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National Champions!
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 06/07/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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OKLAHOMA CITY ?- Top-ranked in one poll and No. 2 in the other, the Arizona softball team took the opinion out of the equation and beat Northwestern 5-0 Tuesday night to claim the 2006 NCAA Softball Championship.

 

The victory gives Arizona seven titles since 1991. The Cats beat Northwestern (50-15) twice, 8-0 on Monday and 5-0 on Tuesday, in the best-of-three series to claim the crown in the Women's College World Series.

 

The Wildcats (54-11) won 20 of their last 22 games, and rode the right arm of senior Alicia Hollowell all the way to the championship.  A four-time All-American, Hollowell pitched 43 innings, striking out a record 64 hitters and allowing only two earned runs in a WCWS-record six complete games.

 

Her efforts in helping UA notch its second national title in the 2000s (also 2001), earned her the WCWS Most Outstanding Player honor. Joining her on the All-WCWS team were three UA teammates, junior centerfielder Caitlin Lowe, senior leftfielder Autumn Champion and sophomore designated player Taryne Mowatt. 

 

Hollowell got plenty of help from her offense, particularly over the last three games, as the Wildcats averaged more than six runs and won the three games by a combined margin of 19-0.

 

In the end she had to work at it, with NU's Katie Logan, Tammy Williams and Garland Cooper hitting successive two-out singles in the top of the seventh to load the bases. But Hollowell got Jamie Dotson on a called third strike for her 13th whiff of the game.

 

UA jumped on NU starting pitcher Eileen Canney with a Lowe single to lead off the Wildcat half of the first, followed by a Champion line-drive single.  UA’s RBI leader Kristie Fox laid down a sacrifice bunt, advancing Lowe and Champion into scoring position.  Callista Balko then got the Wildcats on the board with an RBI groundout, scoring Lowe.

 

After Hollowell worked out of a second-inning jam, in which she surrendered a pair of hits.  In the bottom of the second, Canney matched her counterpart in the circle.  Mowatt and Laine Roth started off the inning with a pair of one-out singles, but two groundouts to short ended the threat.

 

The purple clad Wildcats loaded the bases to start the top of the third on three consecutive singles to start the inning, but

Hollowell bore down and produced three consecutive outs.  First, Hollowell froze three-hitter Garland Cooper with a called third strike, before inducing a foul pop out of cleanup hitter Jamie Dotson.  With two outs and the bags still juiced, former Foothill High School (Tustin, Calif.) grad Jamie Dotson worked the count full, before flying out to Champion in left field, allowing UA to exit the inning unscathed.

 

Hollowell worked out of yet another jam in the fifth, after she gave up a one-out double to NU leftfielder Katie Logan.  After striking out Tammy Williams, Hollowell issued an intentional walk to Cooper.  With runners on first and second, Hollowell engaged in a nine-pitch battle with Dotson, but eventually won out with a called third strike.

 

The potent top of the order got Hollowell a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth.  Lowe led off with an infield single, and reached second on second baseman Crane’s throwing error.  After Canney fired a wild pitch and Lowe moved to third, Champion picked up her sixth RBI of the series with a single to center, scoring Lowe for UA’s second run.  Balko then doubled to right-center, scoring Champion all the way from first, increasing the Wildcat lead to 3-0.

 

Arizona loaded the bases with three one-out singles, setting the table for the top of the order.  Lowe hit a blistering shot to the first baseman, which was ruled an error, scoring pinch runner Danielle Rodriguez.  Champion then singled home Roth, bringing the UA lead to 5-0.

 

Arizona was ranked No. 1 by ESPN.com/USA Softball in its poll before NCAA playoffs, and No. 2 in the final regular season poll conducted by USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association. The Cats will move up in the final NFCA poll, but the trophy for the school's Jim Click Hall of Champions carries more weight.  Get Championship Merchandise here.

 

Game Notes:

-         Arizona scored in the first inning for the 30th time in 65 games.  UA improves to 28-2 in those games.

-         Northwestern’s two second-inning hits doubled their previous 14 innings against Hollowell.

-         Caitlin Lowe’s first-inning run gave her the WCWS record for runs in a series.  Her fifth-inning run increased her total to eight.

-    Autumn Champion had seven RBI in the series to lead UA.

-    Lowe (8), Champion (8) and Taryne Mowatt (7) had 23 of UA's hits in Oklahoma City.

-         Attendance for the game was 4,423.

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Welcome-Back Celebration -- The University of Arizona will welcome back the 2006 NCAA Champions with a gathering in McKale Center Wednesday morning. Highlights of the championship game will be shown on the McKale video board beginning at 10:30 a.m. (MST), with the team scheduled to arrive for a 30-minute ceremony at 11:15 a.m.  Head coach Mike Candrea, staff and the entire team will be on hand. Parking is available in the Cherry Avenue Garage adjacent to McKale.

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2006 Arizona Wildcats -- NCAA Champions

Back row, from left: Coach Mike Candrea, assistant Nancy Evans, Sam Banister, Leslie Wolfe,

Alicia Hollowell, Callista Balko, Jenae Leles, assistant Dave Feinberg, assistant Larry Ray.

Middle: Trainer Sara Bach, Kelly Nelson, Chelsie Mesa, Caitlin Lowe, Taryne Mowatt,

Laine Roth, student assistant Jackie Coburn, equipment manager Barb Hutchings.

Front: Manager Jamie Delfs, Adrienne Acton, Autumn Champion, Jill Malina, Kristie Fox,

 Danielle Rodriguez, manager Erica Mejia.

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