TUCSON--Arizona's rousing 7-6 victory over Oklahoma Saturday in the softball Super Regional put the Cats in the Women's College World Series for the 17th time in 16 years.
In 2004, a defeat at the hands of the Sooners in NCAA Regional play in Tucson put UA in the loser's bracket and Louisiana-Lafayette took advantage to bump Arizona from the Series after a 16-year streak.
But this year's strong finish -- winning seven of its last eight games including all five post season contests -- takes the Cats back to the promised land -- the final eight showdown in Oklahoma City for the NCAA Championship.
UA is no stranger, having played in the NCAA title game nine different years. With coach Mike Candrea at the helm the club won six NCAA championships.
Here's a look at the Cats' title finishes:
1991 NCAA Champions
Arizona wins its first women’s team national championship in any sport. Pitching (Debby Day 30-8, 0.50; Susie Parra 14-3, 0.43; Julie Jones 12-5, 1.21) and defense (.970 team fielding percentage, Julie Standering 187 assists at shortstop) were keys to the season. The Cats also stole 119 bases. Jones (.350), Jamie Heggen (.330), Kristin Gauthier (.300), Standering (.296) and Jody Miller (.272) had outstanding seasons at the plate. The Cats beat No. 1-ranked UCLA twice at the College World Series to earn the championship, including a 5-1 victory in the title game. UA had four extra-inning games in the classic. The Cats used short-game tactics much of the year and were led by Standering with 30 and Miller with 20 stolen bases. Arizona finished the year 56-16 overall. The Cats were frustrated in the tough Pac-10 Conference at 11-9 and a fourth-place finish.
∑ 1991 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher)
Arizona 1, No. 5 UNLV 0, 13 innings (Day)
Arizona 1, No. 1 UCLA 0, 9 innings (Day)
Arizona 1, No. 18 Long Beach State 0, 8 innings (Day)
No. 2 Fresno State 1, Arizona 0, 8 innings (Carpenter)
Arizona 5, No. 1 UCLA 0 (Day)
∑ 1991 Arizona All-CWS
Julie Jones, 1b
Julie Standering, ss
Kristin Gauthier, of
Debby Day, p
∑ 1991 Arizona All-Americans
Julie Standering, ss
Julie Jones, 1b, 2nd team
Debby Day, p, 3rd team
1993 NCAA Champions
The Wildcats nearly defend their first conference championship (16-2 in 1992), yet again come through with a solid post-season run to win the bigger title.
The power-hitting Wildcats win the NCAA home run title with 36 round-trippers in their 52 games, and run production leads the way to a 44-8 season and a 15-3 record for second place in the Pac-10. Pitching was not a problem either, as junior Susie Parra sparkled with a 28-3 record, 3 saves and an outstanding earned run average of 0.63. Freshman Leah O’Brien added a 16-5 mark. Catcher Jody (Miller) Pruitt held opponents to 6 stolen bases, the Cats hit a then school-record .328 as a team. Sophomore Laura Espinoza hit the scene in a big way with 12 home runs and Amy Chellevold led a solid group of hitters with a .379 batting average.
The Cats opened the year 22-2 to earn the school’s first No. 1 ranking and Arizona later proved it was an accurate peg with an NCAA title-game victory over another No. 1-ranked team, UCLA.
Chellevold and O’Brien (.374) put their names atop the UA single-season batting chart at the time.
1993 Arizona Roster: Amy Chellevold-inf, Jenny Dalton-inf, Susie Duarte-inf, Laura Espinoza-inf, Lisa Guise-of, Jamie Heggen-of, Krista Gomez-util, Jody Miller-Pruitt-c, Leah O’Brien-util, Susie Parra-p, Stacy Redondo-of, Michelle Martinez-c, Valerie Zepeda-util.
∑ 1993 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher)
Arizona 6, No. 7 Long Beach St. 0 (Parra)
Arizona 2, No. 8 SW Louisiana 1, 10 innings (Parra)
Arizona 1, No. 4 Oklahoma St. 0, 9 innings (Parra)
No. 8 SW La. 1, Arizona 0, 8 innings, (Hall)
Arizona 1, No. 1 UCLA 0 (Parra)
∑ 1993 Arizona All-CWS
Susie Parra, p
Amy Chellevold, 1b
Stacy Redondo, of
Krista Gomez, 2b
Jody Pruitt, c
∑ 1993 Arizona All-Americans
Susie Parra, p
Jamie Heggen, of
Laura Espinoza, ss, 2nd team
Amy Chellevold, 1b, 2nd team
Jody Pruitt, c, 2nd team
1994 NCAA Champions
The Cats ?'chuck-and-duck’ hitting attack displays one of the most awesome punches in the history of the college game. The Cats sock their way to an NCAA-record 64 victories (against 3 losses), start the year with a school-record 27-game winning streak and end the campaign undefeated (7-0) in post-season play for the first time.
Along the way, Arizona blasts 93 home runs, led by junior shortstop Laura Espinoza’s jersey-number feat (30), 18 by freshman catcher Leah Braatz, 16 by sophomore second baseman Jenny Dalton and 14 by senior Susie Parra, who capped a remarkable career with National Player of the Years honors by winning the Honda Softball Award.
Parra dominated from the pitching circle, completing a 33-1 season. She did not allow an earned run in three CWS victories, plus struck out 13 in the NCAA title game. She threw the seventh and eighth no-hitters of her career.
Junior first baseman Amy Chellevold hit .504 in the leadoff spot and sophomore center fielder Leah O’Brien hit .416 batting second. Dalton hit .434. Arizona set a then national record with its .380 team batting average. Espinoza knocked in an incredible 95 runs in 66 games. Freshmen pitchers Nancy Evans and Carrie Dolan made marks with 17-0 and 11-2 records.
The Cats had five players in the Pac-10’s top 10 in hitting and UA was ranked No. 1 from start to finish.
1994 Arizona Roster: Leah Braatz-c, Amy Chellevold-inf, Jenny Dalton-inf, Andrea Doty-of, Susie Duarte-inf, Laura Espinoza-inf, Nancy Evans-p/util, Krista Gomez-of, Michelle Martinez-c, Leah O’Brien-of, Susie Parra-p, Brandi Shriver-util, Valerie Zepeda-util.
∑ 1994 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher)
Arizona 8, No. 19 Illinois-Chicago 0, 5 innings (Evans)
Arizona 3, No. 6 Fresno St. 0 (Parra)
Arizona 5, No. 5 UCLA 2 (Parra)
Arizona 4, No. 3 CS-Northridge 0 (Parra)
∑ 1994 Arizona All-CWS picks
Susie Parra, p; Leah Braatz, c; Amy Chellevold, 1b;
Jenny Dalton, 2b; Leah O’Brien, of
∑ 1994 Arizona All-Americans
Leah Braatz, c; Amy Chellevold, 1b; Jenny Dalton, 2b;
Laura Espinoza, ss; Leah O’Brien, of; Susie Parra, p
1996 NCAA Champions
For the second time, Arizona followed a season (1992 and 1995) in which it won the Pac-10 title but finished as runner-up in the College World Series... with a second-place finish in the league, but the NCAA title. Decent trade.
Arizona got hot when it counted, ending the season with a 17-game winning streak. There were numerous keys ?- everyone on the team. Pinch-runners scored runs, pinch-hitters got hits, pitchers battled whether ahead or behind, and Arizona once again put an awesome offensive attack on the field.
Jenny Dalton won the Pac-10 Triple Crown, the first player to do so, with a .469 batting average, 25 home runs and an incredible 109 RBI. Leticia Pineda, put in the every-day catching role because of Leah Braatz’ redshirt season, hit 14 homers and drove in 96, plus batted .404.
Dalton’s season earned her the Honda Softball Award as the nation’s finest player.
Carrie Dolan, carrying most of the pitching load because of Nancy Evans’ medical hardship season, won a school-record 35 games against six losses, but freshman Lisa Pitt also came through with a dandy 19-3 record, too. Outfielder Alison Johnsen put herself at her own special level with a 94-hit seeason and a .450 batting average. Third baseman Krista Gomez hit .400 and finished with the fourth-best career batting average in UA history, .358, plus hit the career charts in hits, RBI, runs and stolen bases, among others.
Arizona played in a regional out of the state for the first time, but used it to pull together, and hit the road for 11 days to bring back the trophy.
1996 Arizona Roster: Heidi Bomberger-util, Leah Braatz (RS/dnp), Michelle Churnock-inf, Jenny Dalton-inf, Carrie Dolan-p, Nancy Evans (RS/dnp), Tanya Farhat-util, Krista Gomez-inf, Tiana Hejduk-util, Alison Johnsen-of, Lety Pineda-c, Lisa Pitt-inf/p, Julie Reitan-of, Brandi Shriver-of
∑ 1996 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher)
Arizona 5, Iowa 2 (Pitt)
Arizona 4, UCLA 0 (Dolan
Arizona 10, Iowa 2, 6 innings (Pitt)
Arizona 6, Washington 4 (Dolan)
∑ 1996 Arizona All-CWS
Jenny Dalton, 2b, Most Valuable Player
Alison Johnsen, of
Krista Gomez, at-large
Carrie Dolan, p
Michelle Churnock, at-large
∑ 1996 Arizona All-Americans
Jenny Dalton, 2b; National Player of the Year
Leticia Pineda, c
Alison Johnsen, of
Carrie Dolan, p, 2nd team
Krista Gomez, 3b, 2nd team
Brandi Shriver, of, 2nd team
1997 National Champions
Arizona was ranked No. 1 much of the season and just decided to stay on top, completing a remarkable 61-5 season with its fifth NCAA Championship and second back-to-back effort. Effort paved the way, but talent helped.
UA was represented by five first-team All-Americans as selected by the nation’s coaches ?- pitcher Nancy Evans, catcher Leah Braatz, first baseman Leah O’Brien, third baseman Leticia Pineda and outfielder Alison Johnsen.
But individual honors were the gravy alone as the Cats stayed locked on target throughout a focused season playing for a single goal. Integrating a number of young players with championship veterans, coach Mike Candrea kept his team playing hard the whole year. Hard enough for a 26-1 finish and Pac-10 Championship; hard enough for a 27-4 mark against ranked teams. (The Pac-10 record was to stand as the best ever as league coaches later voted for a 21-game conference slate.)
Johnsen set a lot of tone in the regular season, finishing with a UA-record .534 batting average and an NCAA-record 132 hits. O’Brien capped a remarkable career by using her talent at its best when all the chips were on the table: she collected 9 hits and 6 RBI in the College World Series and finished her CWS career with an incredible total of 31 hits and 19 RBI in four different classics.
Evans, with an Arizona-record 36 pitching victories, also saved some best for the last part of the year. She threw all five Arizona games at the World Series and finished the year with verve as UA topped UCLA 10-2 in a runaway title game.
Coach Mike Candrea was named NFCA Division I National Coach of the Year, Pacific Region Coach of the Year and Pac-10 Coach of the Year.
The Cats played to a 27-4 mark against ranked teams.
1997 Arizona Roster: Michell Churnock-inf, Carrie Dolan-p, Nancy Evans-p/inf, Chrissy Gil-of, Tiana Hejduk-inf, Leah O’Brien-inf, Leah Braatz-c, Alison Johnsen-of, Lindsay Mullins-c, Lety Pineda-inf, Lisa Pitt-inf, Julie Reitan-of, Brandi Shriver-of, Katie Swan-inf,
∑ 1997 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher)
Arizona 2, Massachusetts 1 (Evans)
Arizona 2, No. 5 UCLA 0 (Evans)
No. 4 Fresno State 3, Arizona 0 (Scott)
Arizona 6, No. 4 Fresno State 3 (Evans)
Arizona 10, No. 5 UCLA 2 (Evans)
∑ 1997 Arizona All-CWS Picks:
Nancy Evans, p, - Most Valuable Player
Leah O’Brien, 1b
Alison Johnsen, of
∑ 1997 Arizona All-Americans
Nancy Evans, p
Leah Braatz, c
Leah O’Brien, 1b
Alison Johnsen, Pac-10 Player of the Year
Leticia Pineda, 3b
2001 NCAA Champions
For the sixth time in 11 years, Arizona walked away with the NCAA Softball Championship. The Cats defeated the Bruins 1-0 in the title game. An amazing pitching performance by junior Jennie Finch and a fourth inning home run by senior catcher Lindsey Collins paved the way for the Wildcats. Finch improved her season record to 32-0 and extended her pitching winning streak to 40 consecutive games.
The title came as no surprise. Arizona was ranked No. 1 and No. 2 for much of the year. The Wildcats came into the season with a 31-game winning streak and ended the year with a 26-game winning streak. For most of the season the Cats led the Pac-10 in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and runs scored. Arizona’s fielding percentage (.981) led the nation and was the third best in NCAA history. The Cats also had 126 home runs to break the previous NCAA record of 100 set by the 1995 UA team. The record of 1.83 home runs per game also was an NCAA record.
Arizona’s talented team earned a number of individual awards. Pitcher Jennie Finch received the Honda Award as National Player of the Year along with first-team All-America honors and Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year accolades. Senior third baseman Toni Mascarenas, freshman designated player Leneah Manuma and senior outfielders Lauren Bauer and Nicole Giordano also earned All-America nods.
Coach Mike Candrea earned Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors for the seventh time in his career.
2001 Arizona Roster: Allison Andrade-inf, Candace Abrams (RS/dnp), Lauren Bauer-of, Kim Balkan-of, Lindsey Collins-c, Teresa Demeter-p, Jennie Finch-p, Nicole Giordano-of, Jenny Gladding-p, Erika Hanson-inf, Becky Lemke-p, Leneah Manuma-inf/dp, Lisha Ribellia-inf, Mackenzie Vandergeest-of/dp
2001 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher)
Arizona 3, California 2 (Finch)
Arizona 5, Oklahoma 4 (Finch)
Arizona 1, Stanford 0 (Lemke)
Arizona 1, UCLA 0 (Finch)
2001 Arizona All-CWS
Jennie Finch, p ~ Most Valuable Player
Toni Mascarenas, 3b
Nicole Giordano, of
Lindsey Collins, c
Jennie Finch, p, National Player of the Year
Toni Mascarenas, 3b
Lauren Bauer, of
Leneah Manuma, dp
Nicole Giordano, of, 3rd Team