UA women play for nat’l softball title, but men stumble

The University of Arizona softball team dug itself out of a deep hole at the Women’s College World Series to go on to win the right to meet UCLA for the national title.

The Cats (52-12) dropped their opening game of the WCWS to Tennessee, 0-9, in a bizarre contest that saw UofA’s ace pitcher, Kenzie Fowler, called for an illegal pitch on eight different occasions in the three innings she was on the mound.

But they worked their way back through the brackets, beating Washington, 4-3, and Hawaii, 5-1, before getting another shot at Tennessee this afternoon.  They beat the Vols in back-to-back games, with the final 5-2 win earning them the match-up with UCLA tomorrow in the first game in a best 2-of-3 format for the NCAA Championship.

In the finale, K’Lee Arrendonda and Stacie Chambers each hit a two-run home run, to put their stamp on the win – the team’s first home run since May 23.  Fowler kept the clamps on the Vols, scattering six hits and striking out eight.

While the women play on, the UofA baseball squad fell short of the mark, losing today in their regional game with Baylor, 4-2, to end their post-season run.  The baseball team finishes the year with a 34-24 record.

Baylor scored two runs in the second inning and two more in the eighth to eliminate the Cats in a game that was littered with unearned runs donated to the Bears.

Freshman Tyler Hale was a bright spot on the day for the Cats.  The freshman threw seven full innings in his first career start, fanning seven and walking five.    At the plate, the Cats got all their runs in the second inning on a lead-off single by Cole Frenzel and a double by Alex Mejia that drove in their two runs.

Their first loss in the double elimination format was to Texas Christian, 11-5, despite a 3-for-4 performance and a home run by designated hitter, Josh Garcia.  The Horned Frogs, boasting an offense this season that is setting school records in multiple categories, ran the score up to 6-1 by the fourth inning, and never looked back.

The softball team, on the other hand, rode Fowler’s strong arm to rally from its opening game set-back.  The Cats used her 13 strike-outs to defeat defending national champion, Washington, as she rebounded from the loss to Tennessee and the barrage of illegal-pitch calls.

Against Hawaii, the Canyon del Oro HS grad threw a two-hitter before a single-season record attendance for the WCWS of 9,080, and then pitched four innings of no-hit ball in the first game against Tennessee, an 8-0 win that went just five innings.

The Arizona women began the playoffs as the No. 10 seed.  UCLA was seeded fifth and rolled through the brackets with three straight wins, beating Florida (16-3), Hawaii (5-2), and Georgia (5-2).

The Cats had a lot to prove this year.  They have great tradition -eight national championships and appearances in 22 of the last 23 World Series.

But they were swept the past two years after getting to Oklahoma City.  Last year, they lost to Alabama by the embarrassing score of 14-0 – the worst loss for the program in over 25 years.

But Kenzie Fowler, the former Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year, has brought them all the way back to repectability.

During the ’80s and much of the ’90s, UCLA and Arizona ruled the roost in women’s softball, with a lengthy period of national attention during the reign of Jenny Finch.

So this final series of the 2010 season should feel like old times.