55-12 Cats Come Up Just Short: NCAA Runners-up
At the WCWS
Four Pac-10 teams made it to the Women's College World Series for the second consecutive year, and Arizona and California performed best, squaring off with 3-0 tourney records in the national championship game Monday, May 27.
Cal senior Jocelyn Forest threw her second one-hitter of the year against UA to help propel the Bears to a 6-0 title victory. UA's Jennie Finch, who had thrown an 11-inning, 17-strikeout game against Florida State the day before, took it nearly all the way, keeping the game scoreless until there were two outs and two strikes on what could have been the final batter in the top of the seventh. But, the Bears struck for a big rally and won the game going away. Forest struck out the side in UA's half of the inning and earned WCWS Most Outstanding Player honors in leading Cal to its first women's team national championship.
Arizona beat Nebraska 1-0 in the opening round and Arizona State 1-0 in a quarter-final - both shutouts by Finch -- to make it to the semifinal, then topped Florida State 6-2 to get itself in the championship game. Before the runs scored by FSU, Finch had tossed 27 consecutive scoreless innings in WCWS play spanning two seasons.
Finch, sophomore first baseman Leneah Manuma and freshman third baseman Jackie Coburn each were named to the All-College World Series team. Manuma slugged a home run in the opener against Nebraska to give UA its winning run and Coburn socked a three-run homer to cap UA's big 11th-inning rally against FSU. Finch had opened that inning with a two-out solo homer. Manuma walked six times and had a series onbase percentage of .533. Coburn had a hit in her first-ever WCWS at-bat to go with her homer. Finch was 3-1 in the classic.
As always, pitching was key in Oklahoma City, and a potent Arizona lineup was held to a .156 batting average in its four games. Opponents only hit .153, but California collected four hits among nine total with two outs in the seventh to break out in the one game that counted the most.
Cats Win NCAA Regional In Minnesota
Despite the No. 2 national ranking and the overall No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, Arizona joined other top seeds in traveling to an NCAA Regional. The Cats played at host Minnesota and emerged with their 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 with an 8-0 mercy-rule victory as Finch threw a two-hitter and faced only one batter over the minimum. Finch, Finnerty, left fielder Courtney Fossatti, 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.
NCAA Regional Champs Mark
Arizona has won 15 consecutive NCAA Regionals to advance to the Women's College World Series, the longest active streak of appearances and tied with UCLA for the longest mark ever. Arizona 's 15 trips to the world series are the second-most to UCLA's 19. Fresno State is third at 12. No other school has made double-digit appearances in the series.
Arizona's Record in NCAA Play
Arizona has a 89-24 overall record in NCAA Tournament games.
Arizona is 46-6 in NCAA Regional games.
Arizona is 43-18 in NCAA College World Series games.
Arizona has won at least one game in 14 different College World Series.
Arizona in NCAA Title Game
Arizona has played in the national championship game 10 times, winning six including its first time in the title tilt, in 1991. The 10 title games are second only to UCLA's 13.
Arizona won 50 games for the 12th time in school history and the 12th time in coach Mike Candrea=s 17 seasons as head coach. Arizona=s highest victories total was a then NCAA-record 67-4 mark in 1998. Candrea also has four other 60+ seasons B 66-6 in 1995, 65-4 in 2001, 64-3 in 1994 and 61-5 in 1997.
At least seven conference teams earned bids to the NCAA Championships for the fourth consecutive year and four made the WCWS. Visit www.pac-10.org for complete 2002 softball standings.
Finch Repeats With Honda Award, UA's Fifth National Player of the Year
University of Arizona softball pitcher Jennie Finch was named winner of the Honda Softball Award as the national player of the year, earning the prize for the second consecutive season. The honor made her a finalist for the Honda Broderick Cup as the NCAA=s premier collegiate female athlete. Finch, a 21-year-old senior from La Mirada, Calif., compiled a 34-6 record and an earned run average of 0.97 in leading the Wildcats to a 55-12 record and the program's 15th appearance in the NCAA Women's College World Series a few weeks ago. The Cats played in the title game for the 10th time May 27, losing to the California Golden Bears, 6-0. Finch established an NCAA record earlier in the season by winning her first 20 decisions to post a string of 60 consecutive victories spanning three seasons. She set the Arizona record with 366 strikeouts. She hit .311 as a pitcher/first baseman and tied her career high with 16 home runs. She had 56 runs batted in and added eight doubles for a .605 slugging percentage. Finch's award gave UA five Honda Softball Awards since 1994, joining UA pitcher Susie Parra (1994), second baseman Jennie Dalton (1996), pitcher Nancy Evans (1998) and Finch's first award in 2001. Arizona has won more Honda softball awards than all schools but UCLA, which has eight and the individual record holder, pitcher Lisa Fernandez, who won the Award three years running, 1991-93. Finch was named 2002 Pacific-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year, earned first-team All-America honors for the third consecutive season, first-team All-Pacific Region honors for the third year, was an All-NCAA Region 2 selection and earned All-Women's College World Series honors for the second season. She finished her UA career with a record of 119-16 and set UA records for career innings pitched (876 and two-thirds) and strikeouts (1,028). She was Most Outstanding Player in the 2001 world series, which Arizona won for its sixth national title, capping a year in which Finch set another NCAA record with the best perfect season in history, 32-0. UA has had five other players be finalists for the award -- shortstop Laura Espinoza and first baseman Amy Chellevold in 1995, Evans and outfielder Alison Johnsen in 1997 and catcher Leah Braatz in 1998.
Three Arizona players earned National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America honors and were cited at the annual College World Series banquet in Oklahoma City May 22. Senior pitcher Jennie Finch earned first-team honors for the third consecutive year, sophomore first baseman Leneah Manuma earned first team honors for the second consecutive year, although she was selected as a designated player her freshman year. The Wildcats have had at least one player selected for first-team All-America honors since 1990. In all, the Arizona program leads Division I with 40 first-team All-America selections. The Cats also hold the NCAA standard for single-season picks, with six first-team selections three times, in 1994 and 1995-96. The two Wildcats named this year are the fewest for Arizona since the 1988 season when UA coach Mike Candrea placed his first player on the list, in his third year on the job. Pitcher Teresa Cherry was a second-team selection that year. Arizona has had 61 All-America honor winners in the 21 years of NCAA Division I softball history.
Louisvillle Slugger All-Pacific Region Honors
Pitcher Jennie Finch, first baseman Leneah Manuma and designated player Jenny Gladding were named to the All-Pacific-Region team by coaches in the region. Finch and Manuma were first-team picks, Gladding was on the second team.
WCWS All-Tournament Honors
Pitcher Jennie Finch, third baseman Jackie Coburn and first baseman Leneah earned all-tournament honors at the Women=s College World Series. Finch was 3-1 and slugged a homer, Manuma had an onbase percentage of .533 and Coburn had a hit in her first-ever series at-bat and capped an 11th-inning rally with a three-run homer to help beat Florida State.
All-Region 2 Tournament Honors
UA placed five players on the All-Region 2 Team B senior pitcher/first baseman Jennie Finch, senior outfielder Meaghan Finnerty, sophomore catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest, freshman outfielder Courtney Fossatti and sophomore pitcher/DP Jennie Gladding.
Arizona placed six players and its coach on the 2002 All-Pacific-10 Conference Team. Plus, senior Jennie Finch was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year for a second consecutive season, and junior shortstop Lovie Jung earned the league's Newcomer of the Year award. Finch, Jung and first baseman Leneah Manuma earned first-team honors. Second-team honors went to soph catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest, while pitcher/DP Jenny Gladding and freshman third baseman Jackie Coburn earned honorable mention. Candrea was a repeat selection. Finch became a three-time first-team pick. Manuma repeated after second-team honors in 2001. Vandergeest also was a second-team selection in 2001. Jung, the Cats' top hitter all season, was a two-time All-Western Athletic Conference honoree in 1999-2000 at Fresno State and returned to action after sitting out a transfer season in 2001. Finch earned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors twice in 2002 and Jung earned Pac-10 Player of the Week honors once.
Arizona appeared in its 15th consecutive College World Series and 16th consecutive NCAA tournament under coach Mike Candrea, the top active Division I winning coach. 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. Arizona was a regional host 11 times -- in 1988, 1990, 1992-95, 1997-2001.
Strength of Schedule
In all, Arizona played 36 regular-season games against team 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. Against ranked teams Arizona posted a 26-9 record in 2002. The final coaches poll says it best - the Pacific-10 Conference had seven of eight teams in the rankings, including the top three.
Arizona in The National Fastpitch Coaches Association Poll
Arizona was in the top three slots all year in the USA Today/NFCA coaches poll and was No. 2 in the final poll. The Cats have been ranked in every poll since 1988.
2002 Winning Streaks
Arizona had a three-season 70-game home winning streak, its best in history, snapped by UCLA on April 7. The same game also saw All-Everything pitcher Jennie Finch's personal NCAA-record winning streak end at 60 games. The team's home winning streak dated to a loss to Stanford on April 9, 2000. The Cats had a 2002 season-best overall winning streak of 20 games, along with a couple of modest seven-game streaks.
Arizona Drew The Crowds -- Record Attendance
Arizona set home attendance records in 2002 with an average crowd of 1,755 and a total draw of 49,140. The Wildcats also drew the single-game record for the April 7, 2002, game against UCLA, 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 ASU 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 in 2001 at 46,499 and should be in shape to repeat for 2002 when figures are released.
Going, Going, Gone
Arizona didn't close on its own NCAA record of 126 home runs (set in 2001), but a power-hitting club was again in evidence as the Cats had six home run hitters in its lineup and banged out a total of 93 homers, tied for the fourth-highest total in school history. Not bad for a club that lost players who hit a total of 66 round-trippers. Leneah Manuma led the way with 21 home runs, followed by Lovie Jung and Jennie Finch with 16 apiece, Jackie Coburn with 14, Mackenzie Vandergeest with 12 and Jenny Gladding with 11. Candace Abrams chipped in a couple and senior Meaghan Finnerty earned a starting role the last week of the regular season and hit her first career homer in NCAA Regional play.
Arizona batters struck out 416 times in 2002, more than any previous year by a mile. The club struck out last year 292 times, the next highest total. Five Wildcats had more strikeouts than hits. Five Wildcats struck out three times in one game during the year. But opponents also whiffed with regularity. Jennie Finch and Jenny Gladding combined for 575 strikeouts, second only to the job Finch, Becky Lemke and Gladding did in 2001 to set the school mark with 632. Finch struck out 19 in a nine-inning game against Oklahoma, a 2002 College World Series team. Gladding struck out 21 in 13 innings of pitching in two NCAA Regional victories.
Arizona=s 2002 College World Series Lineup
Lovie Jung-ss; Courtney Fossatti-lf; Jennie Finch-p/1b; Leneah Manuma-1b/dp; Mackenzie Vandergeest-c; Jackie Coburn-3b; Jenny Gladding-dp/p; Crystal Farley-cf; Meaghan Finnerty-rf; Lisha Ribellia-2b. Off-the bench: Carrie Hagen-of/pr/ph; Candace Abrams-of/ph, Allyson Von Liechtenstein-of/pr; Rebekah Quiroz-pr/inf.
Arizona Coach Mike Candrea
A couple of things underscored head coach Mike Candrea's reputation in 2002 - he was selected Pac-10 Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season, and he was named head coach of the U.S. National Team for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
One of those is indicative of the best of the best on the national collegiate softball scene - a league which sends nearly all its members into postseason action and which has produced the national champion all but five times in the 21 seasons of NCAA Division I Softball competition. The other is indicative of the best of the best on a world platform - coach of the two-time defending Olympic gold medallists.
He deserved both and for complex abilities which simplify into one factor: winning. In 17 years as Arizona's coach Candrea has established a record of 926-184. The percentage: .834. That's winning eight of every 10 games. If softball teams could play 100 games in a year, no doubt he'd lead his team to victory in 80 of them.
Here are a couple of yearly averages for Candrea: a record of 54-11; producing 3.5 All-Americans; winning five NCAA games; winning 2.5 College World Series games... The gist is that he puts a good team on the field and gets it to play outstanding ball, then the postseason comes around and the team continues to perform.
In 17 years he's taken 16 teams - consecutively - to the NCAA tourney and 15 in a row to the Women's College World Series. The Cats have played in the national title game 10 times - and won six of those. He has six conference titles and UA finished second seven other times, third twice and fourth once. Arizona has been Pac-10 champion or runner-up for the last 11 years.
In 2002 with a team that lost five All-Americans and 66 home runs in departing players, Candrea turned in another 50-plus victories season, battled until the last weekend for the league championship, won an NCAA Regional and made it to the NCAA title game. He produced his fifth Honda Softball Award winner in senior pitcher Jennie Finch (a repeat selection), helped draw record crowds to Hillenbrand Stadium (49,140 total), and continued the tradition of Arizona softball as one of the top national contenders in any year. He did it with four freshman starters and a newcomer in the lineup - a newcomer (Lovie Jung) that won the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year award.
He knows how to recruit - 40 first-team All-America honors; he knows how to coach - seven-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year; he knows how to win - (see above). It's not all that easy, but Candrea has made it seem so.
Mike Candrea By the Numbers
Overall Record: 926-180, 17 years
Pac-10 Record: 279-71, 16 seasons
NCAA Games: 89-24, 16 appearances
World Series: 43-18, 15 appearances
NCAA Titles: Six
Pac-10 Titles: Six
Jennie Finch tossed three no-hit games in 2002 to give her a career total of eight, tied for the UA record with fellow Honda Award winner Susie Parra (1991-1994). In one stretch of 12 days Finch no-hit Evansville, one-hit Boston College and no-hit Notre Dame in successive starts. She also threw four one-hitters and seven two-hitters during the season. Brakes
Cats in the Books
Here's where some Wildcats put their names in the Arizona softball record book in 2002:
Doubles, Career - 43, Jennie Finch, tied for 8th
Home Runs, Season - 21, Leneah Manuma, tied for 7th
Home Runs, Career - 50, Jennie Finch, 5th
Home Runs, Career - 40, Leneah Manuma, 8th
Home Runs, Career - 32, Mackenzie Vandergeest, 9th
RBI, Career - 195, Jennie Finch, 6th
Walks, Season - 44, Lovie Jung, tied for 5th
Walks, Season - 41, Leneah Manuma, 7th
Walks, Career - 105, Jennie Finch, 5th
Games Played, Career - 270, Jennie Finch, 5th
Fielding Average, Season -- .994, Leneah Manuma (1b), tied for 10th
Most Recent 1.000 in Outfield - Courtney Fossatti, Carrie Hagen, Candace Abrams, Meaghan Finnerty
Putouts, Season - 577, Mackenzie Vandergeest, 1st
Putouts, Career - 671, Mackenzie Vandergeest, 10th
Earned Run Average, Career - 1.09, Jennie Finch, 9th
Victories, Season - 34-6, Jennie Finch, 4th
Victories, Career - 119-16, Jennie Finch, 2nd
Strikeouts, Season - 366, Jennie Finch, 1st
Strikeouts, Career - 1,028, Jennie Finch, 1st
Innings Pitched, Season - 273.1, Jennie Finch, 2nd
Innings Pitched, Career - 876.2, 1st
Consecutive Pitching Victories - 60, Jennie Finch, 2000-02
Home Field Winning Streak - 70, 2000-02
Arizona 2002 Notes
...In 2003, Arizona will return 11 letterwinners and most of its starting lineup. The starting infield returns - first baseman Leneah Manuma, second baseman Lisha Ribellia, third baseman Jackie Coburn and shortstop Lovie Jung, plus starting catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest, starting left fielder Courtney Fossatti and starting centerfielder Crystal Farley. Three players who had starts in right field also return - Carrie Hagen, Candace Abrams and Allyson Von Liechtenstein - along with second baseman Rebekah Quiroz, who had 38 appearances in utility roles... Junior-to-be Jenny Gladding, who compiled a pitching record of 35-8 the past two seasons and was a second-team All-Pacific Region designated player in 2002, has been given a release and is not expected to return...
...Arizona recruits signed for 2003 include pitcher Alicia Hollowell from Fairfield, Calif., High School; outfielder Autumn Champion from Tustin, Calif., Foothill High School; infielder Michelle Schultz from Phoenix Greenway High School and pitcher Leslie Wolfe from Phoenix Desert Mountain High School... Coach Mike Candrea also is recruiting several other prospects...
...Arizona has hit home runs in six of its last seven Women's College World Series games...
...UA hit two or more home runs in 27 games in 2002...
...Arizona was 11-4 in games decided by one run in 2002... The Cats were 28-3 in games decided by five or more runs...
...California's six-run outburst in the seventh inning of the NCAA Championship game was the most runs scored by a team in a single inning against Arizona all year...
...Arizona's Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium will undergo some improvements in the offseason, with a team clubhouse, dressing room, interview room and service areas to be built beyond the leftfield fence along with permanent outfield seating... A message center for the scoreboard also is in the plans...