June 27, 2001
65-4 Cats Win Program's Sixth NCAA Championship Since 1991
A Special Season
*Arizona finished the year 65-4 overall and capped a 26-game winning streak to close the season with a 1-0 victory over UCLA in the Women's College World Series title game, earning the school's sixth softball NCAA Championship.
*Along the way, UA was 19-2 for its sixth Pacific-10 Conference Championship.
*The Cats opened the year with a 31-game winning streak. UA finished 37-0 at home to extend a home-field winning streak to 49 games entering the 2002 season.
*Arizona placed five players on the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America teams, placed five players on the All-Pacific Region team and had eight players earn All-Pacific-10 Conference Honors. Four Wildcats earned Women's College World Series All-Tournament honors.
*Junior pitcher Jennie Finch, who completed the year with an NCAA-record perfect campaign at 32-0, won the 2001 Honda Softball Award as the National Player of the Year. She also earned Most Outstanding Player honors after her 3-0 record in Oklahoma City. She was a finalist for the Honda Broderick Cup.
*Arizona Coach Mike Candrea earned Pac-10 co-Coach of the Year honors, his 15th conference, regional or national coaching honor in his 16 years as UA's head coach. He's won 871 games at Arizona.
*Arizona was ranked No. 1 for half the season. Arizona was 24-2 against ranked teams in 2001.
*Along the way, Arizona clouted an NCAA-record 126 home runs, smashing the Wildcats' own record of 100 set by the 1995 team.
*Candrea took his 14th consecutive team to the College World Series and added to his list of previous national titles -- 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997 and 2001.
*Arizona led the nation in hitting until it got to the College World Series, then its senior leadership and clutch performances took over to counterbalance a .156 showing at the plate. Each of the 15 hits UA collected at Don Porter Hall of Fame Stadium came at the right time.
At the WCWS
Every Arizona game in the 2001 WCWS was decided by one run, quite unlike much of the regular season but more like the some close games in the Cats' previous week in Regional play.
Four Pac-10 teams made it to Oklahoma City for the national round of eight, and Arizona had to beat three of them to earn the championship.
The Cats opened play with a 3-2 victory over No. 6 California. The Bears' Jocelyn Forest pitched a no-hitter for five full innings before lefty slapper Erika Hanson singled to left. After an out, slapper Nicole Giordano found the same hole over shortstop. Senior third baseman Toni Mascarenas, the national leader in home run, promptly lined one off the camera tower in left field for a 3-0 lead. Jennie Finch gave up a single to Candace Harper to open the California seventh, then Cal slugger Veronica Nelson homered to left to trim the lead to a run. After a walk, Finch got two ground balls then struck out the final Cal batter for the victory.
In UA's second game (Game 5), the Cats faced defending national champion Oklahoma, the team that eliminated the Cats in a 2000 WCWS semi-final, 1-0. This time it looked as if the No. 5 Sooners would make even more of a statement, roughing up Finch and taking a 4-0 lead into the sixth on the strength of two homers off the Cats' ace. OU pitcher Jennifer Stewart held UA to one hit through that stretch. But Hansen led off the sixth with another single, Giordano also singled up the middle and -- who else? -- Mascarenas socked her second three-run homer of the series. Trailing 4-3 entering the top of the seventh, right fielder Mackenzie Vandergeest smacked her 20th home run of the year (a UA freshman record) to lead off the inning. The game moved to extra innings. Arizona's Giordano collected her third hit of the game and Mascarenas' sacrificed her to second. On the next play, the OU shortstop threw the ball wide trying to make a double play and Giordano scored the unearned winning run. Finch made it tough for UA faithful to watch by loading the bases with two out in the Sooners' eighth, but got a grounder to end the game.
Next up, Arizona met No. 4 Stanford on the day before the national title game and the Cardinal would have to beat UA twice to move on. It wouldn't happen.
The third batter of the game for Arizona was Mascarenas and she put herself in some highlight reels again with a solo home run to give UA a 1-0 lead and tie a World Series record with her third. It also gave her five career Series homers, believed to be a WCWS mark.
Candrea called on senior pitcher Becky Lemke in the circle and Mascarenas' hit proved to be all she needed. Her mix of pitches proved extremely effective in a one-hit shutout, striking out five and pitching four perfect innings including the final stanza against the heart of the Cardinal's batting order. The Cats managed only two hits off Stanford's Tory Nyberg, but it was enough to put Arizona in the national championship game against familiar foe UCLA.
Despite increasing parity in the game and solid play from most regions of the country, the final two teams standing on the final day of the season were No. 1 Arizona and No. 2 UCLA, the most dominant programs in the nation and owners of 13 national titles. This would be a match for No. 14 and not uncommon. UA was playing the Bruins for the title for the seventh time. For UA it was the ninth time it played on the final day.
History proved Arizona more than up to the task, with a 7-4 record against the Bruins in WCWS play. UCLA, on the other hand, had the most recent championship, winning in 1999.
Finch would put her 31-0 record and 39-game consecutive winning streak on the line against Bruin ace Amanda Freed and her superb 21-3 record. Arizona was 64-4, UCLA 62-5.
Arizona put two runners on with walks in the first, but Finch popped out to third. Finch retired the first five Bruin batters until a single by Courtney Dale in the second. After three innings not much had happened.
In the UA fourth, it did. With one out, senior catcher Lindsey Collins homered to right center to give UA a 1-0 lead. It was her third career WCWS homer and could not have come at a more opportune moment.
Finch now faced UCLA sluggers Tairia Mims and Stacey Nuveman. She walked Mims then struck out Nuveman, got a pop fly and struck out Dale. Freed set down UA in order in the fifth. Finch gave up a single to Freed, then dove for a pop bunt to thwart a sacrifice try. UCLA's next batter reached on a fielder's choice but was called out for leaving the base early when she headed to the dugout thinking she had been thrown out at first.
Mascarenas walked and moved to third on a Finch single but UA couldn't bring in the insurance run in the sixth. Finch gave up a bunt single to Watley and allowed her to reach second by throwing the ball past first base. She bore down and got three fly balls around an intentional walk to Nuveman. UA somewhat threatened in the seventh when Lauren Bauer walked and stole second with two outs, but the Cats couldn't bring her home.
Finch struck out Dale, got a pop up from Freed and struck out Toria Auelua to end the game and give Arizona the 2001 NCAA Championship. The decision gave her 40 consecutive victories and a perfect 32-0 record.
Regional Champs Mark
UA finished 4-0 in NCAA Region 1 play in Tucson to win its 14th consecutive NCAA Regional and advance to the CWS, the longest active streak of appearances. UCLA has the overall high mark (15, ended in 1998). Arizona beat Saint Peter's 4-2, beat Texas Tech 8-0, beat Cal State Fullerton 5-4 and beat Southwest Texas State 6-2 to earn the world series berth. The tournament drew crowds of 1,640 on Thursday, 2,312 on Friday, 2,286 on Saturday and 2,431 on Sunday for a total of 10,309 patrons. Toni Mascarenas was named Most Outstanding Player, while UA teammates Lauren Bauer, Mackenzie Vandergeest, Jennie Finch and Nicole Giordano earned All-Region honors.
Arizona has won six of the last 10 NCAA softball titles and had a chance for a few more. Two teams appear in the national championship game more frequently than others. Here are the title games in that span:
1991 - Arizona beat UCLA, 5-1
1992 - UCLA beat Arizona, 2-0
1993 - Arizona beat UCLA, 1-0
1994 - Arizona beat Cal State Northridge, 4-0
1995 - UCLA (vacated by NCAA) over Arizona, 4-2
1996 - Arizona beat Washington, 6-4
1997 - Arizona beat UCLA, 10-2
1998 - Fresno State beat Arizona, 1-0
1999 - UCLA beat Washington, 3-2
2000 - Oklahoma beat UCLA 3-1
2001 - Arizona beat UCLA, 1-0
Arizona won 50 games for the 11th time in school history and the 11th time in coach Mike Candrea's 16 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 - 66-6 in 1995, 65-4 in 2001, 64-3 in 1994 and 61-5 in 1997. The 65 victories this year against four losses works out to a winning percentage of .942.
Pac-10 Flavor to NCAAs in 2000
At least seven conference teams earned bids to the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year and four made the WCWS.. Here are the final Pac-10 standings:
School Pac-10 Overall Post-season 1. Arizona 19-2 65-4 NCAA Regional Host, WCWS 2. UCLA 16-5 62-6 NCAA Regional Host, WCWS 3. Stanford 11-10 54-16-1 NCAA Regional Host, WCWS 4. Washington 11-10 40-23 NCAA Regional 5. Oregon State 10-10 44-24 NCAA Regional 6. Arizona State 9-12 36-22 NCAA Regional 7. California 6-14 54-18 NCAA Regional, WCWS 8. Oregon 1-20 28-40 --
Finch Becomes UA's Fourth National Player of the Year
UA junior Jennie Finch had a remarkable 32-0 as UA's lead pitcher and finished with an earned run average of 0.54, plus helped lead her team to three college world series victories. Among national leaders all year in ERA, her performance earned her the Honda Softball Award as the nation's Player of the Year. The honor is Arizona's fourth since 1994 when pitcher Susie Parra earned the first. Second baseman Jenny Dalton won the Honda award in 1996 and pitcher Nancy Evans won the honor in 1998. Additionally, 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. Finch supported her pitching by playing first base when not in the circle, and finished the year with a .313 batting average, 11 home runs and 57 RBI. The honor made her a finalist for the Honda Broderick Cup as the NCAA's premier collegiate female athlete.
Five Arizona players earned National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America honors and were cited at the annual College World Series banquet in Oklahoma City May 23. Junior pitcher Jennie Finch earned first-team honors, as did senior third baseman Toni Mascarenas, senior outfielder Lauren Bauer and freshman designated player Leneah Manuma. Senior outfielder Nicole Giordano earned third-team at-large selection. Arizona has had 60 All-America honor winners in the 20 years of NCAA Division I softball history. UA coach Mike Candrea has coached , and catcher Lindsey Collins was a third-team pick. Arizona has had 54 All-America honor winners in the 19 years of NCAA Division I softball history. UA coach Mike Candrea has coached players who earned 59 of those awards.
Louisvillle Slugger All-Pacific Region Honors
Pitcher Jennie Finch, third baseman Toni Mascarenas, designated player Leneah Manuma and outfielder Lauren Bauer were named to the All-Pacific-Region team by coaches in the region. Outfielder Nicole Giordano earned second-team honors.
WCWS All-Tournament Honors
Pitcher Jennie Finch, third baseman Toni Mascarenas, outfielder Nicole Giordano and catcher Lindsey Collins earned all-tournament honors at the Women's College World Series. Finch was 3-0 and pitched the title game, Mascarenas socked three home runs to define three games, Giordano led the Cats with four hits and Collins knocked a solo home run to account for the 1-0 victory in the championship game.
All-Region Tournament Honors
UA placed five players on the All-Region 1 Team - Toni Mascarenas was named Most Outstanding Player, while UA teammates Lauren Bauer, Mackenzie Vandergeest, Jennie Finch and Nicole Giordano earned All-Region honors.
Arizona placed eight players and its coach on the 2001 All-Pacific-10 Conference Team. Plus, junior Jennie Finch was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year. Finch, outfielder Lauren Bauer and third baseman Toni Mascarenas earned first-team honors. Outfielder Nicole Giordano, pitcher Becky Lemke, designated player Leneah Manuma and outfielder Mackenzie Vandergeest earned second-team honors. Catcher Lindsey Collins earned honorable mention. Mike Candrea was named co-Coach of the Year with Stanford's John Rittman.
Arizona appeared in its 14th consecutive College World Series and 15th 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.
Arizona's Record in NCAA Play
Arizona has a 82-22 overall record in NCAA Tournament games.
Arizona is 42-5 in NCAA Regional games.
Arizona is 40-17 in NCAA College World Series games.
Arizona has won at least one game in 13 different College World Series.
Arizona has played in Regionals in the state of Arizona all but one year in its 15 tournament appearances.
Strength of Schedule
In all, Arizona played 34 games in 2001 against teams selected for the NCAA Tournament and was 31-3. Including NCAA play, UA recorded a 25-2 record against ranked teams.
Arizona in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Poll
Arizona was in the top three slots all year in the NFCA rankings and was No. 1 in the final three polls of the year. The Wildcats have been ranked in every poll since 1988.
2001 Winning Streaks
Arizona opened the year with a 31-game winning streak. Arizona finished the season with a perfect 37-0 record at home, extending its home-field winning streak to 49 games dating to a loss to Stanford on April 9, 2000. The Cats finished the year with a 26-game winning streak.
Arizona Draws The Crowds -- Record Attendance
More than 8,500 fans came to see Arizona play its four NCAA Regional games, helping to push the season Arizona Softball attendance to new heights. The Cats drew 46,499 fans for 28 dates, an average of 1,661 per game. The previous record was 1,592 per game, set in 1997. The total attendance topped a total figure of 34,581 who packed Hillenbrand Stadium in 2000. The Cats also set a single-game attendance record for the UCLA game on May 11, 2001, drawing 3,004 spectators. That broke a mark of 2,890 for a 1996 UCLA doubleheader. Along with that UCLA game, UA also had eight other 2000-plus crowds, five of which broke into Hillenbrand's all-time Top 10. Here's the top 10 Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium crowds:
3,004 - UCLA, May 11, 2001
2,890 - UCLA, March 29, 1996
2,751 - Oklahoma, March 4, 2001
2,746 - UCLA, May 7, 1999
2,737 - UCLA, March 17, 1995
2,686 - UCLA, April 18, 1997
2,623 - Arizona State, April 13, 2001
2,458 - California, April 22, 2001
2,431 - Southwest Texas State-NCAA, May 17, 2001
2,379 - Stanford, April 20, 2001
Going, Going, Gone
Arizona set an NCAA record with 126 team home runs in 2001, blasting its own mark of 100 by the 1995 Wildcats. Senior Toni Mascarenas led the way with 25, tying former sluggers Jenny Dalton and Leah Braatz for the fourth-highest season total. Freshman Mackenzie Vandergeest smacked 20, breaking Braatz' previous freshman record of 18. Freshman Leneah Manuma blasted 19. Four other Cats had 10 or more -- Lauren Bauer and Allison Andrade with 12 each, and Jennie Finch and Lindsey Collins with 11 apiece. Four other Wildcats hit homers -- freshman pitcher Jenny Gladding with nine, freshman outfielder Kim Balkan with four, senior Nicole Giordano with two and sophomore second baseman Lisha Ribellia with one. Only lefty slapper Erika Hanson did not hit one out, and she was a 9-hole hitter with other set-up duties. The Cats banged a lot of them in non-conference games, then notched only 24 in league games. But in eight games of NCAA action, the team hit 11 homers including five decisive round-trippers at the College World Series. Arizona won its final game -- the NCAA title tilt -- with a homer by Collins (and pitching and defense).
Arizona led the nation and set a school record with a .981 fielding percentage, committing its lowest error total since joining Division I in 1982 -- 34 errors in 1,356 chances. Catcher Lindsey Collins was errorless on 585 chances for a 1.000 percentage to tie a record set by Arizona All-American catcher Jody Pruitt in 1990. The Cats would have had to commit nine fewer errors to have broken the NCAA single-season fielding record of .985 by the 1985 Texas A&M team. Toni Mascarenas at third (8) and Allison Andrade at short (8) handled the most infield chances and did a fine job of working the left side of the infield.
Arizona's May 2001 Lineup
Lauren Bauer-cf , Nicole Giordano-cf, Toni Mascarenas-3b, Leneah Manuma-1b/dp, Jennie Finch-p/1b, Lindsey Collins-c, Mackenzie Vandergeest-rf, Allison Andrade-ss, Erika Hanson-dp/Lisha Ribellia-2b, Lisha Ribellia-2b/Becky Lemke-p
Off-the bench: Jenny Gladding (p/ph), Kim Balkan (of/ph), Teresa Demeter (ph/pr)
Candace Abrams (c) - redshirted.
Lovieann Jung (ss) - redshirted in 2001 as a transfer student
Arizona Coach Mike Candrea
Arizona's mentor won his sixth national championship in taking an Arizona club to the Women's College World Series for the 14th consecutive year. It also marked his 15th consecutive foray into post-season play. That's in 16 years as UA's head coach.
With 871 victories in those years, the bottom line in his resume is: winning. Winning about 54 games per year, and 60 or more in five of the past eight years. In 2001 the record was 65-4, the best in the country and the fourth-best winning percentage of all time in Division I. Arizona has three of the four top marks in that category thanks to 64-3 and 67-4 marks in 1994 and 1998.
His overall record is 871-172, a winning percentage of .835. Remarkably, the percentage went up four points in 2001. It's the No. 2 all-time and No. 1 figure among active Division I coaches.
Candrea's work in 2001 earned him Pacific-10 Conference co-Coach of the Year honors, shared with league colleague John Rittman of Stanford. It was his 15th conference, regional or national coaching honor.
His reputation and record earned him additional honors in 2001, in being selected one of the USA Softball team coaches for the Summer 2001 touring season. He was to coach the Blue Team in Canada Cup action in Vancouver in July and as such is a top candidate for a coaching position for the United States in the 2004 Olympics.
Blessed with a nucleus of All-Americans, Candrea filled in other spots with proven veterans and some new talent to field a team which had winning streaks of 31 games to open the year and, more importantly, 26 games to close the season.
It helped to produce another Mike Candrea season: win a bunch of tames, win a regional, go to the College World Series and win some more. Arizona has won games in 13 different WCWS. While an annual rite, it's not that easy, but Candrea has made it seem so.
Arizona has won six of the past 10 NCAA Championships and six of the past ten Pac-10 titles. In league play, UA finished second the other four years in that stretch. The 2001 club took the conference championship by beating the big guns down the stretch -- Stanford twice on the road, UCLA (once) and Washington (twice) at home in the closing weeks.
Candrea won his 800th game in 2000, only the eighth NCAA softball coach in history to do so, and now lays aim at the next plateau -- 1,000 victories. The league coach of the year honor was his seventh since the Pac-10 began round-robin play in 1987.
The people who help him achieve those hallmarks -- the players he recruits and teaches -- have earned 59 All-America playing honors and six Academic All-America honors, plus have earned four Honda Softball Awards as the National Player of the Year. That list includes 2001 award winner Jennie Finch, who set an NCAA record with a perfect 32-0 pitching record.
Despite the high volume of individual honors for Arizona softball, they always come last in the scheme of Candrea's program. Team accomplishments are paramount, and the annual objective.
The 2001 Cats returned to the national title game for the first time since 1997 (when they won it all), snapping a two-year drought of failing to reach the final game of the year. Arizona had competed in that game from 1991 through 1998.
Mike Candrea in the Pac-10 (Since 1987)
Six Titles -- 1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001
Runner-up -- 1988, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2000
Arizona's Prospects for 2002
The beat goes on. Arizona will be back in 2002, again contending for national prominence.
The Cats do lose a bunch of outstanding players -- third baseman Toni Mascarenas, centerfielder Lauren Bauer, left fielder Nicole Giordano, catcher Lindsey Collins, pitcher Becky Lemke, shortstop Allison Andrade, designated player Erika Hanson and reserve pitcher Teresa Demeter. Mascarenas, Bauer and Giordano were 2001 All-Americans, Lemke and Collins earned All-America honors in previous years. Andrade was a two-year stalwart at short after a juco career. Hanson played a bunch of positions and was a key in WCWS play in 2001. Demeter was a four-year letterwinner.
But Honda Award-winning pitcher Jennie Finch, the first-team All-America DP in Leneah Manuma, a young slugging catcher in Mackenzie Vandergeest and a power-hitting outfielder in Kim Balkan, second baseman Lisha Ribellia, pitcher/slugger Jenny Gladding, and backup catcher Candace Abrams (redshirt) and transfer Lovieann Jung (redshirt) return. Vandergeest put up better numbers than many of the All-America picks. Jung had two outstanding seasons at Fresno State, earning third-team All-America honors in 1999 and 2000. Gladding was 14-2 with a 0.92 ERA and will benefit from increased pitching duty as well as regular duty as a hitter. Balkan is expected to flourish as an every-day player. Ribellia, a switch-hitter, is an accomplished fielder with short-game skills and right-hand line drive power. Abrams could contend for catching duty. Finch is an accomplished power pitcher with a 4-1 College World Series record in two years. Manuma personifies the long ball.
Arizona brings in five scholarship signees with talent -- All-American pitchers Marissa Marzan of Fresno, Calif., and Courtney Fossatti of Tustin, Calif., outfielder Crystal Farley of Lompoc, Calif., catcher/infielder Jackie Coburn of Phoenix, and outfielder/first baseman Allyson VonLiechtenstein of Highland, Calif. Additionally, Candrea expects to bring several other new players into the mix by fall drills and may bring in other players at mid year.
Arizona 2001 Notes
...Jennie Finch tossed her fifth career no-hitter (at Oregon State) among her 19 shutouts... On the other end of the dueling, she hit three grand slams among her 11 home runs, and drove in nine runs in one game against Oregon, tied for the second-best single-game figure in NCAA history and a match with former UA slugger and NCAA home run champion Laura Espinoza...
...Becky Lemke reached six career no-hitters with three in 2001 -- two by herself and one with Teresa Demeter... Lemke broke former UA star and 1994 Honda Award winner Susie Parra's school record for career strikeouts with 916. (Parra had 872)... Lemke finished with a career winning percentage of .844 on the strength of her 103-19 record, which hit the NCAA Top 10 chart...
...Arizona's 126 home runs and 1.83 home runs per game were NCAA records...
...Finch has a live streak of 40 consecutive victories, No. 2 in the NCAA record book behind 50 by Rebecca Aase of Florida State from 1991-93...
...Lauren Bauer's 81 runs scored should hit the NCAA single-season chart in the top 15... Bauer's 104 hits also should break into the same company... Toni Mascarenas' 25 home runs will hit the Top 10 chart and her figure of 0.36 homers per game will hit the top 15 chart in NCAA history... Mascarenas' 84 RBI also was among the top 15 figure in NCAA single-season history...
...Mascarenas (276), Bauer (269) and Nicole Giordano (265) completed their careers with games-played figures among the Top 25 in NCAA history... Giordano's 873 and Bauer's 850 career at-bats should be in the top 15... Giordano's 359 and Bauer's 349 career hits also are among the top 10 in Division I history...
...Mascarenas' 43 and Lindsey Collins' 41 career home runs are among top 25 figures in NCAA history... Mascarenas' 245 career RBI, the fourth-best figure in UA history, also provisionally is the fourth-best figure in NCAA history behind former Wildcat sluggers Jennie Dalton (328), Leah Braatz (322) and Laura Espinoza (315)...
...Bauer's 133 career stolen bases give her a potential NCAA top 15 career spot...
...Arizona's .981 fielding percentage led the nation and is the third-best figure in NCAA history...
...Among teams which have won 60 or more games in a season, the Wildcats own five of the NCAA top 25 marks including the No. 1 mark of 67-4 in 1998...The 2001 record of 65-4 in the sixth best on the victories chart...
...Six current or former All-America Wildcats were picked for USA Softball Shootout, 2001 U.S. Cup and Canada Cup action during the summer, plus coach Mike Candrea. They include Amy (Chellevold) Hillenbrand, Lauren Bauer, Toni Mascarenas, Lovie Jung, Nicole Giordano and Lindsey Collins. Additionally, pitcher Jennie Finch was expected to participate in the Canada Cup and former player and current assistant Nancy Evans declined an invitation to join the summer tour. All players on the tour are potential Olympians for the U.S.