SEATTLE — The moment didn't look too big for a University of Montana softball team playing in its first-ever NCAA tournament game Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Griz, the Huskies' bats were plenty big enough.
No. 6-seeded University of Washington erased any thoughts of an upset in the third inning, scoring all eight of its runs in an 8-0 win, and Taran Alvelo no-hit the Griz in the five-inning, run-rule shortened game. But it was Montana's fielding error that jump-started the Huskies' offense.
"Against a good team like Washington, you can't make mistakes, you can't chase pitches and you can't miss a ground ball," Montana coach Jamie Pinkerton said after the game. "But it's a learning experience."
Two innings of scoreless ball between the Griz and Washington playing at its home Husky Softball Stadium had a rowdy UM section, fresh from a sizable tailgate, believing.
After a leadoff single from USA National shortstop Ali Aguilar, the Griz got an out on a sacrifice bunt. A sure second out at first was bobbled and instead allowed runners on the corners. It was all the opportunity a team with five hitters batting over .300 needed.
"This team has a lot of energy, so it's just a matter of time and making adjustments," said Washington's third baseman Taylor Van Zee who was 2-for-3 hitting on Friday. "Just taking it pitch by pitch allowed us to break it open. We got it going and we fed off one another."
Two pitches after the lapse, UW cleanup hitter Morganne Flores lined an RBI double to left field to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead. But they were threatening for more with runners on second and third.
Washington made good on the warning, cashing in for seven more runs to take an 8-0 lead before Montana's third pitcher in the inning, Maddy Stensby, stopped the bleeding by recording the third out.
Van Zee added on in the inning with a gapper to left-center that cleared the bases and gave UW a 3-0 advantage. Her triple chased freshman and first-team All-Big Sky starting pitcher Michaela Hood from the game.
But the offensive display continued. An infield hit that three Grizzlies surrounded but didn't pick up kept the inning going, and the Huskies added a pair of two-RBI knocks after that.
"We got on our heels in that third inning and made an uncharacteristic mistake," said Pinkerton, whose squad was the top fielding team in the Big Sky Conference. "Outside of that inning it was 0-0. We've been told we're scrappy, though.
"We don't go away."
Montana's Anne Mari Petrino and Syd Stites were the only to Grizzlies to reach base. Petrino walked in the third and Stites was hit by a pitch in the fifth. Alvelo struck out eight in the no-no, utilizing a rise ball that the Griz had trouble keeping up with.
"She throws some heat -- we just gotta let her provide the power and keep up with the pitch," Montana shortstop Delene Colburn said.
With a lot of firsts in the books for Montana after Friday, they'll get back to playing ball Saturday at 5:30 p.m. MDT in a loser-out matchup with Fresno State (34-22). The Bulldogs lost to Michigan 3-1 earlier on Friday at the regional.
There Montana will look for its first tournament hit, run and -- hopefully -- win.
And Colburn expects the team to be loose. She'll be doing the loosening.
"Just keep smiling -- we're happy to be here, competing with these teams," she said.
Notes and quotes: Alvelo's no-hitter was her first in her college career. Despite eight K's, she deflected the praise. "It's an awesome feeling to know that my defense has my back no matter what," the sophomore pitcher said. It was Montana's first time in the NCAA tournament, which allowed Huskies coach Heather Tarr to reflect on her first tournament appearance as a coach in 2005. Her squad lost to Michigan, the eventual national champions. The two meet again Saturday at 3 p.m.