By JEFF LATZKE AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY—When the Washington program she loved was rocked by a scandal, Heather Tarr knew she had to make things right.
Her old coach had been fired, the program disgraced, but Tarr wouldn’t give up on the dream of a national championship she first had as a walk-on player for the Huskies.
Now, the purple and gold can forget those dark days and start the celebration. The Huskies are Women’s College World Series champions at last.
Kimi Pohlman raced home on a squibber back to the circle that Florida ace Stacey Nelson couldn’t handle, giving Washington the decisive run in a 3-2 victory for its first NCAA softball championship Tuesday night.
“It’s just a testament to the kind of people that we have in our program,” Tarr said. “We’re able to keep our eyes focused on where we wanted to go.”
Tarr took over in 2004 after her former coach, Teresa Wilson, had been fired following a scandal involving a team doctor giving out powerful prescription drugs. The Huskies had been wildly successful, making the World Series seven times in the previous nine seasons, and Tarr took it upon herself to keep the program rolling along.
“I had my eyes set on this program not losing a beat, and I got to be the lucky one to get hired to do this job,” said Tarr, who had been an assistant coach at Pacific.
She took her first big step toward keeping Washington among the national powers when she signed Danielle Lawrie, a Canadian pitcher who would end up playing in the Olympics and leading the Huskies to the national title.
Lawrie (42-8) had an RBI single and shut out top-seeded Florida after being handed the lead in the bottom of the third inning on Nelson’s error.
With the bases loaded, Morgan Stuart tapped the ball a few feet in front of home plate, but Nelson (41-5) was unable to scoop it cleanly as Pohlman headed down the line to score.
Lawrie, who pitched every inning of the Huskies’ six games at the World Series, was named the most outstanding player. Tarr said she also earned that title when it comes to Washington’s program.
“She’s the best, and there have been some pretty good ones that have played here. ... Coaching somebody like her is just a gift and it’s awesome because she does things the right way,” Tarr said. “She works hard. She’s one of our hardest workers. She’s selfless, she’s an accountable person, she’s confident and she’s tough – and that’s what we’re all about.”
Lawrie settled down after some shaky defense put the third-seeded Huskies in a 2-0 hole. She finished with a pair of strikeouts after Christina Enea narrowly missed a tying home run with a line drive off the left field wall in the seventh inning.
“I thought for a second it might have been out but once it hit the fence and they had the runner on second, I was just thinking, `No, no, no. You’ve worked too hard for this to happen right now,”’ Lawrie said.
Megan Bush, the only Florida player with two homers in the Series, and Gardiner, whose game-winning grand slam put the Gators (63-5) into the championship round, both went down swinging.
“There’s a reason she’s the most outstanding player in the tournament, probably the best pitcher in the country and one of the best pitchers in the world,” Gators coach Tim Walton said. “You’ve got to take advantage of opportunities that you get.
“I don’t know if it was just me or my imagination or it was getting dark out there, but it seemed like every time we had somebody on base, she revved it up another gear. And the last two innings, she revved it up probably two more gears.”
Tarr made it clear that the Huskies wouldn’t be where they are without Wilson. It was her time under Wilson’s tutelage, including a loss in the 1996 national title game, that drove her desire to become a champion. Before taking the job at Washington, she checked in with her old coach to make sure it was OK.
“I just know how hard it is to get one of these,” Tarr said. “It was always my vision to believe that this was something that we were going to be capable of doing as a program because of things that have been laid before us. The only reason that we’re here today is because of how strong our foundation was laid by coach Wilson and by the players that played here.”