May 9, 2003
TUCSON - Jackie Coburn's two-out two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh snapped a tie and gave top-ranked Arizona its seventh Pacific-10 Conference Championship with a 7-5 victory over No. 2 UCLA.
Coburn, who had struck out in three previous at-bats, nailed a 1-2 pitch to the opposite field in right-center.
The victory gave Arizona a three-game lead with two games left in the league season. UA, 49-4 overall and 18-1 in Pac-10 play, closes its season with a doubleheader against Washington at 6 p.m. Saturday. UCLA (43-6 and 15-4) closes out league play at Arizona State Saturday night.
Claire Sua led off the UCLA second with a home run to straight-away center to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
UA wasted an opportunity in the bottom of the second. Mackenzie Vandergeest singled to lead off and moved into scoring position when Wendy Allen drew a walk off Bruins pitcher Keira Goerl. Vandergeest was picked off second by UCLA catcher Emily Zaplotosch after straying too far off the bag on a high pitch and Goerl struck out two more batters to end the threat.
UCLA extended the lead to 3-1 in the third with a two-out RBI single by Tairia Mims that centerfielder Crystal Farley mishandled to allow Caitlin Benyi to score from first base for a second unearned run.
Zaplotosch made another sharp play, picking Farley off first after she drew a walk to open the Wildcat third inning.
Arizona batted around to take a 4-3 lead in the fourth, taking advantage of a UCLA error to score three unearned runs. Lovie Jung doubled to center and moved to third on a wild pitch. After Vandergeest walked, Wendy Allen loaded the bases by reaching on an error by third baseman Mims. An out later, Shelly Shultz singled to drive in Jung. Vandergeest was forced at home, but pinch-hitter Erin Palomarez drew a walk to drive in a run, then Autumn Champion capped the rally with a two-run single.
UA added to the lead the next time up. Vandergeest singled with one out in the fifth and moved to third when Goerl threw a wild pitch and Zapoltosch threw the ball away at second. Allen hit a fielder's choice to second but Vandergeest slid around the tag at home to make it 5-3.
UA freshman pitcher Alicia Hollowell (34-3) moved to No. 2 on the single-season strikeout list after fanning two in the first inning. She finished with 13 strikouts to give her 326 for the year. Goerl struck out 11, but dropped to 31-6.
UCLA tied the game despite Hollowell striking out four batters in the sixth. The first hitter, Mims, reached first after swinging at a wild pitch that went to the screen. Two strikeouts later, Zaplotosch hit a two-run homer to left. Hollowell struck out the next batter for the third out.
Jung led off the seventh with a bunt single, and moved to third on two wild pitches before Coburn's home run, her 13th of the season
The contest drew a Hillenbrand Stadium-record crowd of 3,227. It was the largest crowd to watch a collegiate softball game in the nation this year and one of three Arizona crowds of more than 3,000 people, eclipsing the previous high of 3,161 for a game against UCLA on April 7 last year.
Former UA pitcher Jennie Finch, the Honda Softball Award winner as national player of the year in 2000 and 2001, and now a volunteer student assistant coach, had her jersey retired in pre-game ceremonies.