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Wildcats Make 15th Consecutive College World Series Appearance
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 05/20/2002
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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May 20, 2002

The University of Arizona softball team, 52-11 overall and the No 1-ranked team for part of the year, meets with seven other outstanding teams - three others from its own Pacific-10 Conference -- in the 21st annual Women's College World Series May 23-27 at Don Porter Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. It's double-elimination format for the NCAA Division I Championship.

Arizona makes its 15th consecutive appearance in the Series. The Wildcats are defending NCAA Champions and played in the title game every year from 1991-1998, and in 2001. Arizona won the national championship six times -- in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2001.

UA, seed No. 2 and No. 2 in the final regular-season NFCA/USA Today coaches poll, plays its series opener 8:30 p.m. (CDT) Thursday, May 23, against Seed No. 7 and No. 7-ranked Nebraska (49-12). The winner of that contest faces the winner of the preceding game featuring Seed 3 Arizona State (44-18) and Seed 6 Michigan (50-9)). The Arizona-Nebraska loser plays the ASU-Michigan loser at 3:30 p.m. (CDT) Saturday, May 25, in elimination play.

Arizona completed league action at 15-6 for a second-place finish to UCLA in the Pacific-10 Conference.

Only seven teams ever have won the NCAA title -- UCLA (8), Arizona (6), Texas A&M (2) Cal State Fullerton (1), Fresno State (1) and Oklahoma (1).

ESPN/ESPN2 To World Series Games

Arizona's opening game in the Series against Nebraska will be cablecast live on ESPN2. That network will televise Games 1, 3-5 and 10-12. ESPN will televise Games 2 and 7-9 live. Games 13 and 14 ('if necessary' matchups on Sunday) will be carried on ESPN2. The flagship network, ESPN, will carry the Championship game at 12:15 p.m. (CDT) Monday, May 27.

A Ranked Field, And Anything Goes

Arizona joins a strong field in Oklahoma City. All eight teams were ranked in the final regular-season National Fastpitch Coaches Association/USA Today poll, including No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Arizona, No. 4 Arizona State, No. 5 California, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 11 Michigan, No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 21 Florida State. While UA enjoys a nation-best string of appearances in the College World Series, every team has been there before.

Arizona versus the College World Series Field

It's a rough go for everyone in Oklahoma City, and one need look no further than the defending champion Wildcats. Arizona played 11 games against teams in the field and recorded a mark of 6-5. The Cats beat UCLA and lost to the Bruins twice, beat Arizona State three times and lost to the Sun Devils once, beat California and lost to the Bears twice, and beat Oklahoma in an April 17 game at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.

Against teams in this year's series, Arizona has previous College World Series action against UCLA (8 wins, 4 losses), California (4-0), Oklahoma (1-1). The Cats have played the Cornhuskers in five Regional games and have a 5-0 mark. The Cats have played Michigan in Regional action and are 2-0. The Cats have played Florida State in NCAA Regional action and are 3-0. Notable are four victories in championship games against UCLA (4-2).

Arizona, UCLA, Cal, Oklahoma and Michigan are repeat entrants in the WCWS, all having appeared in Oklahoma City last year. (See pages 27-28 of the Arizona Softball media guide for a complete list of UA's previous 15 tournament appearances.)

Sear's Cup Relevance Several of the teams in the Women's College World Series will benefit from their appearances in the Oklahoma City, as top eight finishers in Division I softball in the National Association of Directors of Athletics Sear's Cup competition. Arizona, Arizona State, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and UCLA each are rated in the top 17 in overall athletics program superiority. Those schools could jockey themselves into Top 10 finishes.

Where the World Series Field Came From

Eight teams won Regionals to advance to Oklahoma City. The teams and their CWS seedings (set prior to the beginning of regional play) are: No. 1 UCLA (54-7), No. 2 Arizona (52-11), No. 3 Arizona State (44-18), No. 4 California (51-19), No. 5 Oklahoma (49-14), No. 6 Michigan (50-9), No. 7 Nebraska (49-12) and No. 8 Florida State (52-18). Oklahoma (Norman), Michigan (Ann Arbor) and Florida State (Tallahassee) played host to Regionals. UA traveled to Minneapolis, Nebraska traveled to Iowa City, UCLA traveled to Columbia, S.C., Arizona State was sent to Lafayette, La., and California was sent to Fresno, Calif.

The combined records of the eight teams in the Women's College World Series are 401-108, a winning percentage this year of .788.

Wildcats 4-1 in 2002 NCAA Action

Arizona traveled to NCAA Region 2 action in Minneapolis as the No. 1 seed last weekend and emerged with its 15th consecutive regional title. The Cats beat Boston University, 4-1, in opening-round action, as Jenny Gladding tossed a two-hitter and senior rightfielder Meaghan Finnerty socked the first home run of her career. Gladding struck out 10. In its second game, against Penn State, Leneah Manuma and Jennie Finch had key RBI hits and Gladding scattered five hits and allowed no earned runs in a 4-2 victory. In the pivotal game Saturday, Finch threw an 11-inning shutout and Mackenzie Vandergeest and Finnerty had key hits in helping UA to a 2-0 victory over DePaul. But the Blue Demons struck back, beating Finch and the Cats in the first game Sunday to force a do-or-die contest. Finch walked in a run and a throwing error by Vandergeest hurt to give DePaul a fourth-inning lead it never relinquished in a 6-0 victory. The resilient Cats, however, jumped to a quick lead in the second game and eventually vanquished DePaul pitcher Lindsay Chouinard (32-6) - the Region's Most Outstanding Player - and recorded an 8-0 mercy-rule victory as Finch threw a two-hitter and faced only one batter over the minimum. For the first time in years, though, Arizona's young team had to find ways to win games other than the usual clobbering it had laid on teams in the past. In 2001 UA outscored opponents in the regional by 15 runs, 23-8; this year it was 18-9 in the Cats' favor.

Finch, Finnerty, left fielder Courtney Fossati, Gladding and Vandergeest each received NCAA All-Region 2 honors.

UA hit only .289 in its five games and Finch was roughed up a bit with a 2-1 record and a 1.27 ERA. Gladding came through after a tough Pac-10 season, recording the two victories and a 0.93 ERA. Vandergeest (.471), Fossatti (.421) and Finch (.400) each shined at the plate, while Finnerty - a reserve until the last week of the year, chipped in a remarkable .267 outing in five starts, and drove in three runs. The Cats had hit 89 home runs entering NCAA action and only managed one in Minneapolis - by Finnerty in the opener.

Regional Champs Mark

UA has won 15 consecutive NCAA Regionals to advance to the CWS, the longest active streak of appearances, and tied for the longest consecutive mark in Women's College World Series history. UCLA also had a string of 15 appearances, which ended in 1998. UCLA holds the mark for most overall appearances - 19, including this year. Fresno State is next as a 12-time Regional champion. No other school has made double-digit appearances in the Women's College World Series. California is in its 7th World Series, Nebraska and Florida State are in their sixth Series, Michigan is in its fifth Series, ASU is making its fourth trip and Oklahoma is back for a third time.

Cats' First Foe In Oklahoma City
Arizona will play a first-round game against Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were an at-large NCAA selection after falling to No. 13 Texas in the Big 12 Tournament Championship game. Among Husker players earning all-league honors were junior center fielder Kim Ogee and sophomore pitcher/designated player Peaches James, each first-team picks, while sophomore first baseman Nicole Trimboli, junior left fielder Lisa Wangler and senior pitcher Leigh Ann Walker were selected to the second team. The Cornhuskers prevailed in NCAA action at Region 7 in Iowa City, Iowa, beating Illinois Chicago 1-0, host Iowa 3-0, Oregon State 7-0 and Notre Dame 5-3. Nebraska was the Big 12 Conference's third place finisher in the regular season at 11-5.

Pac-10 Flavor

Seven conference teams played in the NCAA tournament, and four advanced to the College World Series, testimony to the strength of the conference. All league teams but the Oregon Ducks were ranked throughout the season. All four Pac-10 teams had to win on the road in NCAA Regional play. None were host. While the league felt it had been slighted, it had no dramatic effect and the Pac-10 is well represented.

Final 2001 Pac-10 Standings

1. UCLA, 18-3

2. Arizona, 15-6

3. Washington, 13-8

4. California, 12-9

5. Arizona State, 10-11

6. Stanford, 7-14

6. Oregon State, 7-14

8. Oregon, 2-19

All NCAA Region 2 Honors

UA placed five players on the All-Region 1 Team B senior pitcher/first baseman Jennie Finch, senior outfielder Meaghan Finnerty, sophomore catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest, freshman outfielder Courtney Fossatti and sophomore pitcher/designated player Jenny Gladding.

College World Series Habit

Arizona is appearing in its 15th consecutive College World Series and 16th consecutive NCAA tournament under coach Mike Candrea, one of the top Division I winning coaches in history. The Cats enter 2002 CWS action as winners of six of the past 10 national titles (the '95 UCLA title was officially vacated by the NCAA). Additionally, Arizona also played in the 1974 and 1975 College World Series of the former Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women under coach Judy Spray and in 1977 and 1979 under coach Ginny Parrish. Candrea's last 15 teams have been regional champions and won the NCAA title in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2001. Arizona was a regional host in all but three of the years it has participated in the NCAA Softball Championships - in 1987 and 1989 it was sent to Tempe, Ariz., and in 1996 it was sent to Tallahassee, Fla.

College World Series History

The Women's College World Series championship has been the province of teams from the West. No school east of a line drawn straight on a map from Minneapolis to San Antonio has even played in the national championship game. The growth of collegiate softball as a Division I sport should one day change that, but in the sport's two-decade history it's been thus.

Arizona or UCLA have won 14 of the 20 NCAA titles since softball became a Division I championships sport in 1982. Texas A&M won in 1983 (beat Cal State Fullerton), Cal State Fullerton won in 1986 (beat Texas A&M), A&M won in 1987 (beat UCLA), Fresno State won in 1998 (beat Arizona) and Oklahoma won in 2000 (beat UCLA). Arizona and UCLA have played for the title six times, with UA holding a 4-2 edge. Arizona or UCLA have played in the title game a combined 24 times with one or the other in the mix all but the 1983 and 1986 Series.

Arizona's Record in NCAA Play

Arizona has a 86-23 overall record in NCAA Tournament games.

Arizona is 46-6 in NCAA Regional games.

Arizona is 40-17 in NCAA College World Series games.

Arizona has the longest active WCWS appearance streak - 15 years.

Strength of Schedule

In all, Arizona played 36 regular-season games this year against teams picked for the NCAA Tournament and was 27-9. The Cats were 15-3 against others and 12-6 against Pac-10 teams selected for NCAA action. The non-conference losses were to Mississippi State and Wisconsin in Fiesta Bowl Tournament play in Phoenix, to Ariziona State in non-conference play at the Kia Klassic in Fullerton, Calif. Against ranked teams (including NCAA action), Arizona posted a 23-8 record.

2002 Winning Streaks Closed Out

Arizona had a three-season 70-game home winning streak snapped by UCLA this year on April 7. The same game also saw All-American pitcher Jennie Finch's personal NCAA-record winning streak end at 50 games. The team's home winning streak dated to a loss to Stanford on April 9, 2000. The Cats started the year 6-0 before their first loss, lost two games later, then reeled off a 20-game winning streak before their next loss in the Kia Klassic.

Arizona in the Coaches Poll

Arizona was in the top three slots all year in the USA Today/NFCA poll and was No. 2 in the final regular-season poll. The Cats have been ranked steadily since 1988. Here's how it looked in 2002. Arizona was No. 1 this year for three polling periods, No. 2 for six periods and No. 3 for two weeks.

All-Pacific-10 Conference

Arizona placed six players on the 2002 All-Pacific-10 Conference Softball Team, plus Mike Candrea was named Coach of the Year. Senior Jennie Finch was named Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season. Junior shortstop Lovieanne Jung earned the league's Newcomer of the Year award. First-team selections were Finch, Jung and sophomore first baseman/designated player Leneah Manuma. Second-team honors went to sophomore catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest, while sophomore pitcher/dp Jenny Gladding and freshman third baseman Jackie Coburn were honorable mention selections. Candrea was a repeat selection, sharing the honor a season ago with John Rittman of Stanford. Finch became a three-time first-team pick. Manuma repeated after second-team honorss in 2001. Vandergeest also was a second-team selection in 2001. Jung was a two-time All-Western Athletic Conference honoree in 1999-2000 at Fresno State, so she's technically a repeat selection as well. Finch earned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors twice this season and Jung earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors once.

Three Cats Earn All-Pacific Region Honors

Arizona had three players earn All-Pacific Region honors in 2002. First-team selections were senior pitcher Jennie Finch and sophomore first baseman Leneah Manuma. Sophomore Jenny Gladding earned second-team honors as the designated player. Finch and Manuma each repeated as first-team All-Pacific selections.

College World Series Veterans

Arizona has a progression of players who have College World Series experience - every four-year player since 1991 has won at least one national title. This year the Wildcats are a young team, underscored by four freshman starters. Still, because of the tradition of making it to the classic with regularity, Arizona has a group of six players with College World Series playing experience - senior pitcher Jennie Finch, sophomore first baseman Leneah Manuma, sophomore catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest and junior second baseman Lisha Ribellia. Sophomore pitcher Jenny Gladding had a pinch-hit appearance against Oklahoma last year. Junior shortstop Lovie Jung also has Series experience, as an All-American freshman infielder for Fresno State in 1999. She transferred to UA after her sophomore year and sat out 2001. Finch was 3-0 in last year's Series, earning Most Outstanding Player honors en route to the Honda Softball Award. Candace Abrams was a bullpen catcher for last year's club while redshirting her true freshman year. The other seven players on UA's club are making their first Series visits. Finch has thrown five World Series games, compiling a 4-1 record with a 2.17 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Probable Arizona Lineup:

3 Lovie Jung, ss; 22 Courtney Fossatti, lf; 27 Jennie Finch, p/1b; 9 Leneah Manuma, 1b/dp; 52 Mackenzie Vandergeest, c; Jenny Gladding, dp/p; Meaghan Finnerty, rf; Crystal Farley, lf; Lisha Ribellia, defo/2b. Off the bench: Candace Abrams-of; Carrie Hagen-of, Allyson Von Lichtenstein-of; Rebekah Quiroz-inf.

Arizona Softball Attendance Sets The Pace

Arizona set home attendance records this year with an average crowd of 1,755 and a total draw of 49,140. The Wildcats also drew the single-game record for their UCLA game on April 7, with 3,161 fans in the ball park.

Arizona also had several crowds displace others in its all-time Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium top 10 crowds list - the No. 3 crowd of 2,987 for the April 30 Arizona State game, the No. 5 crowd of 2,773 for the April 5 Washington game and the seventh-largest crowd of 2,739 for the May 4 Stanford game.

The Cats led the nation in total attendance at 46,499 in 2001 and were No. 2 in the nation in average attendance 1,660, so this year's figures rate prominently among the nation's top programs. Furthermore, Arizona averaged about 70 percent of the permanent seated capacity of about 2,500.

Arizona 2001 Softball Notes...

How They Got to Oklahoma In Brief... In the regular season Arizona hit a home run every 16 at-bats and scored runs, pitchers held the opponents to about 1.5 runs per game, UA played good defense, the Cats ran the bases well. In the NCAA Regionals, the Cats had to dig in and come up with some basic steady play. But, the program is used to winning: In the 2000s, UA has a record of 176-24. More importantly, overall in crunch time - May play -- Arizona has an NCAA tournament record of 86-23.

Going, Going, Gone... As it did a year ago, UA has six home run hitters in its lineup, and they have helped the club clout 90, No. 4 in the school's Division I history behind the NCAA-record 126 a year ago, 100 by the 1995 team and 93 by the 1994 club. In its first NCAA title year, 1991, Arizona hit 5 home runs. Something happened to the game, obviously, and Arizona has been near the top in the power department since... The Cats knocked out 13 grand slams this year, probably an NCAA record... Newcomers Lovie Jung (16) and freshman Jackie Coburn (13) added punch to help offset the graduation of Toni Mascarenas, Lindsey Collins and Lauren Bauer in the long-ball department, while Leneah Manuma (20), Jennie Finch (15), Mackenzie Vandergeest (12) and Jenny Gladding (11) just kept going. Finch is No. 5 on the UA career chart with 49, Manuma is No. 8 with 39, Vandergeest is No. 9 with 32. Gladding is tied for No. 11 with 20. Counting her clouts for Fresno State, Jung has 23 career homers, and it's obvious Coburn is an up-and-coming slugger. Outfielders Candace Abrams (2) and Meaghan Finnerty (1) have UA's other long balls this year...

Going Yard, Part II... Along with the grand slams, Arizona hit two or more home runs in 26 games in 2002... The Cats hit three or more homers in seven games... In one contest, against Southern Mississippi, the Cats tied a school record with six home runs, and added one later that day against Hawaii for seven on the day (short of the school-record 10 hit on one day last year)... UA had four home runs in games against Southwest Texas, San Jose State and Evansville... In another game, Stanford pitcher Tori Nyberg had held UA to two hits through six innings. Then in the bottom of the seventh, Manuma led off and blasted a homer to right, Vandergeest hit the next pitch over the fence in center, and UA tied the game at 2-2. Three hits later the Cats won 3-2 on a Lovie Jung double off the top of the right-field fence....

No-Hitters... Jennie Finch tossed three no-hitters this year to give her a career total of eight, tied for the UA record... Jenny Gladding had two a year ago, but just missed with three one-hitters this season... In one stretch, Finch no-hit Evansville, one-hit Boston College Wednesday, then no-hit Notre Dame in three successive starts...

Hitting Streaks... Here are the Cats' current/longest hitting streaks this year: Jung (2/10), Fossatti (8/8), Finch (2/8), Manuma (0/10), Vandergeest (1/6), Gladding (0/5), Coburn (3/6), Hagen (0/4), Farley (0/5), Ribellia (1/3), Abrams (0/9), Von Lichtenstein (0/5), Quiroz (1/2), Finnerty (0/1)...

...Jennie Finch and Jenny Gladding combined to throw 27 shutouts this season, with Finch leading the way with 19 and both combining on one... But Arizona did give up 75 earned runs and carries a team ERA of 1.30, well off the school record of 0.35 omn 1992 (before the advent of the lively ball) and a half-run behind last year's figure of 0.77 notched by Finch, Gladding and graduated Becky Lemke...

...Finch set the UA standard with a 32-0 record a year ago, and added a 31-5 mark this year, giving her two of the top 10 victory totals in UA history. Current assistant coach Nancy Evans holds the top two figures, matching 36-2 records in 1997 and 1998. Carrie Dolan was 35-6 in 1996 when Evans had to redshirt because of injury... Overall, Arizona pitchers have won 30 or more games 12 times in history....

...Finch has pitched 843.1 innings in her career, an Arizona record, eclipsing the mark of 835 and two-thirds by Nancy Evans from 1994 to 1998... Finch carries a career earned run average of 1.07, the No. 9 figure in UA history if it held up. Every pitcher ahead of her on the list played in the days of the old white ball...

Lovie Jung, Junior Shortsop

...Named first team All-Pac-10 and won the Pacific-10 Conference Newcomer of the Year award... A key addition for Mike Candrea, plugging right into Arizona's lineup, at the top of the order... The most powerful leadoff batter in UA history... Previous noted Arizona leadoff batters had gap power and home run capacity, but also were accomplished slap hitters; Jung's a right-hander with a quick swing and a constant deep ball threat... The only right-handed leadoff hitter in Arizona's championship history since 1991, following a line of All-Americans in Julie Standering ('91), Amy Chellevold ('92-95), Alison Johnsen-McCutcheon ('96-98), Nicole Giordano ('99-00) and Lauren Bauer ('01)... Slugged 16 home runs, 13 doubles and 2 triples, with 40 RBI and a slugging percentage of .706... Arizona's leader in runs (63), hits (72), doubles, batting average and walks... Drew 40 bases on balls, No. 6 on the UA charts... Had team-high 22 multiple-hit games More than 200 career hits including the 158 she had for Fresno State in 1999-2000 when she earned third-team All-America honors each year, plus first-team All-Western Athletic Conference and All-Pacific Region honors... Career batting average around .360... Knocked in more than 120 runs during her career... Earned All-College World Series honors as a freshman, hitting .500 in Oklahoma City for the Bulldogs... USA Team candidate...

Courtney Fossatti, Freshman Left Fielder

...Made solid contributions as the set-up hitter in the No. 2 hole, finishing with an average among team leaders and a good on-base percentage... Good showing in Minneapolis (eight hits, four runs, two doubles) to earn NCAA All-Region 2 honors... Left-handed slap hitter... Suffered a stress fracture in her left foot in Fiesta Bowl Tournament action and missed nearly a month of action and 19 games from Feb. 22 to March 22... She might have factored in all-conference honors without the injury. When hurt she had a team-high .475 batting average through 14 games, with hits in 11 of those... Opened her Arizona career with a 4-for-4 effort against Alabama, with two runs and an RBI, and was a combined 9-for-12 after a three-hit game against Southwest Texas... Fourteen multiple-hit games, including four in conference play... Brings a live 8-game hitting streak to Oklahoma...

Jennie Finch, Senior Pitcher/1B

...Earned first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference honors for the third consecutive year and earned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year honors for the second consecutive season... First-team All-Pacific-Region honors... NCAA All-Region 2 honors with two pitching victories and a .400 batting average in Minneapolis... Two-hitter in the regional final against DePaul to put UA in the WCWS... The reigning 2001 Honda Softball Award winner, Finch turned in a senior season as remarkable as her junior year, reeling off victories in her first 20 decisions to waste the NCAA record by 10 contests with a 60-game winning streak. The mark spanned two NCAA tournaments and three Pac-10 seasons... One of four Arizona National Player of the Year winners along with pitcher Susie Parra (1994), infielder Jenny Dalton (1996) and pitcher Nancy Evans (1998)... Has a complete repertoire of pitches and at nearly 6-foot-1 is an imposing hurler... Clearly the leadership key to an Arizona team with one other sophomore pitcher and four freshman starters... Meantime, at the plate this year she contributed a solid batting average (.324), runs batted in (55), and 15 homers...Threw no-hitters against New Mexico State (Feb. 17), Evansville (March 2) and Notre Dame (March 14), giving her eight in her career, tied for first in UA history with former Honda winner Susie Parra (1991-94)... Also tossed three exhibition-game no-hitters and one-hit Boston College, Louisiana-Lafayette and Oregon... Established her career mark with 19 strikeouts against Oklahoma in Hall of Fame Stadium April 17, eclipsing her previous high of 14.... Also had 15 strikeouts in games against UMass and Louisiana-Lafayette... Averaging 9.6 strikeouts per game... Tossed 19 shutouts and combined on another and has thrown 62 career blankings... Won a game in relief against Oregon State... Held opposing batters to a .149 average... Hit two home runs in the second game of the year against Alabama, one a grand slam... Drove in a season-high 7 runs vs. 'Bama in that game... Also had a grand slam against Oregon State... Holds the UA record for single-game RBI, driving in 9 against Oregon in 2001 to tie former Wildcat Laura Espinoza... The team leader with seven sacrifice bunts and 8 total sacs... Posed for an Arizona Diamondbacks program feature with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling during D-Backs spring training in Tucson this year, as 'The Best Pitchers in Arizona'... The University's co-winner of the Ruby Award for outstanding female senior student-athlete, sharing the honor with All-American and NCAA champion sprinter/long jumper Brianna Glenn, one of Finch's classmates and good friends through junior high and high school... Finch earned 2002 All-American Athlete honors from the National Strength and Conditioning Association... USA Team candidate...

Leneah Manuma, Sophomore First Baseman/DP

...Earned first-team All-Pacific-10 Conference honors, repeating after a second-team selection as a freshman... First-team All-Pacific Region honors... Arguably one of the country's most powerful sluggers, with some legendary home runs in UA's Rita Hillenbrand Stadium - namely several that left the park entirely and landed atop the roof of a two-story gymnasium 40 feet beyond the fence... Left-handed batter who can take it out the other way as well... Her 38 long balls are No. 8 on Arizona's career chart... Manuma could be one of few players to challenge new NCAA career home run leader Stacey Nuveman of UCLA, with a pace within a dozen homers (13) of the Bruin slugger after her second year... Should challenge the UA career mark of 85 home runs set by Laura Espinoza and Leah Braatz in the 1990s... Normally plays first when Finch pitches and designated player when Gladding throws... On-base percentage of .474, thanks to a solid batting average (.314), 35 walks and 16times hit by a pitch... A plate-crowder, she's been nicked by pitches 29times in her career... Had two home runs three times, against Cal State Fullerton, Eastern Michigan and San Jose State. The last four came on one day in UA's Wildcat Invitational Feb. 22... Career-high seven RBI in the Fullerton game thanks to one of her three grand slams this year... Four career grand slams... Good fielding first baseman with one error in 224 chances for a .996 percentage, one point off the UA's single-season best by a UA first baseman, Amy Chellevold (.997 in 1992)...

Mackenzie Vandergeest, Sophomore Catcher

...Slugging catcher who earned second-team All-Pacific-10 Conference honors... Save some of the good stuff for clutch time, hitting .471 (eight hits in 17 at-bats) to lead UA in Minneapolis and earn NCAA All-Region 2 honors... Outstanding defensive player who threw out 27 base runners attempting to steal in 41 attempts, a defensive success rate of more than 65 percent... Only four errors in more than 600 chances... The Cats' best batting average in Pac-10 play at .327, plus knocked in 15 runs in league action... A year ago she set the Arizona freshman record with 20 home runs and is No. 9 on the UA career chart with 32... Contending with Lovie Jung for the team lead in doubles, with 13 each... Slugging percentage of .590 is fourth-best on the club... Tied for team lead with three grand slams - against Alabama in the season opener, vs. Southern Mississippi and Boston College... Drove in five runs in the opener and against Southern Miss, one shy of her career high of six against Pacific in 2001... Opened the year with a six-game hitting streak, going 7-for-16 with nine runs and nine RBI... Eleven multiple-hit games and a solid 13 games with two or more RBI... Turned a double play... Career-high four hits in 2001 against Oklahoma State... Hit .467 with the bases loaded, collecting seven hits in that situation...

Jackie Coburn, Freshman Third Baseman

...Right-handed power-hitter who earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors... Stepped in and provided good defense at the corner to earn every-day status... Opened the year slowly with a 3-for-22 start through 11 games, but stayed focused and brought her average up to .256 by year's end... Socked 13 home runs and drove in 45 hitting in the sixth hole in the lineup... Tied for team lead with three grand slams, two in Pac-10 play against ASU and Oregon... Had a six-game hitting streak in mid-March, going 8-for-17... Good speed and legged out a triple against San Jose State, plus notched three doubles... Solid slugging percentage of .537... Turned three double plays... Had one appearance at catcher and could fill that role in 2005 as a senior... Had six multiple-hit games and 13 games with two or more RBI... Season-best five RBI against Oregon in the game she hit the grand slam, and went 3-for-3 in that contest... Team-best five home runs and 18 RBI in tough Pacific-10 Conference action...

Jenny Gladding, Sophomore Designated Player/P

...Earned second-team All-Pacific Region honors as a designated player, and honorable mention All-Pacific-10 Conference as a DP... But her pitching in Minneapolis (2-0) helped give her NCAA All-Region 2 honors at the most key of times for UA... Struck out 24 in 15 innings pitched in NCAA action and posted an ERA of 0.93, with a two-hitter in opening-round play vs. Boston University... Right-handed pitcher but a slugging left-handed batter with 11 home runs and 41 RBI, one of the Cats' six long-ball threats every time up... Every-other-day pitcher and contributed 21-6 record to follow her freshman year 14-2 campaign... Her 35 career victories are just three shy of moving into the No. 10 spot on Arizona's career chart in two years... Tossed seven shutouts and combined with Jennie Finch on another... Threw three one-hitters and six two-hit games... Hit two home runs in games against Southwest Texas and South Florida, and had a grand slam against USF Feb. 16, with a career-high six RBI in that game... Struck out 10 or more batters six times, with 12 each against Long Beach State and Oklahoma State... Career-high 15 strikeouts a year ago in NCAA Regional action against St. Peter's... Ten multiple-hit games and nine multiple-RBI games as a batter this year, with three or more RBI five times... Her 20 home runs tie her for No. 11 on UA's career chart... Averaging 9.0 strikeouts per game after leading the team with a 10.5 mark as a freshman in 2001... Had some trouble closing against some hitters, averaging nearly three walks per game, but opponents hit only .190 against her... Tied for team lead with three sacrifice fly balls... Outstanding run production with runners on third and less than two outs, bringing in the RBI 10 times in 13 such opportunities, and also good bat control with a .412 success rate advancing runners....

Meaghan Finnerty, Senior Right Fielder

...One of Arizona's bright spots at the end of the year was the performance of senior transfer Finnerty, who played at Cal State Northridge from 1998-2000... Used in spot roles before May, she became the starter in right field on UA's final Pac-10 road trip of the year, and responded with a 4-for-17 showing in the last six games... Her defensive ability was one reason Candrea put her in the starting lineup but she provided key hits against Boston University in the Cats' first NCAA Regional game - her first career home run - and later collected three hits in the Wildcats' victory the next day against DePaul... Played in 31 games overall, starting 11... Good foot speed in the outfield...

Crystal Farley, Freshman Center Fielder

...One of UA's six freshman, Farly stepped in and started 56 games in center field this year, contributing a .272 average hitting mostly in the nine hole... One of the top five on the club in Pac-10 games, with a .255 average... Lefty slapper who will get better with more aggressiveness and some improved patience... Had four multiple-hit games, with her career best a 3-for-3 day against Louisiana-Lafayette in Tucson in late March... Solid defender with only one error in 58 games played... Hit .304 leading off innings 23 times... Had one of Arizona's five tiples this year, against Oregon...

Lisha Ribellia, Junior Second Baseman

...Arizona's starter at second base in all but one game the last two years... A switch-hitter who was taught to be a lefty slapper, Ribellia normally is the defo in the lineup... Had two big hits and two runs scored in Arizona's Regional championship game against DePaul... Defense is her primary contribution to Arizona's club, and she led the team with five double plays this year... Frequent base runner as the defo when Manuma or Gladding are playing DP and reach base... Chipped in a .227 batting average in 44 at bats, plus had two doubles and a .306 on-base percentage...Has one career home run, last year against Southwest Texas State in the Region 1 Championship game in Tucson...

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Carrie Hagen, Freshman Outfielder

...One of Arizona's young outfielders, Hagen played in 49 games and started 24 this year in right and left field... A lefty slapper, she could be an Arizona leadoff or set-up batter in the future, with good speed... Hit. 253... Used many times as a pinch runner, she scored 23 runs... Hit two doubles and a triple... The latter came in her career-best game, a 3-for-4 effort against Notre Dame in March... Six stolen bases in nine attempts, third best on the club... Solid defender with errorless ball in 15 chances... Top pinch hit average with three hits in six tries...

Candace Abrams, Freshman Outfielder

...One of the hard-working Wildcats is Abrams, who redshirted a year ago then showed up with the right attitude to become a role-playing contributor on the 2002 club... Had eight starts in Pac-10 play in right field, mostly because of her right-handed power potential at the plate... Finished the year with a batting average of .293, with two home runs... Played in 42 games, with 21 starts...Had four pinch hits in 17 attempts... Can also be a bullpen catcher, her role on the 2001 team... Career-high three hits against Drake in February this year... Had a 7-for-9 streak that week to boost her average above .400 at the time... Two hits against Louisiana Lafayette on March 24....

Allyson Von Lichtenstein, Freshman Outfielder

...The right field starter for the first half of the season, Von Lichtenstein carries one the best batting averages among UA's four freshman outfielders, .321... Played in 46 games, with 37 starts... Lefty slapper with an on-base percentage of .415... Scored 25 runs, sixth-best on the team... Her introduction to Pac-10 pitching was not unlike the other newcomers - rugged - after feasting on some early tournament teams... Good young player, with some gap-hitting potential and speed... Second on the team with seven stolen bases, in nine attempts...

Rebekah Quiroz, Freshman Infielder

...Used almost exclusively as a pinch-runner, Quiroz apprenticed in the infield as a true freshman this year... Scored eight runs, five of those in Pac-10 play as a pinch runner... Had five hits in eight at bats for the year... Two hits against Boston College in early March in her only start, at second...Good speed and a good arm, with defensive potential... One of the Wildcats two players from Tucson, along with fellow frosh Candace Abrams... Two pinch hits in four attempts...

Arizona Coach Mike Candrea

Arizona's mentor is making his 16th consecutive foray into post-season play and brings an Arizona club to the Women's College World Series for the 15th consecutive year. That says a lot, considering he's been UA's coach for 17 years. His Wildcat teams are national contenders year after year.

This year, with a team that lost five All-Americans to graduation, Candrea turned in another 50-plus victories season, and along the way earned Pacific-10 Conference Coach of the Year honors. Realistically, it's an honor that could go to two or three coaches every season, but Candrea's job with a six-freshmen 2002 club was one of his best.

Candrea plugged in new starters at shortstop, third, catcher, the entire outfield and the No. 2 pitcher and still managed to get the Cats in the Pac-10 race until the final two days of action. The second-place league finish was the seventh of his career - to go with six Pac-10 championships.

Another bottom line for the coach's resume - winning. He's won 923 games against 183 defeats. That's a winning percentage of .835, No. 1 among active coaches. This year saw him reach the 900-victory plateau, a mark shared by only a select five coaches in the history of the game.

Arizona has produced 42 first-team All-Americans, the most in Division I. That suggests excellent recruiting practices, but it also underscores Candrea's coaching prowess.

But the championships at the top of the game - the NCAA Women's College World Series - are most definitive. He owns six rings in the last 11 years since his first title team in 1991. He led UA to subsequent NCAA Championships in 1993, '94, '96, '97 and 2001.

It's an annual rite at Arizona: win a bunch of games, win a regional, go to the Women's College World Series. It simply isn't that easy, but Candrea has made it seem so.

The Pac-10 Coach of the Year was his seventh league citation since it began play in 1987.

Three times he has been named National Coach of the Year (NFCA '94, '96, '97). He was elected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996. His teams' 67 victories in 1998, 66 victories in 1994 and 64 victories in 1995 are in the top five in the NCAA record book.

His players have earned 59 All-America playing honors and six Academic All-America honors, plus he has coached four players to the Honda Softball Award as the national player of the year.

Candrea By the Numbers

Overall Record: 920-179
Pac-10 Record: 279-71
NCAA Games Record: 86-23
NCAA Regionals: 46-6
College World Series: 40-17
NCAA Titles: Six
Pac-10 Titles Six

Arizona Assistant Coaches

Candrea's assistants are Nancy Evans (Arizona '98), the former All-American Arizona pitcher who works with pitchers, and Larry Ray (Idaho State '74), who works primarily with lefty slappers and coaches first base. Combined, they have 14 years' experience working with Arizona softball.

Evans, the 1998 Honda Award winner as the National Player of the Year, won 124 games as one of the top pitchers in NCAA history. She owns UA's single-season record with twin 36-2 records in 1997 and 1998.

Ray was Candrea's top assistant for 10 years from 1986 to 1995, then was head coach at Florida for five years where he gave the Gators a record of 169-106 in establishing a brand new Division I program.

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