an outstanding play in centerfield by Alyson McWherter. Daniels hit a sinking liner into shallow center that appeared to be dropping in, but McWherter made a spectacular diving catch for the first out. After Morgan Stuart made a nice play of her own at third base for the second out, Lawrie struck out the dangerous Kristin Schnake looking to end the game.
The Huskies will now turn their attention to a best-of-three series with the No. 1 Florida Gators, who have won 29 consecutive games. UW is one of just three teams to defeat the Gators this season, winning a 1-0, nine-inning thriller back in February in the team's only match-up this year.
The first game of the series will take place Monday at 7 p.m. CT and will air live on ESPN2 with a live radio broadcast also available on Seattle's KKNW-1150 AM.
● The previous World Series record of 20 home runs by the teams combined was broken this week as 24 home runs have been hit so far. Of those 24, four have been grand slams, all of which came in a 24-hour span. There was just one grand slam hit in the previous 28-year history of the Women's College World Series.
● UW's 49 wins are the program's most since a school-record 62 in 2000. They have won 50+ games in six seasons, all of which came in a span from 1995-2000.
● Lawrie's 12 strikeouts give her 501 in her career, making her the first Husky and just the fourth pitcher ever in Pac-10 history to amass 500 or more Ks in a season. She needs 21 strikeouts to tie the Pac-10 single-season record of 522 set by Taryne Mowatt in 2007.
● Lawrie also increased her career strikeout total to 1,345, passing UMass' Danielle Henderson for 13th in NCAA history.
● Lawrie now has 44 complete games this season, establishing a new Pac-10 single-season record. Her 40 victories this season are two shy of the Pac-10 record.