Washington’s softball team has been at least two time zones away from home for 15 straight days now. By the time the Huskies return to Seattle, they will have traveled 7,000-plus miles without ever needing a passport.
UW players evidently have fought the temptation to wear "206” eye-black strips under both eyes in honor of their hometown area code. Washington has advanced to its ninth Women’s College World Series and certainly took to road less traveled. This NCAA adventure commenced May 13. Three members of the UW travel party are one year older, having had birthdays since then — catcher Alicia Blake, utility player Amanda Fleischman and student assistant Dru Hester. The vagabond Huskies flew 2,963 miles from Seattle to Boston for the regional held in Amherst, Mass. After surviving a 15-inning elimination contest that took five hours, 13 minutes to complete — the longest game in school history — U-Dub traveled 1,087 miles to Atlanta to face host Georgia Tech in the Super Regional. From there, it was 848 miles to Oklahoma City. It’ll be another 2,001 miles to get back home, unless the ladies get the urge to stop at Yosemite Park and take in the sights. Total distance on this Rand McNally Special is 6,899 miles, which does not include all those back-and-forth trips to stadiums, hotels, restaurants and various venues of distraction. The Huskies were not completely blind-sided when they were told to hit the road for the 64-team NCAA Tournament. In order for ESPN to have maximum flexibility for postseason games, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association decided last December all host sites must have lights. UW’s Husky Softball Stadium has no lights, and temporary lights were not an option due to the facility’s tight configuration. A $500,000 fundraising plan for lights is said to be in the works. The Huskies initially figured they would still get to host a super regional if they survived Amherst. "We didn’t think there was any way they would not allow us to host,” senior second baseman Ashley Charters said. Reportedly, the school’s bid to host a super regional on a lighted field roughly 145 miles away at Yakima Community College was rejected by the NCAA. So UW took flight, multiple times, with overstuffed duffle bags in tow. If the Huskies return home with their first national title in softball next week, the good news is they’ll be welcomed back by fellow students. The bad news is it will be finals week. Laundry is done twice a week. Time-killing activities include getting your hair and nails done, plus numerous movies, both in-room and at the local theater. "Angels & Demons” was a hit to those who saw it. For school work, there is a daily study hall with academic advisers. Lectures are faxed. Papers and tests are e-mailed back to school. "We definitely have the resources to help us keep up,” said freshman outfielder Kimi Pohlman, "but it’s still been a little challenging.” Charters graduated last winter. Therefore, she has no school stress and plenty of free time for movies. This has been psychologically difficult for sophomore shortstop Morgan Stuart, who is Charters’ roommate. "It’s hard because I’m really jealous of her,” Stuart said.