OKLAHOMA CITY--Arizona used a huge fifth inning to blow open the game and then let junior pitcher Taryne Mowatt finish up her Women's College World Series outstanding player performance as the Wildcats whipped Tennessee, 5-0, for the UA's eighth NCAA Softball Championship and second in as many seasons.
Arizona won its 50th game of the year, and Mowatt set a school record with her 42nd victory, but none of those numbers mattered more than the Wildcats climbing out of a loser's bracket situation during the week with twin victories over Washington to put themselves in the best-of-three title series against Tennessee (63-8), dropping the opener to the Vols on Monday, then storming back with a 1-0 victory on Tuesday and the title-clinching victory Wednesday -- both against Volunteer ace pitcher Monica Abbott.
Senior outfielder Caitlin Lowe got her third of four hits to lead off the fifth and start the big rally, followed by a single by freshman K'Lee Arrendondo that the right fielder mishandled to allow both runners to move up. Rather than pitch to UA senior Kristie Fox, Abbott put her on intentionally to load the bases.
Sophomore third baseman Jenae Leles, whose base running gaffe might have cost Arizona an earlier scoring opportunity, promptly
singled the first pitch up the middle to drive in two runs, only the second and third scored off Abbott throughout the WCWS. That brought up senior second baseman Chelsie Mesa, who drilled a home run to right field to give the Cats a huge cushion.
| Mesa gets the group welcome after the big clout in the fifth inning |
Mowatt, who threw every pitch of UA's-record eight games in the Series, kept up her mastery of the Tennessee hitters and pitched out of another jam in the sixth and then struck out two in the seventh to seal the victory. She allowed seven hits, but struck out 11 to match national USA National Player of the Year Abbott, walked four and came through time and again to strand 12 Tennessee baserunners.
Tennessee was arguably the nation's most dominant team in the won-loss department and a WCWS favorite because of Abbott, but Mowatt and UA's seniors saved some of their best for last in the best-of-three series, plus Arizona got a number of solid performances by some other underclassmen including left fielder Arredondo, first baseman Sam Banister, right fielder Adrienne Acton and catcher Callista Balko.
Senior shortstop Fox made a huge play with a running catch of a soft liner off India Chiles' bat with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth. She joined Mowatt, Lowe and Leles on the All-Tournament Team after a superlative Series at the plate -- a record-tying 11 hits -- and a number of such defensive gems.
UA combined for 10 hits off Abbott, and all five runs off the ace were earned. She finished the year with a 50-5 record. Mowatt's 42-12 mark, by comparison, stands above all in UA history, eclipsing the 41-4 mark posted by volunteer student assistant Alicia Hollowell during her NCAA championship/Series MVP season a year ago as the UA senior ace. Mowatt also set a school record with 522 strikeouts, passing Hollowell's 508 in 2004. She did strike out 76 batters in WCWS play to break Abbott's new mark of 75, also this year.
Moreover, she pitched every inning of UA's 13 postseason games and in the last six days tossed eight complete games, 60 innings and more than 1,000 pitches. The performance, and what it meant for UA's storied softball program, puts her name among all the pitching greats who've earned honors or led their teams to the NCAA title. In late May she was named a second-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-American, to give UA an All-American pitcher every year since 1991 and 19 overall under head coach Mike Candrea.
Candrea is in his 22nd season at the helm of the Arizona softball program and has led the program to each of its eight titles, which trails only UCLA's 10 as the second-most in the nation.
For that matter, he and UCLA have combined for 18 of the 25 awarded overall since the sport started Division I play in 1982. (The 1995 championship, won on the field by UCLA over Arizona, was vacated by the NCAA Softball Committee).
?He boasts a 1,131-228-2 (.832) record in 21 seasons in the dugout.? Candrea has earned 18 coach-of-the-year honors, including nine Pac-10 Coach-of-the-Year citations and is a member of the NFCA Hall of Fame.? In 2004, Candrea took a year off to coach the USA Olympic softball team to a 9-0 record and a gold medal in Athens.? He'll be taking off 2008 for the Beijing Olympics as coach of Team USA. Candrea was also awarded the Olympic Shield award, the U.S. Olympic Committee¡¯s most prestigious award, marking the first time in history the award was given to an Olympic coach.?
But as has been his style, the story Wednesday night in Oklahoma City at Hall of Fame Stadium belonged to his players, who entered the tournament as the overall top seed but were not seen as the juggernaut that Tennessee had become under four-year phenom Abbott, the NCAA career record holder in nearly every category.
Still, the game this night came down to execution as always it does, and Arizona's players did it better. Good enough to win the NCAA Championship.
| Mike Candrea (right) and his eighth NCAA Championship squad, the 2007 Wildcats |
2007 All-Tournament Team - June 6, 2007
Monica Abbott, Senior, Pitcher, Tennessee
Ashley Charters, Junior, Shortstop, Washington
India Chiles, Senior, Outfielder, Tennessee
Kristie Fox, Senior, Shortstop, Arizona
Danielle Lawrie, Sophomore, Pitcher, Washington
Jenae Leles, Sophomore, Third Baseman, Arizona
Caitlin Lowe, Senior, Centerfielder, Arizona
Ashley Monceaux, Senior, Infielder, Baylor
Lindsay Schutzler, Senior, Centerfielder, Tennessee
Dena Tyson, Senior, First Baseman, Washington
Tammy Williams, Sophomore, Shortstop, Northwestern
Most Outstanding Player: Taryne Mowatt, Junior, Pitcher, Arizona
(Courtesy WCWS Staff)
? UA became the first team to win a championship after advancing through the losers¡¯ bracket since UCLA accomplished the feat in 2003. Arizona faced five elimination games in the WCWS and won them by a combined 19-1 edge. The ¡®Cats are also the first team to do it under the championship series format instituted in 2005. How the Bracket Played Out
? The Wildcats are the first team to win back-to-back titles since UCLA won consecutive crowns in 2003 and 2004.
? After fanning 11 Lady Vols tonight, Arizona¡¯s Taryne Mowatt passed Tennessee¡¯s Monica Abbott for the WCWS single-season strikeout record. Mowatt struck out 76 batters in 2007, while Abbott finished with 75 K¡¯s.
? With tonight¡¯s win Mowatt broke the Arizona single-season record for victories with her 42nd. Alicia Hollowell owned the previous record with 41 victories in 2006. Mowatt's shutout was her 19th of the year, three shy of the school-record 22 tossed by Hollowell in 2003.
? Mowatt¡¯s 60 innings pitched in the 2007 College World Series broke the previous record of 53 held by Michigan¡¯s Jennie Ritter (2005). Mowatt delivered every Arizona pitch in this year¡¯s event.
? Arizona¡¯s Kristie Fox recorded her 11th hit of the 2007 WCWS, tying the record of UCLA¡¯s Natasha Watley set in 2003.
? The Wildcats¡¯ Caitlin Lowe recorded four hits against Abbott tonight, the only player to accomplish the feat against the Tennessee ace this year.
? Arizona¡¯s seniors (Lowe, Fox and Chelsie Mesa) were a combined 7-9 at the plate tonight. Mesa delivered a three-run homer in the fifth inning to cap the game¡¯s scoring.
? This year¡¯s event marked the best-attended Women¡¯s College World Series in history. A total of 62,463 fans passed through the gates of ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, including 5,533 for tonight¡¯s game. The 2007 attendance total broke the previous WCWS record (set last year) by a staggering 16,341.