June 7, 2010
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- The 10-seed Arizona Wildcats will take on the fifth-seeded UCLA Bruins in a best-of-three championship series at the Women's College World Series beginning tonight at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
That's the number of NCAA Softball Championships won by Pac-10 teams in a few days. Too, it will be the 16th time a Pac-10 squad has been runner-up.
The two squads have faced each other in the Women's College World Series 13 times, with Arizona holding an 8-5 edge. (Although one UCLA victory later was vacated, so 8-4 is accurate.). Six of those contests came in the championship game, although none of those under the new best-of-three arrangement.
1988: UCLA 5, Arizona 0
1989: UCLA 3, Arizona 0
1991: Arizona 1, UCLA 0 (9 innings)
1991: Arizona 5, UCLA 1 (title game)
1992: UCLA 1, Arizona 0 (title game)
1993: Arizona 1, UCLA 0 (title game)
1994: Arizona 5, UCLA 2
1995: UCLA 4, Arizona 2 (title game, vacated)
1996: Arizona 4, UCLA 2
1997: Arizona 2, UCLA 0
1997: Arizona 10, UCLA 2 (5 innings, title game)
2001: Arizona 1, UCLA 0 (title game)
2008: UCLA 1, Arizona 0
Cats and Bruins This Year
The two squads met May 13-15 for a three-game series in Tucson and the Bruins left town with two victories. Combined score: 15-14 in UCLA's favor. UCLA won the opener 6-5, Arizona took Game 2 by a 5-3 score and UCLA prevailed in the series decider, 6-4.
50 is Good, but Only Gloss
Arizona has reached the 50-victory plateau 17 times in its history, including this year and each of its eight national title years. Of course, that means it reached 50 victories in eight different previous seasons without getting one in its last game of the season.
Arizona's Reaction to UCLA
After the Bruins took two of three from the Wildcats in Tucson in mid-May, Arizona has won nine of its 10 games since. It makes for a good match against the Bruins, who have won eight straight since leaving Tucson. It's by design that the two teams in the WCWS Championship Series every year are the two hottest teams left standing, and it looks that way this year.
What if Arizona freshman Kenzie Fowler finds the touch to get a couple of victories in the next couple of days? She'd be the first freshman ace in 20 years or so to help her team win a title, and she'd match the 40 victories Alicia Hollowell (40-5) put up to set the Arizona freshman record in 2003. Hollowell beat Alabama and Washington in the WCWS to reach 40, then fell short in two Sunday games against California.
That's Arizona's winning percentage in 182 NCAA games, .775. The Cats have played to a 141-42 mark in NCAA action. It's not quite as good in WCWS games only, .670, with a record of 61-30 in its 22 trips. But those numbers reflect Arizona plays an average of 4.1 games when it makes the WCWS. This year the Cats will play at least seven games in Oklahoma City, and possibly match the eight contests they played in 2007.
Take a decent look at Arizona's and UCLA's season averages. At the moment they include 10 and eight games, respectively, played against NCAA tournament competition. Normally at this time of year you expect averages to dip because teams are facing tough pitching, but a handful of players on both squads have had eye-popping weekends in Oklahoma City. Brittany Lastrapes and Karissa Buchanan, for example, have combined for 19 hits and 10 runs scored for Arizona in its five games.
Actually, UA ace Kenzie Fowler didn't much play in the UA-UCLA series in May. She pitched four innings of three-hit ball in the second game (Arizona won) before leaving with an aggravated arm. The Cats had 26 hits in the three games, but gave up 28, with Sarah Akamine throwing 15 innings including a complete game in the opener and a victory in relief in the second game. Ashley Ralston-Alvarez tossed the last three innings of the third game. Fowler started Game 2 and gave up two solo home runs to leave with UA trailing 2-0.
With Title on Line
Arizona played UCLA six times for the title (4-2), played Washington (1-0), played Cal State Northridge (1-0), played Fresno State twice (0-1) and played California (0-1) in the showdown winner-take-all format. In the Championship Series format UA has played Northwestern (2-0) and Tenneessee (2-1).