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Alvelo, Washington Turning The Page To 2019

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(Photo courtesy of Linda Donnelly)

Trailing one game to none in the Women's College World Series championship series but holding an early 3-0 lead in the first, a rested Taran Alvelo entered the circle for Washington, looking to force a decisive game 3 vs Florida State.

Everything crumbled from there.

Riding a hot streak, Alvelo had her worst outing in over a year. She issued seven runs (six earned) and only recording 10 outs.

The offense went silent against the Seminoles’ Meghan King after the three early runs. Elite defensive outfielders Kelly Burdick and Trysten Melhart each committed an error, Burdick’s only error of 2018. Apart from an ugly home series against Oregon in late April, it was the worst Washington had played all season.

When asked to relive that experience, there was no disappointment at what could have been. No frustration at how 2018 finished.  Just disinterest.

“It’s so far away from the front of my mind,” head coach Heather Tarr said.

Instead of dwelling on the end, having her worst outing of the season in the season finale against the Seminoles, Alvelo has turned the page, too.

“It’s not something you can go back and change – and coming in second isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” she added, with a chuckle. “But we’re a completely new team this year. We lost a chunk of our team from last year and we have nine new people.”

The second-best team ERA in the country stands to be as good or better, as co-aces Alvelo and sophomore Gabbie Plain are both back. Plain (1.01 ERA, fourth) and Alvelo (1.30, 15th) are the only teammates to finish in last year’s individual top 30 and return to play another season.

Sam Manti (44.2 IP, 1.57 ERA), the Huskies’ third pitcher who saw her usage drop drastically due to the fantastic freshman season from Gabbie Plain, transferred to Loyola Marymount for her junior season, and seldom-used Kristin Cochran graduated. The pitching depth this season lies in sophomore DePaul transfer Pat Moore (12-6, 126.0 IP, 2.11 ERA) and freshman Mackenzie “Mac” Schulz.

Much of that upheaval Alvelo alluded to comes in the outfield, where the Huskies lost all three of their primary starters: left fielder, designated player Julia DePonte (182 career starts), right fielder Trysten Melhart (172), and Burdick (153) all graduated. Melhart and Burdick in particular were not only staples of the lineup for getting on base, but helped the Huskies have a strong outfield defense to back up their pitching staff, which stands to be one of the biggest questions heading into 2019.

Senior Amirah Milloy saw the first significant playing time of her career last season, both splitting time with Melhart in right and giving DePonte occasional days off in left. Redshirt freshman Livy Schiele transferred to Washington from Auburn after suffering a season-ending injury in fall 2017. True freshmen Sami Reynolds, Francesca Torraca, and Madison Huskey all will likely see playing time, especially Huskey, who was named to the U.S. Junior National Training Team in January.

Star catcher Morganne Flores returns from an ACL tear that kept her out for the entire 2018 season. Her 74 RBI as a sophomore in 2017 led the Pac-12 and was the third-highest single-season total in Washington history.

“I hope she can catch,” Tarr deadpanned. “There’s no restrictions; she should be able to go. The fact that we have Emma (Helm) and Rachel (Ogasawara), and we already know from last year that they can handle it, it’s pretty cool. (But) she’s fully ready.”

Sis Bates, Softball America's No.8-ranked player in Division I, also returns to the Huskies this season.

Washington should be very much in the national title mix again this season, and it’s quite possible many of the same players will find themselves in a situation where all the voices on the outside are drawing comparisons to last June.

Just don’t expect these Huskies to be trying to make up for the past.

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