We start with a team that never gets enough love – and it almost reminds me of Gonzaga men’s basketball because of its consistency year after year.
Tonight, the Husky softball team was named to the NCAA Tournament for the 27th straight year. And they've got extra motivation - disrepescted as a No. 16 national seed after being a Top 5 ranked team most of the year.
Frankly, I don’t blame them for walking out of the room after that ridiculously low seed. I’d have done the same thing! You’re talking about a team that has a chance to qualify for Super Regionals for the 11th time in the last 12 tournaments. And if they were to survive both weekends – now an even more daunting task, given a possible Super Regional against top-seeded Oklahoma – it would be their fourth straight trip to the College World Series.
Maybe it’s because they haven’t won it all since 2009, but the reason I bring it up tonight is to recognize players we’ve been mentioning seemingly forever: From Gabbie Plain to Morganne Flores to Sis Bates.
Earlier today, Plain was named Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, just the third Husky ever to earn that honor and the first since Danielle Lawrie in 2010. And she’ll have a chance to match Lawrie’s back-to-back Pitcher of the Year honors because she still has another year of eligibility. Plain started this season 23-0, the longest undefeated start to a season in school history.
Plain led the Pac-12 in wins, strikeouts and complete games. She pitched her sixth career no-hitter. Sure it would be nice for her to win a national title, but there’s no need to wait for that to happen to highlight her remarkable success year after year.
The same goes for Bates, who was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for the third time today – just the second player in conference history to do so. She’s made just five errors in the last three years, which spans 125 games. And we’ve been watching her fearlessness since her freshman season when the Dawgs reached the College World Series for the first time in four years.
In fact, Bates has a chance to reach the World Series every single season she's played for the Dawgs – which would be the ultimate payoff for coming back as grad students after losing a chance to play last year because of COVID-19.
And by the way, Flores was named a Pac-12 First Team selection today as well, ranking third in program history in career home runs. She’s quickly approaching the school’s all-time record in career RBI. Simply put, this is a group that once again has the talent and makeup to win it all, but doesn’t need to in order to get the recognition.
Personally, I’m often guilty of taking the perennial success of Heather Tarr’s programs for granted. They’re always so good.
But this year, especially given the circumstances these women encountered in last year’s cancelled season, there’s no reason to wait to highlight their achievements.
I won’t be surprised if this group makes another World Series. I hope they take it all.
But this team is once again special – with that trio the epitome of incredibly rare talent.