Feb. 1, 2002
TUCSON, Ariz.--Mackenzie Vandergeest's grand slam capped a second-inning rally to help top-ranked Arizona regain the lead en route to an 8-3 victory over No. 13 Alabama in both team's season softball opener Friday evening.
Lisha Ribellia and Lovie Jung drew leadoff walks and Leneah Manuma singled off drawn-in third baseman Erin White's leg with a sharp grounder to load the bases for Vandergeest, who had hit 20 home runs last year as a freshman.
The Crimson Tide wasted little time roughing up Honda Softball Award winner Finch, with a leadoff double by Suzanne Olcott and a two-run home run by Jackie McClain to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
Arizona cut into the lead in the bottom of the inning with a double by Courtney Fossatti, an infield single by Leneah Manuma and a bloop RBI single to left by Finch.
A crowd of 1,098 watched Finch settle down after the first-inning outburst, allowing only one more hit and striking out 10 to win her 41st consecutive game, including an NCAA-record 32-0 mark last year when she was Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year along with the national player of the year honor. She walked two.
Alabama pitcher Shelley Laird (0-1) gave up 13 hits and struck out nine.
Arizona (1-0) also extended its home field victory streak in Hillenbrand Stadium to 45 consecutive games dating to April 2000.
The Cats and Tide (0-1) meet in the second game of the three-game series at 1 p.m. Saturday, with the series finale at 12 noon Sunday.