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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA falls short of national title

It seemed like they did the impossible.

The 2010 Arizona softball team won five straight elimination games to prevent it from making another quick exit from the Women’s College World Series for the third year in a row.

After losing its initial opening round game to the Tennessee Lady Volunteers by a mercy rule 9-0, the Wildcats defeated then-defending national champion Washington, followed by Hawaii, and then Tennessee twice on June 6 to move on to the championship series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“”Obviously I know how tough it is when you lose the first game to fight back, and so this has to go right up there as one of the great moments in Arizona history to give us an opportunity to play for a championship,”” Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said.

Arizona was the first team to advance to the championship series after losing its opening round game since the 1992 Arizona Wildcats did it before falling to UCLA in the national title game.

Unfortunately for Arizona, history sometimes repeats itself.

In 2010, the Wildcats fell 2-0 to UCLA in the best-of-three championship series, including a game one loss that ended in heartbreaking fashion for Arizona.

Game 1 of the championship series saw an extra innings showdown between the Bruins and the Wildcats.

The back-and-forth contest featured four ties and had Arizona and UCLA tied for the same amount of hits, runs and errors.

In the bottom of the seventh inning with the Wildcats up 5-4, UCLA’s Dani Yudin sent a ball into left-center field that could have potentially ended the game. But a miscommunication between left fielder Brittany Lastrapes and center fielder Lauren Schutzler allowed the ball to fall and extend the game into extra innings.

“”It was well-played to the most part,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. “”The one part that wasn’t ended up costing us.””

UCLA’s Megan Langenfeld would deliver the crushing blow in the bottom of the eighth inning, giving the Bruins the 6-5 edge, and once again forcing Arizona to the brink of elimination.

“”When you’re going into a game against UCLA, it’s going to be prizefight,”” Candrea said. “”The last one standing is the one that wins.””

Game 2 did not have the same dramatics as Game one.

UCLA took a 2-0 lead just three batters into the game and consistently added insurance runs in the later innings.

Arizona tried to mount a comeback through middle innings, but it would not be enough to give the Wildcats a shot at the national title. A three-run deficit in the bottom of the fourth would be as close as Arizona would get.

“”I think we came to the ball park ready to play,”” Candrea said. “”We just didn’t have all the things that we needed to together to make this game close.””

Although their run ended in disappointment, the Wildcats proved that Arizona was back to its championship form. The previous two years had seen the Wildcats make a quick exit after losing twice in the double elimination format.

“”I think we expelled a lot of energy to get here,”” Candrea said. “”I’m very proud of this team for the fight they put up through this week.””

Extra bases

Freshman phenom

The Wildcats rode the arm of freshman ace Kenzie Fowler all the way to the championship series. Fowler threw 805 pitches and nearly every inning in the Women’s College World Series for the Wildcats.

“”She has thrown a bunch,””  Candrea said of Fowler’s pitch count. “”My God, this young lady has done a miraculous job to get us here.””

Fowler’s season would go down as the second best freshman season in Arizona history. She finished with a 38-9 record with 1.53 ERA in 284.1 innings pitched and 371 strikeouts.

Vintage softball

The 2010 championship series plagued the two programs with the most wins in college softball against one another and was reminiscent of the early 1990s when Arizona and UCLA met three straight times to decide the national championship.

“”I guess it is like old times,”” said Arizona head coach Mike Candrea. “”Back then it was a white ball with white seams, aluminum bats and now we have composite bat that’s changed the complexity of the game a bit.””

UCLA and Arizona have met a total of seven times in the championship series with Arizona holding a 4-3 edge, despite coming up short in 2010. The 2010 matchup was the first in the best-of-three championship format.

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