UA Wildcats Softball
UCLA takes game 1, Cats look to rebound
UCLA opened the NCAA WCWS with a 6-5 walk-off homerun
One of the toughest things to do in sports is to defeat a team multiple times in a season. Arizona must beat UCLA twice in two days if it wants another softball championship.
The Bruins topped the Cats in a wild extra-inning affair, 6-5, on a walk-off homerun.
The No. 10 Wildcats will face Pac-10 foe UCLA on Tuesday for the fifth time this season, as they continue to battle for the Women’s College World Series National Championship in Oklahoma City. Game times is 5 p.m. The Bruins currently hold a 3-1 advantage over the Wildcats.
UA has been down 1-0 in the championship series before. In 2007 against Tennessee, the Cats were able to bounce back against strong pitching by Monica Abbott and take the next two games to win the eighth title in UA history.
"We've fought so hard. There's no reason we can't come back and beat this team two times in a row," said Arredondo, one of two players left from the 2007 championship team she said in ESPN's recap of game 1.
"We just have to believe in ourselves and if we keeps our heads down, that's not going to happen. That's why I told everyone, 'Just keep your heads up and believe, and we can do it.'"
The fifth seeded Bruins (49-11) took two out of three in Tucson in May when Arizona pitchers, ace Kenzie Fowler and Sarah Akamine were forced to leave their games early.
UCLA is in the championship series for the first time in five years. The Wildcats last played in the final series in 2007.
If Arizona does come back to win Tuesday and Wednesday, they will win their ninth softball title.
"It's a great feeling. It feels like it's been a little too long," player of the year finalist and UCLA starting pitcher Megan Langenfeld said to the Associated Press before the best-of-three finals.
"We have a bunch of alumni that are here and they keep telling us, 'Don't worry. You guys have it.' Whatever 'it' is, I don't know, but I guess we have it."
Have it they do.
After Arizona (52-13) went up 5-4 in the top half of the seventh on back-to-back homers by K’Lee Arredondo and Stacie Chambers, Lagenfeld was replaced on the mound by Aleah Macon (12-1).
However, UCLA would answer back in their half to force extra innings.
"I knew somehow, some way it was going to come back around," Langenfeld said in a telephone interview with Los Angeles Times. "This game wasn't done yet."
And it was Langenfeld who hit a walk-off solo shot off UA starter Kenzie Fowler (38-8) in the eighth inning for the 6-5 win.
Dominance of the Pac-10
The two teams have quite a history in the WCWS finals and otherwise.
They have combined to win 18 of the 27 titles that have been won in Oklahoma City.
"I guess it is like old times but we had to beat some very good teams to get here," said Coach Mike Candrea, whose Wildcats are back in the finals for the first time since winning back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007 in the June 6th article of the Los Angeles Times.
"I know coming in, a little bit of the motivation is the hype about the SEC. The SEC is a very good conference but we still believe that the Pac-10 can hold its own.
"It's kind of fun right now to culminate with two Pac-10 teams. I kind of like that personally."
The Pac-10 had seven teams selected at the beginning of the tournament: Washington, Stanford, Cal, Oregon and Arizona St.
While three moved on to Oklahoma City (Washington, UA, UCLA), Stanford was the only team to not get out of the opening round of the NCAA regionals.
Road of common foes
For Arizona, the road to the championship was an up and down one.
They came into Oklahoma City after a sweep of the up and coming BYU Cougars in the Tucson Super-Regional and were welcomed with facing Tennessee, the team they ended up beating for the 2007 National Championship.
To make it to the finals, Arizona had to overcome a 9-0 defeat at the hands of the Vols, who were helped by Fowler being called for eight illegal pitches in the circle.
After the loss, U of A was ready to keep it going. They knocked off third seeded Washington (4-3) in the elimination game after the Huskies lost to Georgia. During the regular season, the Cats were outscored 18-4 in the three game sweep.
With the Huskies eliminated, Arizona faced a surprising 16th seeded Hawaii team that they had faced on Feb. 27 in the Cathedral City Classic in California and defeated them 5-1, setting up the showdown with the Vols again.
UCLA had a little easier road heading into the championship game, they defeated the fourth seeded Florida Gators 16-3 before disposing of Hawaii 5-2. To gain a spot in the championship, they knocked off the Georgia Bulldogs.
Cats vs. Vols, Round 2
Just like in 2007, the Vols drew the first win, this time with a 9-0 mercy rule shortened game
U of A had the answer though. Again.
In the first game against Tennessee on Sunday, the Wildcats defeated the Vols 8-0 behind the bats of Karissa Buchanan and Brittany Lastrapes, handing Tennessee the first loss of the tournament.
Each batter finished the game with three hits and two RBIs.
In the second game, The Cats ended the Vols season with a 5-2 win to propel them into the championship game against the Bruins.
In that game, U of A tied the game at two when Chambers blasted a two run shot to drive home Lauren Schutzler in the third off of freshman pitcher Ivy Renfroe.
Renfroe took the loss in both games.
“They beat us in every phase and they deserved the wins,’’ said UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly, who has taken the Lady Vols to four WCWS in his nine years at UT, he said in the govolsextra.com article from June 6.
“I’m tremendously proud of this team; I don’t think anybody expected us to get to this position. I told the team this was the best group Karen and I have ever coached.’’