Husky softball team rolls past California en route to NCAA tournament
Washington beat Cal, 7-4, on Thursday, and the Huskies will finish their regular season with two games against the free-falling Golden Bears.
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A week away from postseason play, the Washington softball team appears sufficiently equipped for whatever lies ahead.
The 12th-ranked Huskies stroked a dozen hits, looked sharp on defense and got a satisfactory pitching performance from junior ace Kaitlin Inglesby in a 7-4 win over 17th-ranked California on Thursday night in front of 688 at Husky Softball Stadium.
The victory gives Washington (37-14, 15-7 Pac-12) three straight wins. With two final regular-season games left Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m.) against a fading Cal squad, the Huskies are in position to finish second in the conference and get a home-field assignment when the NCAA tournament begins next weekend.
The tournament draw will be announced Sunday at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. Washington owns a top-12 standing in two polls and the No. 13 spot on the NCAA's most recent RPI rankings, boosting the odds it will be one of 16 host sites chosen for opening-weekend play.
"I have no clue," UW coach Heather Tarr said of her team's chances of hosting a four-team regional, which Washington has done the past three seasons. "We're trying to win the game tomorrow, and that's all we're worrying about."
UW might not have much to worry about the next two days. The Golden Bears (35-16, 9-13) were a top-five team earlier this season until they lost two-time conference pitcher of the year Jolene Henderson to a knee injury April 21. Thursday night's loss was their eighth straight.
Henderson (29-8) made her first appearance since the injury against UW and gave up a run in the first inning, her only inning. Victoria Hayward scored on an infield single by Inglesby.
After Hooch Fagaly singled home a run in the second off Cal freshman pitcher Vanessa Alvarez, Inglesby drove in two more runs with a single to center to give UW a 4-0 lead.
Second baseman Kelli Suguro, a junior walk-on from Kentridge High School, put Washington up 6-0 in the third with a two-run single. Inglesby escaped a based-loaded jam in the top of the third with a strikeout but surrendered two-run home runs to Cheyenne Cordes in the fifth and Victori Jones in the sixth.
UW center fielder Kylee Lahners added an insurance run with a homer to right on a 1-2 pitch in the sixth.
Inglesby is 21-6 overall, 13-3 in Pac-12 play. She struck out three and walked one while giving up eight hits.
"It was OK," Tarr said of Inglesby's pitching. "She's thrown better."
Inglesby concurred. "I don't think I threw particularly well," she said, "but I was able to keep them off-balance enough of the time. They capitalized on my mistakes when I made them."
• Suguro, batting ninth, joined Inglesby, Haward and Lahners with two hits in the game. She began the game hitting .304. "It's been a great season so far," Suguro said.