May 23, 2003
OKLAHOMA CITY - Arizona used its short game and took advantage of two Washington errors in the seventh inning to beat the Huskies, 2-1, and move on to the final winner's bracket game Sunday in the 22nd annual Women's College World Series.
UA earned a day off in the double-elimination format tourney. The Cats will rest Saturday while six other teams face off to eliminate four of them. The team UA will face in Game 11 at 12 noon (CDT) Sunday -- either Alabama, Oklahoma, or California -- would have to beat the Cats twice. On the other side of the bracket, Texas, a Friday night victor over Cal, is in the same situation as Arizona. The Longhorns will face either Louisiana-Lafayette, UCLA or Washington at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and the 2-0 'Horns have the advantage.
The key score for the Cats Friday evening came in their last chance as visiting team. With one out, Lisha Ribellia reached when first baseman Sarah Hyatt dropped a throw, was sacrificed by a Series-record fifth team sacrifice bunt, by Crystal Farley, then scored when Autumn Champion's ground ball was thrown away by Husky third baseman Kathy Fiske.
Meantime, UA freshman Alicia Hollowell recorded her second straight 13-strikeout game and held the Huskies to four hits, though one of them was big. Hollowell won her 40th game against three losses, extending her school record victories total.
Arizona took the lead in the top of the second, 1-0. Mackenzie Vandergeest drew a walk off UW's Tia Bollinger, was sacrificed to second by Wendy Allen and scored on a single up the middle by Jackie Coburn, who reached second on the throw to the plate. Washington turned its second double play to end the threat when Husky first baseman threw Coburn out at third trying to advance on a ground-out to short.
Kristen Rivera tied the game and tied Arizona's Lovie Jung for the NCAA lead with her 25th home run of the season in the bottom of the fourth, a one-out, solo shot down the leftfield line.
The Cats threatened in the top of the fifth when Erin Palomarez walked and pinch runner Allyson Von Liechtenstein reached second on a sacrifice bunt by Lisha Ribellia and third on a grounder by Crystal Farley. But leadoff hitter Autumn Champion struck out swinging despite drawing a 3-0 count off Bollinger to start the at-bat.
Arizona sqaundered a great opportunity in the top of the sixth when Courtney Fossatti and Jung led off with singles. Vandergeest greeted UW reliever Ashley Boek with a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up (and tie a World Series record with her two sac bunts in a game). But Boek struck out Allen and got Coburn to ground to short and the Cats stranded their fifth and sixth runners of the game.
Hollowell broke Jennie Finch's year-old season strikeout record in the third inning against Aimee Minor, getting No. 367. By the end of the game she had whiffed more than 10 hitters for the 14th time this year and the record stood at 374.
The Cats' tied a World Series with five sacrifice bunts in the game, matching an effort by UCLA in 1983 against South Carolina in a 2-1, 17-inning victory, in the second annual WCWS.
Arizona improved to 56-5 while UW dropped to 47-15-1.
Saturday action at the Series starts with Alabama vs. Oklahoma, with the winner earning the right to face Washington. The winner of the second matchup faces Arizona. The second game Saturday pits Louisiana-Lafayette vs. UCLA, with the winner of that game facing off later against California. Washington and Cal traded brackets after their losses Friday.
UA will sleep in a bit in the morning, go to brunch as a team in the late morning, then have a 2 p.m. practice at a local high school field it's used twice since arriving in Oklahoma City. Most of the team will attend the evening session at Hall of Fame Stadium when Game 9 features the two teams battling in the elimination game to face Arizona.
Tournament observers pointed out prior to the Arizona-Washington game that in 19 of the 21 Women's College World Series previously held, the eventual champion won its first two games. Arizona has done that 10 times -- but won the title six times, so few people in UA's program are counting on anything other than a day off and a tough game on the horizon.