Talented UW softball team hopes to ‘leave no doubt’ as it begins NCAA tournament

Coach Heather Tarr remains cautious as the eighth-ranked Huskies begin their quest for the Women’s College World Series and have adopted the motto: “Leave No Doubt,” meaning they can’t afford to waste opportunities.

Heather Tarr, Washington’s softball coach, doesn’t mean to be a buzz kill. It’s just that, as she likes to tell her players, she’s constantly paranoid. It’s one of the hazards of the coaching profession – the constant fear that even triumph can sow the seeds of doom, if you’re not careful.

In their final game before the NCAA regional tournament that begins Friday at Husky Softball Stadium, UW roared back from an 11-run deficit last Saturday to defeat Utah, 13-12, in extra innings.

Considering that Utah is nationally ranked, and considering that the Huskies have won 13 of their last 14 games, you’d think that they’d be bursting with momentum heading into the postseason.

And they most certainly are, as they prepare to face Montana in their regional opener. It’s just that Tarr doesn’t want her players dwelling on that fact.

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“I probably ruin it for our team because I say, ‘So what. Next pitch. Get over it,’ ’’ Tarr said with a laugh on Thursday.

In the jubilation of that epic win in Salt Lake City – the biggest comeback victory in program history – star shortstop Ali Aguilar beseeched her coach, “Can we just celebrate for 12 hours?”

Tarr glanced at her watch and warily granted permission. But one gets the sense that she had a timer set to go off at precisely 12 hours. This is a Husky team with high expectations; the UW enters postseason play with a 43-11 record, ranked eighth in the country and seeded sixth overall in the NCAA field. And Tarr is a strong believer that maximizing mental preparation fosters success on the field.

That’s why she loves to use metaphors from eclectic ventures ranging from mountain climbing to the Iditarod sled-dog race to help motivate her players. It’s why they’ve adapted some principles from Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who is a devotee of sports psychologist Ken Ravizza, co-author of “Heads-Up Baseball,’’ which has long been a bible for UW softball.

And it’s why the Huskies annually coin a motto that embodies their mindset and goals for the upcoming season, while adding new mantras periodically during the season. Their 2017 motto is “Leave No Doubt,” while their current mantra is to stay focused in the moment, no matter the distractions. In other words, “Next pitch.”

“We have to create our mottos every year organically and allow the team’s personality to fit the motto,’’ Tarr said.

The phrase “Leave no doubt,’’ she explained, reflects the mindset that “we can’t screw around. When we play these teams and we have opportunities throughout the regular season, we have to continue to leave no doubt.”

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