After the final out of Friday night’s game dropped from the sky into the waiting glove of UCLA third baseman Stephany LaRosa, head coach Heather Tarr and the No. 7 Washington softball team hurried off the field.
Their destination was the UW locker room, for a lengthy team meeting. Their purpose was to figure out how and where it all went wrong.
Any fly on that wall might have wanted to bring earplugs.
The Huskies (35-8, 5-7 Pac-12) collapsed in the sixth inning against the Bruins (28-11, 5-5) in the first game of their series against the 11-time national champions, their seventh loss in nine games and the continuation of a precipitous fall for a team that climbed as high as No. 3 in the nation during March.
Nine straight Bruin batters reached base in that fateful frame, accounting for a grand total of seven runs, more than enough to overcome the 5-0 lead the Huskies had carried since the third inning. All nine baserunners and all seven runs came after UW pitcher Kaitlin Inglesby retired the first two UCLA hitters in 11 pitches.
For the first five and two thirds innings, everything went right for Inglesby and the Huskies. For the next ten batters, everything went wrong.
It started innocently enough, with a walk to UCLA catcher Dani Yudin. Then starting pitcher and current first baseman Ally Carda, who gave up three runs in two and a third innings of work in the circle for the Bruins, jolted a two-run shot over the left field fence. 5-2, Huskies.
Talee Snow, following Carda at the bottom of the UCLA batting order, drew a full-count walk as murmurs started to course through the 668 fans at Husky Softball Stadium.
And then a furious maelstrom of Bruin offense descended on the Inglesby and the Huskies. On back-to-back-to-back pitches, UCLA’s top three hitters laced a double, a single, and another double off the UW’s sophomore phenom, who was already 130 pitches into her start. 5-4, Huskies.
After a one-pitch reprieve, a ball to cleanup hitter B.B. Bates, Bates lashed a third double, this one into the left-centerfield gap to bring around two more UCLA runs. 6-5, Bruins.
The next and final pitch that Inglesby through Friday night resulted in a hard ground ball to second base. In a fitting exclamation point at the end of the worst inning of the Huskies’ season, it bounded through the legs of freshman Kylee Lahners and into right field, allowing the seventh and final run to score for the nation’s No. 16 team.
It was the latest in a string of painful losses for a team that many considered among the nation’s best just three weeks ago, when the UW was out to its best start in school history. The question that now lingers is whether the Huskies can right the ship in time for the postseason, which looms 35 days away.
Tarr wasn't immediately available to media after the loss. But her words from earlier in the week, shortly after the UW’s 6-3, extra-inning win Wednesday against Oregon, still apply.
“I don’t know how well we anticipated these games being that difficult,” she said. “As coaches, you understand the rocky road that you’re headed into, but I think this group has to understand what they’re up against. If you don’t keep your guard up, as far as staying in the moment and controlling what you need to control…you’re going on this rocky road, and the rocky road’s going to bounce you off. We need to be able to figure that out, and obviously this conference is going to teach you that. The sooner we learn it, the better.”
Reach Sports Editor Kevin Dowd at email@example.com. Twitter: @kevindowd
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