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Howie Stalwick / Special to The Forum, Published May 22 2010

Washington holds off NDSU at NCAA softball tournament

SEATTLE, Wash. – Friday was a typical spring day in this lovely city on the shores of Puget Sound.

Rain fell on occasion. The Washington Huskies won a softball game. And Danielle Lawrie threw the ball like few women on earth.

Lawrie, a prime candidate to win NCAA Player of the Year honors for the second straight year, threw a four-hitter with 13 strikeouts to lead top-ranked Washington to a 3-0 victory over North Dakota State in the opening round of the NCAA Division I softball tournament.

“She’s a great pitcher, obviously,” Bison second baseman Laurel Pipkin said after extending her hitting streak to 14 games with a pair of infield singles.

Elisa Victa also managed an infield single off Lawrie, who improved to 36-2 with 21 shutouts. The only time a Husky outfielder touched the ball was on freshman designated hitter Becca Gift’s clean single through the left side of the infield in the fifth inning.

“She (Lawrie) hides the ball well … (and) she has such great command on both sides of the plate,” Bison coach Darren Mueller said.

“Her off-speed is awesome,” Pipkin said. “She really throws you off at bat. She has great movement on her ball.”

Washington (46-6), the defending national champion, advanced to this evening’s semifinals against North Carolina (41-18). The Bison (33-24) must win two games each of the next two days at the Seattle Regional to earn a repeat trip to the Super Regionals.

North Dakota State faces Nebraska (29-28) in a loser-out game at 7:30 CDT tonight. The winner of that game takes on the Washington-North Carolina loser at 10. ESPNU televises all the games nationally.

The Bison played errorless ball, and freshman Whitney Johnson held the hard-hitting Huskies to six hits. Lawrie provided the only offense Washington needed when she belted a towering two-run homer that bounced off the top of the left-field wall in the first inning at Husky Softball Stadium.

Lawrie’s team-high 15th home run came on a high rise ball.

“She just got on top of it,” Johnson said.

The Bison fell to 0-10 all-time against teams from the Pacific-10 Conference, traditionally the strongest collegiate softball league in the country.

“We would have liked to break the game open, but North Dakota State played well,” Washington coach Heather Tarr said.

The Huskies are seeded third in the 64-team tournament. Mueller said the unseeded, unranked Bison consider the close score “a little bit” of a moral victory.

“We just believe we should win every single game we play, even if it’s the No. 1 team in the country,” Mueller said.

A standing-room-only crowd of 1,610 braved icy winds coming off Lake Washington, just beyond the outfield fence. The Bison’s estimated attendance was 1,600 all season for 13 home dates.

North Carolina’s Danielle Spaulding (20-5) threw a no-hitter in a 1-0 win over Nebraska. Asked how the Huskies will prepare for Spaulding, the colorful Lawrie deadpanned, “Top secret. We can’t tell you.”

NDSU 000 000 0– 0 4 0

W 201 000 x– 3 6 1

Johnson and McKenzie. Lawrie and Wright. W–Lawrie (36-2). L–Johnson (26-17). HR–W, Lawrie (15).