Commentary: Don’t be surprised if UW softball “unicorns” bring home a national title

I need to apologize for not returning emails. You see, this is my inbox (143,000 unread emails). Somewhere in there, there’s probably a unique story idea that I haven’t seen.

Fortunately, UW softball coach Heather Tarr and her staff are more discerning than I. Because one email in particular helped the Huskies reach another College World Series.

According to a story on, freshman phenom pitcher Gabbie Plain sent an email, expressing as much interest in UW’s psychology department as the softball team. I can’t imagine how many emails the coaching staff gets, but fortunately, someone saw it. And well, the rest is history.

This weekend, Plain and the Dawgs clinched their 13th all-time berth into the College World Series. They did so with grit, with heart, and best of all, a whole lot of guts and personality.

I admit, many of us don’t really start paying attention until the postseason, but you only really needed to see one game to understand why this group is special. I’m sure a lot of people missed it on Friday night because the Mariners were in a close one against Minnesota, but at the same time, the Huskies were making a dramatic comeback in the final inning against Alabama. When Sis Bates’ single helped tie the game, and when Taylor Van Zee singled in extra innings to win it, the emotions from the Dawgs, specifically Van Zee, popped right through the screen.

We say it all the time, but this is why we all love sports: The pure emotion. The raw energy. The unfiltered passion you see in the most critical moments.

Taking nothing away from professional athletes in major sports, these women will never make millions of dollars playing softball. That’s not why they’re out there. Moments like the ones on Friday night are. And moments like this, yesterday, after they clinched a Super Regional win. And the moments they’re about to experience together in Oklahoma City as they chase the school’s first national title since 2009.

Their nickname this season is appropriate: These women ARE unicorns. They’re unique, they’re special, they’re incredibly rare and hard to find. Together, there’s a spirit among them that’s universally appealing, no matter your school loyalty or affiliation.

And I remind you, this doesn’t happen without an architect like Coach Tarr. This doesn’t happen without a coach who put her own blood, sweat and tears into this program as a player, and now as their leader for the past 15 years. Someone who understands Husky softball – and the path to success – better than anyone else could.

We just had a similar conversation last week about Michael Callahan, who rowed for the Dawgs, and led them to an unprecedented five straight national titles, and will go for another one next week. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both have purple and gold running through their blood.

So, yes, there are some really exciting things going on right now in local sports. The Mariners will steal the headlines – deservedly so.

But these unicorns on Montlake? They deserve our full attention and respect in OKC.