May 27, 2008
The University of Arizona softball team (41-17) will face league foe UCLA in both teams' Women's College World Series opener Thursday, May 29, in Oklahoma City. Game time is set for 8 p.m. CDT (6 p.m. in Tucson).
However, organizers set game times two hours apart and UA-UCLA will follow a 6 p.m. contest between Alabama and Arizona State, so don't count on the 8 p.m. first pitch.
All games will be televised live on ESPN, and the three games in Tucson Super Regional play last weekend, all on ESPN, averaged more than two hours in length. Also, there's a break of at least 20 to 30 minutes between games.
Arizona, UCLA and ASU of the Pac-10 all are on the same side of the bracket in the first-day evening session. The WCWS opens with a pair of games at noon and 2 p.m. featuring top-seed Florida and Louisiana-Lafayette in Game 1 and Texas A&M-Virginia Tech in Game 2.
The WCWS is Arizona's 20th, and it enters play as two-time defending NCAA champion.
The winner of the Arizona-UCLA game will play the winner of the Alabama-ASU game on Friday. The losers meet on Saturday in an elimination game.
Seeded teams -- those picked at the onset when the 64-team NCAA Softball Championships bracket was announced two weeks ago -- are No. 1 Florida (67-3), No. 2 UCLA (50-7), No. 3 Alabama (56-6), No. 5 Texas A&M (54-7), No. 6 Arizona State (61-5) and No. 7 Arizona. Virginia Tech (49-17) and ULL (51-13) were not among the top 16 seeds.
Most of those are gaudy won-loss marks. UA enters play with its overall lowest victory total since 1987 (42-18), but it's there at the end of the season in the eight-team classic for the 20th time. The Cats have won eight national titles with WCWS championships including the 2006 and 2007 crowns.
UCLA beat Arizona twice in the regular season, although UA opened the series with a run-rule 8-0 victory in Tucson April 12. The Bruins won the next day, 2-1, and also clipped Arizona in another later match in Westwood, 2-1. The latter loss is the turning point in the Wildcats' season. Afterward it finished out with five consecutive victories to finish third in the Pac-10, swept a three-game NCAA Regional at Hempstead, N.Y., and then beat Oklahoma in Super Regional play in Tucson for a nine-game winning streak.
The Sooners, a WCWS-capable club, won the second game but UA came back Saturday to earn the Series berth with a 5-2 victory.
Arizona did not play Florida or Alabama of the SEC this year, but was 3-6 combined against the other teams in the WCWS field. The Cats lost all three to ASU, were 1-2 against UCLA, lost to Texas A&M on opening day in Tempe, beat Virginia Tech in a 12-inning Tucson game (Taryne Mowatt-20 and Angela Tincher-21 combining for an NCAA-record 41 whiffs), and beat ULL at the Kia Klassic... Arizona's other solid winning streak this year was a baker's dozen in late February and early March... One thing happened last weekend in the Super Regional. Arizona drew crowds of 2,247 and 2,570 to post a per-game attendance mark of 1,900 -- a school record that will no doubt lead the nation for the third consecutive year. UA drew a total of 43,707 fans this year in 23 home dates. The previous high was 1,775 in 2002 -- superstar Jennie Finch's senior year... A 92 percent winning rate at home in beautiful Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium in its 16 season of existence is surely an underlying reason for the spectator allegiance... A number of Wildcats get their first taste of the WCWS experience this year. Brittany Lastrapes, Lindsey Sisk, Jennifer Martinez, Victoria Kemp, Jessica McNamara, Lauren Schutzler, Stacie Chambers and Corinna Gonzales all make their Oklahoma City debut. Two-ring vets will have to show them the ropes...