I am not a huge college softball fan. I’m not. I’ll admit it. Frankly, I don’t know enough about the nuances of softball to consider myself a huge fan, and I wouldn’t want to slight the diehards by lumping myself in with them. They deserve better than that. They’ve earned it.
By my own estimate, I’ve watched maybe 25 college softball games in my life. Almost all of them have come via ESPN, almost always in the College World Series.
I’ve been to three games in person. Once to get a free t-shirt, once for free hot wings, and once to heckle the opposing team. The Huskies were playing Oregon. It had to be done. I don’t care if they’re girls. They’re still Ducks.
In the past two years alone, I’ve watched more softball than at any other point in my life. It helps when your team is vying for a National Championship, I’ll be honest.
This past weekend, I watched even more softball still. The Huskies were in the College World Series yet again, and I wanted to catch my team in action. I might not be a huge softball fan, but that’s still my alma mater out there. And let’s face it. Our team is much better looking than most softball teams, too. They’re not hard to watch.
So there I was on Saturday afternoon watching the Dawgs take on Arizona, and wouldn’t you know it, we lost. And as a result, our season came to an end. I was totally not expecting that. This team just flat-out doesn’t lose. They’re the anti-Mariners. They win, and you anticipate their victory well in advance. Even when they’re down a couple runs. Even when they make an error. Even when they get screwed by the umpires. And even as all three of those things were going down on Saturday, I still expected the Huskies to emerge victorious. I was wrong.
Last year, in case you missed it, the Husky softball team won the National Championship. It was the first National Championship in the program’s history, and arguably the most visible title for the school since the UW football team won a share of the 1991 championship. Broadcast on ESPN’s family of networks, the world was made privy to Washington’s softball success.
A year later, the Dawgs were on a plane home before the first weekend of the College World Series was complete. Ousted in two straight games. One loss to Georgia (a team they beat on their way to immortality a year ago), and another to their Pac-10 rival in the Arizona Wildcats. It was a little shocking, to say the least.
Yet even as this ballclub of young women succumbed to defeat, it was hard for me not to put their relative success into perspective. Outside of that ’91 football team, there have been few Seattle-based sports teams in recent memory — collegiate or otherwise — that have been as dominant as Husky softball.
The Mariners have had their bright spots (1995 and 2001, most notably), but no one would call them dominant.
The Seahawks have a trip to the Superbowl to their credit, but still, far from dominant.
The Sonics are deceased, and while they were good throughout the ’90s, their only championship came way back in 1979.
There’s the Storm, of course, who took home the 2004 WNBA crown. But the appeal of the WNBA pales in comparison to the appeal of college athletics. And even with that title to their name, few people pay proper homage to the Storm’s miracle season.
And that leads us to the Husky softball program. The one team that has dominated unlike any other in this city’s recent past.
A National Championship to their credit in 2009, and a 50-9 record in 2010. Not a bad run.
I suppose it helps when you’re led by a player who is undoubtedly the best among her peers (and I’m talking about Danielle Lawrie, of course), but let’s not overlook the rest of the team for what they’ve done. Because it seems like a lot of the media coverage surrounding UW softball has centered around the Huskies’ Canadian-born ace. And while Lawrie is certainly worthy of the accolades — there is absolutely no denying that — it takes a team to win a title. They did that a year ago, and they were well on their way to doing it again this season when a bad day just happened to stop them in their tracks. Bad days happen to all of us. Some are worse than others. This one was the worst.
It took a combination of things in the team’s final game to keep them from staying alive. Some sketchy calls by the umpires. A few bad hops. A couple unforced errors. These things happen. But even when the last out was recorded, the Huskies were only down by one. For many teams, it would have been much worse. For this team, the loss was as close as it could possibly get.
When we look back on the Husky softball program years from now, we won’t remember Saturday afternoon. We won’t remember the loss that ended the 2010 season. We just won’t. It’s one of those things.
Instead, we’ll recall the continued greatness of the team, the stellar pitching of Lawrie, the defense of Jenn Salling, the clutch hitting of Niki Williams, the brick wall at third base that is Morgan Stuart, the speed of Kimi Pohlman, the energy of Bailey Stenson, the nickname of Hooch Fagaly (real first name: Melanie). And those are only a handful of the players that comprised this roster. The rest are as follows: Shawna Wright, Amanda Fleischman, Taylor Smith, Maggie Wagner, Jerrin Faasua, Jenna Clifton, Ashley Tuiasosopo, Aly McWherter, Baily Harris, Amanda Fitzsimmons, and Felicia Harris. They’re all worth mentioning.
And I can’t forget their coach, Heather Tarr. She’s pretty good at what she does, too.
The Husky softball team may not have repeated as National Champions, but does it really matter? They’re winners no matter how you look at it, as cheesy as that sounds, and we’ll never forget it.
The most dominant team this city has to offer? I think we can all agree that that distinction belongs to the University of Washington softball program.