May 11, 2003
The Games--The No. 1-ranked Arizona softball team (50-5, 19-2 for 1st place in the Pacific-10) plays host to one of eight NCAA Women's Softball Championships Thursday through Sunday, May 15-18, at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on campus. Arizona was selected as the No. 1 overall seed in the Championships. This is the first year of a 64-team field for NCAA softball championships, which began Division I championship play in 1982. The Tucson regional includes Arizona (50-5) vs. Colorado State (35-13), Minnesota (35-18-1) vs. Cal State Northridge (26-21), Texas A&M (35-20) vs. Boston College (33-20) and South Carolina (38-18) vs. Princeton (23-19-1).
The Wildcats, the No. 1 seed in Tucson and automatic bid winner as Pac-10 champions, play a first-round game at 11:30 a.m. Thursday against No. 8 seed Colorado State.
The winner of the Region 1 double-elimination tournament will earn a berth in the eight-team Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla., May 22-26.
Thursday, May 15 Game 1 9 a.m. No. 4 Seed Minnesota vs. No. 5 Seed Cal State Northridge Game 2 11:30 a.m. No. 1 Seed Arizona vs. No. 8 Seed Colorado State Game 3 2 p.m. No. 3 seed Texas A&M vs. No. 6 Seed Boston College Game 4 4:30 p.m. No. 2 Seed South Carolina vs. No. 7 Seed Princeton. Game 5 7 p.m. Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2 Friday, May 16 Game 6 9 a.m. Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4 Game 7 11:30 a.m. Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 Game 8 2:30 p.m. Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4 Game 9 4 p.m. Winner Game 5 vs. Loser Game 8 Game 10 7 p.m. Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 7 Saturday, May 17 Game 11 11:30 a.m. Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10 Game 12 2 p.m. Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8 Game 13 4:30 p.m. Winner Game 11 vs. Winner Game 12 Sunday, May 18 Game 14 11:30 a.m. Winner Game 12 vs. Winner Game 13 Game 15 (if) 2 p.m. Repeat Game 14 if both teams have a loss
How They Got To Tucson - Arizona of the Pac-10, Colorado State earned the Mountain West Conference automatic bid as did Ivy Group champion Princeton. Minnesota of the Big Ten, Cal State Northridge of the Big West, Texas A&M of the Big 12, Boston College of the Big East and South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference were at-large selections.
Team Rankings -- Arizona (No. 1 in both polls, final week of regular season) and South Carolina (No. 19 both polls) are the two ranked teams in the Tucson field of the Championships. The two polls by the NFCA/USA Today and ESPN/USA Softball.
Field of 64 - The NCAA expanded the field from 48 to 64 teams this year, testimony to the continued growth of college softball as a championship sport. The caliber of play has improved dramatically since the 1980s. T he Pac-10 qualified all eight teams for the NCAA tournament, continuing a streak of four. All eight Pac-10 teams also played in the 1999 and 2000 tournaments). The other selected Pac-10 teams and their bracketing seeds and sites are UCLA (1) at Fresno, Calif.; Washington (1) at Lincoln, Neb.; California (2) at Ann Arbor, Mich.; Stanford (2) at Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Arizona State (3) at Austin, Texas; Oregon (3) at Fullerton, Calif.; and Oregon State (6) at Gainesville, Fla. Last year, for the first time since NCAA Division I play began in 1982, no Pac-10 team was selected as a Regional host. This year Arizona secured the lone bid.
Arizona's NCAA Appearance -- Arizona appears in its 17th consecutive NCAA regional playoff (17th overall) since 1987, all under coach Mike Candrea. Softball became a Division I sport in 1982 and Arizona did not qualify for the first five tourneys. Arizona has won a regional 15 consecutive years. Arizona has been host 11 times -- 1988, 1990, 1992, 1993-95, 1997-2001.
Arizona has a record of 89-24 (.788) in NCAA games including a 46-6 mark in NCAA Regional play. Arizona is 35-2 in regional games played in Tucson and 11-4 in Regional games played elsewhere. UA traveled to Regional play last year in Minneapolis.
Arizona vs. the Tucson NCAA Field-- Arizona beat Texas A&M by a score of 6-0 in the Cats' Worth Wildcat Invitational on Feb. 7 this year and beat Minnesota, 6-0, in UA's Pepsi Arizona Classic tournament Feb. 15. The Cats did not play Colorado State, Princeton, Cal State Northridge, South Carolina or Boston College this year. In previous NCAA action, Arizona is 1-0 against Minnesota (5-0 UA victory in NCAA Tucson in 1988) and 1-0 vs. Princeton (9-1 Wildcat victory in College World Series in 1995).
Arizona vs. Entire NCAA Field -- Including its 19-2 record against Pac-10 teams in the NCAA Tournament (losses versus Stanford in Tucson and Washington in Tucson), Arizona played to a 33-5 record against teams in the Tournament. The other losses were to Texas and Oklahoma State in Tucson in February, and to Cal State Fullerton in Tucson in March. Cal State Fullerton set a UA opponent record with its 15-3 victory over the Cats in a doubleheader split March 22. Among victories over other non-Pac-10 team in the 2003 NCAAs, Arizona beat Florida Atlantic, South Florida, Northwestern, Southwest Texas State, Florida International, Western Michigan, San Diego State (2), Florida State, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Long Beach State (plus the split with Cal State Fullerton.
Regional Openers -- Arizona is 13-2 in first-round NCAA action. The two losses came in 1987 to Arizona State at Tempe, 4-3, and to Arizona State in Tucson in 1990, 1-0.
Cats in the Polls -- Arizona has been in the top three all year in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll and the top four in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The latter poll made its debut this year. In the NFCA poll, Arizona has been ranked steadily since 1988. Here's how Arizona has fared in the polls this year (dates are Tuesdays in season):
NFCA: Preseason (2), Feb. 11 (2), Feb. 18 (2), Feb. 25 (2), March 4 (2), March 11 (2), March 18 (2), March 25 (3), April 1 (1), April 8 (1), April 15 (1), April 22 (1), April 29 (1). May 6 (1).
USA Softball: Feb. 25 (4), March 4 (2), March 11 (2), March 18 (1), March 25 (2), April 1 (2), April 8 (1), April 15 (1), April 22 (1), April 29 (1). May 6 (1).
Cats vs. Ranked Opponents -- Arizona played to a 20-4 record against teams ranked in the poll this year, thanks in large part to its 16-2 record against Pac-10 teams ranked at some time this year. UA lost to No. 12 Texas, 2-1, in early February; lost to No. 9 Cal State Fullerton in the worst loss in school history, 15-3, on March 22 in Tucson; lost to No. 16 Stanford, 4-3, in mid-April in Tucson, and lost to No. 8 Washington, 7-1, in a doubleheader split the last day of the season. UA beat Texas A&M, Florida State and Cal State Fullerton, plus beat ranked Pac-10 teams 17 times including No. 1 UCLA twice to wrest the top ranking from the Bruins the first week in April.
Arizona Coach Mike Candrea -- Arizona's mentor takes his 17th consecutive team into post-season play. Seven times he has been named Pac-10 Coach or Co-Coach of the Year. He has led his teams to 15 consecutive NCAA Regional titles and thereby taken Arizona teams to the College World Series each year since 1988. He led UA to NCAA Championships six times (1991, '93, '94, '96, '97, '01) and his teams have won seven of the past 12 Pacific-10 Conference titles (1992, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003) and finished second the other five years. Candrea became one of five Division I coaches in history to win 900 games last year and is well on his way to the 1,000-victory plateau. He is in his 18th year at Arizona and carries a record of 976-189, winning a phenomenal 84 percent of the time. That Division I winning percentage is No. 2 all time and No. 1 among active coaches. Three times he has been named National Coach of the Year (NFCA '94, '96, '97). In all, during his career he has won 16 conference, regional or national coaching honors. He was elected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996. His teams' 67 victories in 1998, 66 victories in 1994, 65 victories in 2001 and 64 victories in 1995 are in the top 10 in the NCAA record book. His players have earned 61 All-America playing honors and six Academic All-America honors, plus he has coached five players to the Honda Softball Award as the national player of the year. His average yearly record to date: 53-10. The Cats played in the NCAA Championship game from 1991 through 1998, and have played for the title 10 times in his tenure (also 2001-2002). His teams have played in 61 College World Series games, an average of four per appearance.
Overall Record: 976-189 Pac-10 Record: 297-73 NCAA Games Record: 89-24 NCAA Regionals: 46-6 College Word Series: 43-18
Pac-10 Title - Arizona's 7-5 victory over UCLA on Friday night - won with a walkoff grand slam home run by third baseman Jackie Coburn in the seventh inning - gave it the Pacific-10 Conference Championship with a 19-2 record. It was the seventh Pac-10 title for Arizona's program, tying UCLA for the most league championships. Arizona is atop the composite leaderboard with a record of 295-73 in the 17 years since the Pac-10 began Division I play in 1987. UA has won six of the last 10 titles. Arizona's lowest finish was fourth in 1991, the year it won its first NCAA Championship after finishing 11-9 in conference play.