The victory over the Crimson Tide gave the Cats at least one victory in all but one of its 16 World Series appearances (a 1990 visit with losses to Oklahoma State and Fresno State).
Lovie Loves Clutch Time
All-American shortstop Lovie Jung knocked out two hits Thursday, including a seventh straight in NCAA action, before a strikeout in the late innings. She has 11 hits in 15 NCAA Tournament at-bats, a rather sparkling average of .733 at a most critical juncture of this or any season. In her two career Oklahoma City appearances for Arizona she has a .333 batting average (5-15). She was a 1999 All-WCWS pick for Fresno State in 1999 before her transfer to the UA.
Newbies Get Feet Wet
Arizona's two 2003 freshman All-Americans, pitcher Alicia Hollowell and left fielder Autumn Champion, each looked okay in their first visits to Oklahoma. Hollowell struck out 13 in the two-hit effort, though she did tie a career high with four walks (also vs. ASU April 19). Leadoff hitter Champion slapped out to the shortstop, drew a walk and scored a run, and was cut down on a drag bunt attempt. Junior transfers Wendy Allen (walk, 0-for-2) and Erin Palomarez (0-for-3) put the bat on the ball in their first World Series appearances. Allen (LH) pulled the ball to the right side to drive in the game's winning run over Alabama. Palomarez finished the year with some good bat work and has competed for time with Shelley Schultz, who can play first (as does Palomarez at times) and push Allen to DP.
Court' Slaps a Few
Sophomore right fielder Courtney Fossatti singled and scored the eventual winning run Thursday. She added another hit later and now has a .333 career batting average (5-15) in the five WCWS games she's played in.
Hollowell Chasing Finch Alicia Hollowell's 13 strikeouts Thursday moved her within five of tying 2002 Honda Softball Award winner Jennie Finch for Arizona's single-season strikeout record. Finch fanned 366 last year. Hollowell already owns the team's single-season victories mark at 39-3, topping current assistant (pitching) coach Nancy Evans' twin 36-2 seasons in 1997 and 1998.
Lovie Jung's two RBI gave her 79 for the year, best in Division I. Ditto for her 25 home runs. That's a nice combination for the three-hole hitter. Her 21 doubles (one vs. Alabama) also are in the Division I top 10.
Candrea Can Do
UA coach Mike Candrea won his 981st game Thursday -- and 94th in postseason play. That's an average of more than five playoff victoriess per year in his 18 seasons, including this one. No wonder they picked the guy to be USA National Team coach for the 2004 Olympics.
Arizona vs. Friday's Opponent
Arizona played to a 2-1 record against Washington this year, including the 21-17 season finale that set a single- game both-teams Arizona scoring record and set an opponents' scoring record. UA is 2-1 against Washington in previous World Series play, inluding its 1996 title game victory in Columbus, Ga. Probable UA starter Alicia Hollowell was only seen by the Huskies once this year, her two-hit shutout victory at Seattle April 4, 3-0.
Odds and Ends...
...UA's win over Alabama gave it a victory over 23 different teams in World Series action. The Cats have faced only two teams they haven't beaten at least once in Oklahoma -- DePaul (1999) and Southern Mississippi (2000)...
...Jung's 21st double on Thursday tied the school single season record held by U.S. Olympic gold medalist Leah O'Brien-Amico (1995). A similiarity: Leah was a lefty slap/gap hitter who could pull the ball and go the other way; Lovie's a righty line-drive slugger who can pull or go to the opposite field, too...
...UA collected six hits in 22 at bats Thursday. In 2001 when the Cats won their last NCAA title, the team hit .146 inOklahoma City. Timeliness is way more critical than volume against the pitching teams face in the Series. Jung's two-run double in the opener, for example, snapped a scoreless tie and gave UA momentum.
...Speaking of Jung (again), her three total bases vs. the Tide kept her on pace to beat an improbable record -- Stacey Nuveman's NCAA-record slugging percentage of 1.045 set last year. Lovie's at 1.059...
...Arizona is 21-4 against ranked teams in 2003... ...Four Cats earned All-America honors Wednesday evening in WCWS Opening Ceremonies. Shortstop Lovie Jung (at-large), pitcher Alicia Hollowell and outfielder Autumn Champion were first-team picks, giving Arizona a total of 43 first-team All-Americans. Soph outfielder Courtney Fossatti earned second-team selection...
...Arizona is 12-3 in WCWS second-round games...
Game One: Arizona 3, Alabama 2 Oklahoma City - The top-ranked University of Arizona softball team came into their 16th consecutive College World Series on Thursday, looking to start another post-season run for a national title.
Their first round opponent turned out to be a scrappy Alabama Crimson Tide team that managed to keep things close the entire game, before succumbing to the Wildcats 3 – 2.
Alicia Hollowell started in the circle for UA and experienced some control problems during the first two innings. It was in the top of the second that the Tide first threatened.
Hollowell walked the first two batters and both runners advanced on a ground out. With one out and runners at second and third, Hollowell dug in and worked out of the jam by striking out Emily Currie and getting Dominique Accetturo to pop out.
Alabama freshman pitcher Stephanie Van Brakle was also making her College World Series debut. Van Brakle held the Cats scoreless until the bottom of the third. Crystal Farley led off the innings with a single, Autumn Champion followed that with a walk and Courtney Fossatti loaded the bases with single to left.
Lovi Jung promptly stepped up to the plate and, on a 2-2 pitch, delivered a two-run double into the gap in right-center field. Fossatti later scored on a fielder's choice when Wendy Allen grounded out to the right side of the infield.
Alabama climbed back into the game in the fifth inning. Freshman Staci Ramsey led off the inning with a single down the left field line. Hollowell stuck out the next three batters before Jackie Wilkins reached first base on a wild pitch.
With Ramsey on second and Wilkins on first, Ashley Courtney doubled down the right field line scoring both runners.
That was as close as Alabama would get. Hollowell regained her control and stuck out five of the next eight batters. She finished with 13 strikeouts, scattering two hits and gave up two runs and improved her record to 39-3 on the season.
The 8 a.m. Mountain Standard Time start was the earliest game UA has ever played in the College World Series.