SEATTLE – Heather Tarr, the highly successful softball coach of the Washington Huskies, says one of the most enjoyable aspects of her job is watching players mature and develop during their college careers.
Of course, winning games is even more fun for Tarr. Winning titles is even better.
And winning a title with a no-hitter well, life can’t get much better for Tarr and the Huskies.
Junior right-hander Bryana Walker held hard-hitting Hawaii without a hit Sunday in an 8-0 romp in the Seattle Regional title game. The NCAA tournament contest was called after five innings because of the eight-run mercy rule.
Washington (41-15), the No. 11 seed in the 64-team tournament, will visit No. 6 seed Missouri (38-12) next weekend for a best-of-three Super Regional. The winner will advance to the College World Series, May 30-June 5, in Oklahoma City.
Most of the 992 fans at Husky Softball Stadium were on their feet roaring when Walker finished the game with her 12th strikeout. Walker fanned the final four hitters.
“I’m ecstatic right now; I can’t stop smiling,” Walker said. “But it was definitely a team win. Our offense really came alive.”
Kaitlin Inglesby and Whitney Jones blasted home runs in the five-run third inning to chase Hawaii star Kaia Parnaby, the No. 1 pitcher on Australia’s national team. Parnaby threw 317 pitches in three complete games Friday and Saturday.
Parnaby (39-7) was tied for first in NCAA Division I wins prior to Sunday’s games. She lost all three of her starts against the Huskies this season.
“They’re good hitters,” Parnaby said. “They see a pitch and they hit it.”
“Kaia Parnaby is a great pitcher she probably ran out of a little gas,” Tarr said.
The Huskies – who came into the tournament batting .315, ranked 23rd nationally – collected 12 hits. None were bigger than Inglesby’s two-run homer to center and Jones’ three-run blast to right.
All-conference pitcher Inglesby went 3-for-3 at the plate while Tarr had Walker pitch against Hawaii.
Inglesby, who blanked Hawaii on two hits Saturday, would have been available if second-seeded Hawaii had forced a second game by defeating top-seeded Washington on Sunday.
Hawaii, the Big West Conference champion, finished 2-2 in Seattle and 45-13 for the season.
Longtime Hawaii coach Bob Coolen said the improved pitching of Walker (17-7) and Inglesby (22-7) makes the Huskies “totally different” than the team that split two games with Hawaii in February.
The Huskies yielded one run and five hits in three games at regionals.
“I’m just happy our pitching is coming around,” Tarr said. “It’s maturing.”