By Ed Strong
Going into the final game of the Seattle Regional, the MVP award felt like a formality if Washington won. Gabbie Plain had been fantastic in wins over Boise State and Texas, and the offense for UW had been spread out among many different players.
Sis Bates had such an impact on the title game that she nearly flipped the vote.
She went 3-for-3, including a bunt single so perfect one couldn’t have hand-rolled it any better. She stole second and forced a throw into center field that allowed her to take third. She lived up to her Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award with two fantastic defensive plays in the bottom of the seventh to secure the victory. And she essentially pulled a straight steal of home on a ball back to the mound.
On a play reminiscent of Eric Hosmer’s mad dash for home on a groundout in the MLB World Series against the Mets in 2015, Bates scampered home and dove in ahead of the tag by Minnesota’s Kendyl Lindaman for a pivotal insurance run that helped Washington move on to Super Regionals for the 12th time in program history.
“You’ve got to be able to put pressure on the defense,” said Head Coach Heather Tarr. “A third of our lineup is some of the fastest players in the nation. For us to be able to actually utilize that is a game-changer.”
Up 3-2 in the fifth with runners at second and third and one out, Kirstyn Thomas chopped one off home plate that took one high bounce back towards the pitching circle. Fiser, third baseman Danielle Parlich, and shortstop Allie Arneson all converged near the circle as Fiser made the grab. With Thomas running hard up the line towards first, that left little time for Fiser to decide what to do with the ball. Bates took off as soon as Fiser began her throw to first. She dove a couple of feet to the dugout side of home but reached across the plate with her left hand in time.
“I had a chance to get another run for my team,” said Bates. Bates went on to say that she knew nobody was covering third, so she could take a big lead with no risk of being picked off.
Bates grew up in Ceres, Calif., and had no previous connection to the University of Washington, but knew she wanted to be a Husky from a very young age. She watched UW win the National Championship on televison in 2009 and told her dad she knew exactly where she wanted to play. She was so set on playing with the Huskies that she spurned any other coaches interested in recruiting her to their program instead.
A shortstop by trade, Bates played her freshman season at second base for UW alongside All-American Ali Aguilar. Having already won a gold medal with the US Junior National Team in 2016, Bates earned a spot on the Senior National Team in 2018, rejoining her predecessor with the top US team. She continues to work towards her long-term goal of representing the United States at the Olympics, which is reinstating softball beginning in 2020.
“(Aguilar) is very analytical about the game,” she said. “If I had a question, I could ask her and get a full explanation with no judgment for asking the question.”
Her short-term goal is much simpler. The Huskies host Alabama in the Super Regional this weekend, looking to secure back-to-back WCWS appearances for the first time since pre-teen Bates was watching the Huskies from afar in 2009 and 2010.
“Going to Oklahoma City was the coolest thing,” she said. “I got spoiled my freshman year, because that was the first time for all of us. We grew during that week both as players and as people.”
Now Bates looks to return the favor and spoil her freshman teammates with another trip to college softball’s Holy Grail.