Danielle Lawrie pitches to an Oklahoma batter during game three of the NCAA Super Regionals on Friday.
Center fielder Alyson McWherter (22) waves to the crowd and celebrates the UW’s win over Oklahoma alongside her teammates.
Pre-season, Pac-10, Regionals, Super Regionals, Women’s College World Series.
It’s become an almost-ritualistic progression for the Washington softball team in the past four seasons, the Huskies greeting the postseason each year as if it were merely an extension of their regular season instead of some daunting task achievable only in the finest of years.
And as has become custom around these parts, Danielle Lawrie leads Washington into its third WCWS in the past four years on Thursday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, a trip that has become almost as routine as Lawrie throwing another shutout.
But even though the Huskies have become fixtures at the eight-team championship, that doesn’t mean head coach Heather Tarr allows her team to take it for granted.
One way they combat that? Treat every trip as its own unique journey. There are no specific traditions or must-visit restaurants. Tarr lets each team decide those kind of things on their own.
“Although we’ve been there before and everything, each year brings a new fun thing,” Tarr said. “We don’t really have a, ‘oh, this is what Washington does when they’re at the World Series.’ I think we just try to make it special every single time we go.”
Off the field, that won’t be hard to do. But the Huskies won’t have a choice but to harken back to last season when they face their first-round opponent, No. 6 Georgia. Washington faced the Bulldogs three times in the World Series last season, eventually holding them off in a semifinal matchup to advance to the tournament’s championship series.
Georgia — also the 6 seed last year — did more damage against Lawrie than anyone else all season. The Bulldogs actually beat the Huskies 9-8 in eight innings before dropping a loser-out game to them immediately afterward.
The thing Husky fans take away from that day? Other than the way Lawrie bounced back in the nightcap, UW fans will probably recall the way Georgia tends to, um, take its time in between pitches.
Groans from the crowd and the press box were audible throughout that long, exhausting day, as the Bulldogs seemingly held mound conferences at least twice per inning, sometimes involving the entire infield for as long as two minutes at a time.
But Tarr and Lawrie say they’re not worried about any human rain-delays Georgia may throw at them.
“I don’t care what they do,” Lawrie said. “Last year, that annoyed so many people, and it’s like, if I start letting that stuff get to me, it’s only going to affect stuff that’s out of my control. They can do what they want, but our inner circle, we care about us.”
That attitude is an extension of Tarr’s philosophy: take care of us, and nothing else matters.
“You’ve got to know what you’re going into for any environment,” Tarr said. “There’s some tactics and things that you have to be ready for, but I think the biggest thing is, regardless of who you’re playing and how they’re playing you, you’ve got to play your game, and you can’t let things distract you and get in your way and break your rhythm. I think we understand that, and we’ve got good experience with it, and we’ve got good leadership.”
OK, so the Huskies do have at least one superstition. Well, at least Lawrie does, anyway.
Before each World Series game, Lawrie, a native of Langley, British Columbia, sings the Canadian national anthem by herself. Only the Star Spangled Banner is performed before each game, so it’s Lawrie’s way of honoring her country before she plays.
She was even featured on ESPN for it during last year’s tournament.
Don’t look for her on American Idol any time soon, though. Or would that be Canadian Idol?
“I’m not that good of a singer, but at this point, I don’t care,” Lawrie said. “It’s superstition. If you want to put it on air, go for it.”
Reach Sports Editor Christian Caple at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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