2013 NCAA Softball Super Regionals: Mizzou-Washington preview

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Well … another week, another preview. That’s what we like to see.

I always enjoy the Super Regional round because I only end up having to look at one school rather than three as part of the Regional and opening half of the WCWS. With only one school, I can try to dig a little deeper into the next opponent, which in this case is the #11 seeded Washington Huskies of the Pac-12. Mizzou may be as familiar with the Huskies as they could be with any other program in the Super Regionals short of someone they either currently (or just) share conference affiliation. Mizzou took down the Huskies in two games in Columbia in the Super Regionals in 2011 and then beat them again in California last February. We will get to reviewing those games in a bit, but let’s get familiar with the names first.

Washington Schedule/Results

"Coming out of the Pac-12, which is as strong a softball conference as there is in the land,” is how I led off the last preview piece I wrote about Oregon State. It holds just as true for UW, though the Huskies found greater success both in and out of the Pac-12 than Oregon State did. UW finished the regular season 38-15 (now 41-15 after sweeping their Regional), going a solid 16-8 in conference. They were 15-4 at home (not including their three wins this past weekend), 10-5 on the road and 18-6 at neutral sites (this DOES include the Regional games). They had 15 wins coming via the run rule and were 2-0 in extra-inning games. UW is only four seasons removed from a National Championship in the 2009 season, and the Huskies still play a VERY strong non-conference schedule. How well did they do? Let’s take a look.

Washington in Non-Conference

The Huskies saw some lovely venues for softball this past winter and early spring, spending time in Honolulu, San Diego, Palm Springs, Fullerton, and Fort Collins as well as Seattle. By my count, they went 22-7 with a few good wins. In playing #20 (via RPI, as all my rankings are) Hawaii twice this past weekend, it was actually the third and fourth time the teams have played. They had matched up earlier in the year, splitting a pair. UW also has a win over #22 Florida State. The Huskies also took on #1 OU, #3 Texas, #8 Michigan and #10 Kentucky, losing all of those games. So against Top-25 non-con teams, they went 2-4. They had a nice win against #30 UGA, split two games with #39 UAB and beat #43 Notre Dame. They had a bit of a head-scratcher (as pretty much everyone does) against #135 Cal Poly, losing 2-0, making this (by far) their worst loss of the season. They also played nine teams with a RPI worse than Cal Poly, and certainly handled them all, run-ruling eight (kudos to #163 Bradley for only losing 6-3).

Washington In Conference

It would appear you play only eight conference foes in the Pac-12, with three games each. UW started the grind on the road against #29 Arizona and took two of three. Returning home, the Huskies faced the jewel of the Pac-12 in Oregon, and after getting blown out in the first game (12-1, no run rule evidently), they tightened it up in a second loss (4-2) before taking the finale 2-1. This started a nice win streak for them, which included sweeps at #19 UCLA and home against Civil War rival #36 Oregon State. Win #8 in a row came at the hands of #11 Arizona State, who UW beat in Tempe 3-1 before dropping the last two of that series. Rain (in Seattle? Go figure) hampered their series against #23 Stanford, but they were able to take two of three before heading out on the road for their final conference series against #68 Utah. UW dropped the first (2-1) for their worst conference loss of the season before taking the last two. Finally, the Huskies came home to finish against #18 Cal, taking the first two before dropping the last game of the regular season.

Washington played 15 games against teams in the top 25 of the RPI, going 9-6 against Oregon, UCLA, ASU, Stanford and Cal. So against the top 25, including their NCAA wins against Hawaii, UW is 13-10. That’s a lot of games against top-flight talent right there. By comparison, how did Mizzou fair against the same, entirely-random criteria? 14-10 in our games against Florida (1-1), Alabama (1-2), LSU (2-1), Tennessee (3-1), Kentucky (2-1), aTm (1-1), Hofstra (2-1) and Arkansas (2-2).

Common Opponents

Seems like Kentucky played a lot of the same people we did this year, as did Illinois, even though we never actually played the Illini. But unlike Oregon State, UW basically has these two and Ole Miss in common.

  • Kentucky: UW lost 3-2, Mizzou went 2-1 (giving up a middle game of the series).
  • Ole Miss: UW won 10-2 (5), Mizzou went 3-0, winning by a combined score of 29-1.
  • Illinois: UW won 15-0 (5), Mizzou was rained out.

Not much to take away here. UW played Kentucky early in the season, while we had them later when our pitching was in a decent spot with the Thomas/Hudson/Thomas weekend. Other than that, not much else to see here, move along.

Washington Offense

From the little I know about Pac-12 softball from looking at stats of Oregon State and UW, I would say the hitting is very strong and causes the ERAs to be a little higher than we have been used to from the Big XII and SEC. So as we do, at a high level, here is how UW compares to MU. UW stats do not include their final game from last weekend:

  • Team Batting Average: UW is .312 to MU's .310 (MU lost 10 points of batting average this past weekend)
  • Team OBP/Slug: UW is .412/.488 to MU's .406/.517
  • Runs: UW scored 334 in 55 games to MU's scoring 311 in 50
  • HR’s: UW had 54 to MU’s 62
  • BB’s/K’s: UW has 228/222 to MU's 197/186
  • Steals: UW had 44 to MU's 59

That is pretty darn even across most of those metrics. UW has improved nicely at the plate since last year, when they batted under .300 as a team with fewer HRs and more Ks than BBs. They did lose some speed with the graduation of Kimi Pohlmann and Nikia Williams, but the additional power has been generated by one person in particular, who came out of nowhere this year. Let’s find them in the lineup card:

  1. Victoria Hayward (Jr - RF) - .371 and led the team in batting average, runs (52), hits (65), triples (5), and SB’s (21)
  2. Hooch Fagaly (Jr – 1B) - .358 and led the team in walks (40), slugging (.635) and OBP (.508), tied for lead in HR’s (10). Last year, Fagaly started 51 games and only hit .238 with 4 HR’s. Impressive improvement
  3. Kaitlin Inglesby (Jr – P/DP) - .358 and led the team in RBI’s (58) and total bases (98), tied for lead in HR’s (10)
  4. Kylee Lahners (So - CF) - .318 in 52 starts with 9 HR’s.
  5. Kimberlee Souza (So – 3B) - .310 in 55 starts. Led the team in doubles (12)
  6. Shawna Wright (Sr – C) - .275 in 54 starts
  7. Whitney Jones (Jr - LF) - .278 in 26 starts (50 games). (Whitney may be in the lineup instead of freshman Missy Taukeiaho, who batted .296 in 35 starts, but has been out of the lineup of late as best I can tell)
  8. Jennie McNeil (Fr-SS) - .205 in 51 starts. Led the team in K’s (29)
  9. Kelli Suguro (Jr-2B) - .318 in 40 starts

Holy Juniors, Huskies. Only one senior in the lineup, but as UW is no stranger to this stage. This is their fifth straight Super Regional, so I think they have plenty of experience to go around. Lineup falls off a bit in the 6-7-8 area, but with Suguro batting so well at the bottom of the order, I imagine that does well to set up the folks at the top once the game is into the middle innings. Aside from Hayward, no one on the team has more than four SB’s, so they do not appear to be much of a threat to run.

Washington Defense

55 games. 31 errors. By comparison, Mizzou has played 5 fewer games and has committed 26 more errors. The fielding percentage of .980 for UW means their pitchers have only given up 18 unearned runs on the year. Mizzou will have to earn these wins.

Washington Pitching

The Huskies employ a bit of a two-headed monster, and without getting too in depth, it is almost tough to tell who their #1 is. Kaitlin Inglesby has gone 22-7 in 160.1 innings, while junior Bryana Walker has gone 17-7 in 165. Walker has 32 starts (Inglesby with only 17), and Inglesby has the lone save of the team. So it appears that UW may have won some games late which Walker started but Inglesby finished. Walker is a bit more hit and miss, having given up 136 hits (though none in the close-out game against Hawaii last weekend) and 57 BB’s in her 165 innings. On the other side, Inglesby has given up 141 hits and only 35 walks. Walker has the higher ERA of the two at 3.02 (though this should be just under 3 now since the no-hitter was not included) and has given up 25 HR’s to only 11 for her counterpart. She has more K’s though, with just over 1 per inning at 178 (to 126 for Inglesby). Teams are hitting in the .220’s against Walker, while they are hitting .231 against Inglesby, who has only given up 2 unearned runs. Clearly the defense likes having her out there. Beyond these two there have only been 35 innings pitched, so don’t expect UW to go deep into the pen.

Experience Playing UW

2011 Super Regional – Game 1: Chelsea was DEALING on this day, going the distance with a two-hitter in which she walked two and struck out 13. Mizzou won, 4-0. The Tigers got out to a quick 1-0 lead and never looked back. Nicole Hudson was the hitting hero of the day with a double and HR. Kaitlin Inglesby threw 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, 4 runs, 3 earned with 3 walks and 7 K’s.

2011 Super Regional – Game 2: While not quite as clean and pretty as game 1, the Tigers were rarely in trouble on their way to a WCWS-bid-clinching 6-3 win. Mizzou got out early, scoring 5 off of Inglesby in the first inning, capped off by a Lisa Simmons two-run shot. UW was sketchy in the field with 3 errors, though they did only lead to one unearned run. Thomas surrendered 10 hits, but only gave up runs (2 earned) in the fifth inning as the Huskies halved the Tiger lead. She also walked 2 and struck out 9. Mizzou did only have four hits on the day, but they made them count. Playing in these games for UW who are still with the team this weekend were Inglesby, Wright, Hayward and Jones.

February 25, 2012 in Palm Springs, CA: The #11 Tigers took down the #5 Huskies 2-0 as Chelsea Thomas threw one of her many career no-hitters. Only a Mizzou error by Ashtin Stephens kept it from being a perfect game, as Thomas walked no one and struck out 8. Mizzou plated their two runs in the top of the third with a Stephens single, a triple from Marston, and a SAC fly from Genovese. Bryana Walker went the distance for the Huskies, giving up 4 hits with 3 walks and 5 strike outs. Hayward, Inglesby, Souza, Lahners, Fagaly and Wright all played last year in that game along with Walker.

Overall Thoughts

Make no mistake, this is a VERY good team Mizzou is about to play. But it was a VERY good team when Mizzou won twice in 2011 (with a decent amount of ease), and it was a VERY good team when Chelsea Thomas won via no-hitter last year.

Mizzou has seen both pitchers, and while Inglesby appears to have improved some over last year, Walker has gone a little further in the opposite way (based solely on available stats). The UW lineup is certainly potent, and their defense this year appears to be quite a bit better than the team who gave up 4 errors in 2 games back in 2011 when last they visited University Field.

For the Tigers, the bats cannot wait to produce until the last second as they did last weekend. The team has some experience against Inglesby, but it is only Marston, Hudson and Sykes who faced her back in 2011. If Walker is in the circle, that experience increases to Genovese, Roth, Kelsi Jones, Krebs, Randazzo (also Kingsley who obviously won’t see action). And while they will not be facing Olivia Galati as they did three times last weekend, they did not set the world on fire against SBU. In the circle, you expect a rested and healthy (as we have been led to believe) Thomas in Game 1, and then you really have to hope the symptoms do not reappear. But she will need the defense to play well and avoid extending innings and pitch counts. That has been an occasional issue. I still don’t think it is a terrible idea to throw Hudson in Game 2 if we win Game 1, though it would only be in the name of rest for Thomas and not wearing down Washington's ace (since UW has two of them).

The seeding tells you this is a series we should win. If it was three games over three days, I very much believe we would. I would like to believe Mizzou will play with a strange chip on their shoulder after losing in the Supers last year on their home dirt, and the confidence they may have gained in FINALLY being able to touch Galati could transfer over to this weekend.

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