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Flores Elevating Washington After Missing Last Season With ACL Injury

(Photo Courtesy of UW Athletics)

Morganne Flores’ waist-length ponytail chased her bat as the powerful Washington catcher muscled a line drive to straight-away center.

The screamer, her 18th homer of the season, hit square between the eyes of the Arizona Wildcat logo, pictured above the wall at Rita Hillenbrand Stadium 220-plus feet from home. The two-run kill shot delivered all the runs necessary for a 2-1 first-game win, the closest contest of the No. 7 Huskies three-game sweep at No. 3 Arizona.

Flores has a hand in almost everything Washington does, making her absence last season all the more devastating.

As the Huskies made their first trip to the Women’s College World Series Championship Series since the school’s lone title in 2009, Flores was sidelined by a severe knee injury for the entire season.

“When she sustained her injury, it was two weeks before we started play, and you just really have to turn your brain off to it,” coach Heather Tarr said. “I tore my ACL a few years ago, and I know it’s like ‘Ok, nine months. You’re done.’ Knowing that myself, I knew I wasn’t going to fight, wishing that she was back. Our team did such a good job, knowing that we were going to play for her.

“Of course now, throughout this season, I’ve thought a million times how did we do what we did without her?”

While the journey there was remarkable, Flores absence finally caught up with the Huskies in the final series against Florida State.

Her teammates struggled first at the plate and then in the circle, dropping back-to-back losses, 1-0 and 8-3. It was the first time Washington was shutout by a non-conference opponent or allowed eight runs since 2016.

“It was definitely tough going through last year and not being able to play,” Flores said. “But I gained such a new and cool perspective that I wouldn’t have gotten if I didn’t get injured. It was really cool to come back from that and be with my teammates again.”

This spring, she’s taken an even larger role in the team’s offense.

Aside from Flores, the rest of the Huskies have hit just 20 home runs with no one touting more than four. As a team Washington has a .442 slugging percentage with her, good for 76th in the nation, and .406 without her, which would rank 133rd nationally.

It’s clear that without Flores’ bat, the Huskies would be in a difficult spot, even with five other starters carrying a better batting average.

“She’s probably one of the hardest workers that we have,” Tarr said. “In the weight room, she cares a lot about how much she’s lifting. You always see her taking care of her body and doing extra cardio.”

In the field, she’s been just as valuable.

Early in the season the Huskies wanted to reduce her workload. Flores started six games at first base and four at designated player, but it became clear she was needed back behind home plate.

The 5-foot-9 backstop not only has a perfect fielding percentage, she’s also been a reassuring partner to whoever is in the circle.

“She’s just a really good softball player,” Tarr said. “If you get on her, she likes that. She likes to be held accountable.”

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