OKLAHOMA CITY — After five years of playing softball for Washington, SilentRain Espinoza’s career was suddenly over when NiJaree Canady recorded the final out in Stanford’s 1-0 win over the Huskies on Sunday.
It was the last collegiate game for her and fellow fifth-year seniors Sami Reynolds, Madison Huskey, Megan Vandegrift and Baylee Klingler (who played her first season at Texas A&M).
Espinoza could not hold back tears at the news conference after the game.
“My fellow fifth-years, we pretty much grew up together,” she said. “We started at the World Series, and we were just saying how cool it is that we’re getting to end our career at the World Series.”
Klingler, Reynolds, Huskey and Espinoza were the team’s top four hitters this season, but UW coach Heather Tarr talked more Sunday about their leadership and how they were great models for those who will return.
“How they learned to lead as a group was fantastic,” Tarr said. “They really showed the younger ones how it’s done. You lead selflessly and you lead with humility. You don’t bully people; you nurture people behind you. And they did a really good job of trying to find a way to keep the teammate-ship greater than friendship, and that’s a hard thing to do for anybody.”
Tarr said getting farther than the Huskies went this year in the WCWS — tying for fifth place — will be the starting point for UW next season.
The coach could potentially have all four of her pitchers back next season.
Freshman Ruby Meylan developed into the team’s top pitcher. Tarr has indicated that senior Lindsay Lopez, the transfer from Arizona State who had a great finish to the season, is expected to return for a fifth year of college softball.
Lopez, the winning pitcher for UW in its 4-1 win over Utah in its WCWS opener, allowed just one run in eight innings in her two appearances in the WCWS.
The team’s other two pitchers, Kelley Lynch, who also plays first base, and Brooke Nelson are seniors. Both could potentially return for a fifth season, as could senior outfielder Jadelyn Allchin.
“We have three that are still deciding on what they’re going to do,” Tarr said. “But that’s up to them, and us a little bit.”
Several young players got a chance to start games for Washington at the WCWS.
Sophomore shortstop Rylee Holtorf was the team’s most productive hitter in the three games.
Getting starts in the WCWS were freshman catcher Sydney Stewart and freshman outfielder Brooklyn Carter, and sophomore catcher Olivia Johnson and sophomore infielder Kinsey Fiedler. That experience could be big.
Tarr reflected on the difference between 2019 and 2023 for the four fifth-year seniors who started their careers at UW.
“They were clueless sometimes, like, ‘Where am I, what am I doing and how do I hit on this stage?’” Tarr said. “And now they’re refined, they’re confident. It just gives you hope when you develop younger ones. There’s a model. We’re just proud of (the younger players) and excited to try to do it better than they (just) did it, next year.”