Senior Jennie Finch, who leaves Arizona as one of the brightest young stars in the history of the storied legacy of UA female athletics, just didn't have enough gas in the tank to get one more batter, and as a result, Cal exploded for six runs en route to its first national crown.
Finch will undoubtedly linger on that final sequence for a long time to come, but it shouldn't overshadow her stupendous performance throughout the course of the College World Series. The tournament poster girl lived up to the hype and dominated the opposition while her teammates' bats met with difficult times. Finch had to be good because the usually potent Wildcat offense wasn't there to help. Her stellar showing in the 11-inning Florida State marathon is one for the ages.
But it was likely that 17-strikeout effort that finally caught up to her. Finch threw almost 200 pitches in that FSU matchup. Thus, by the time the Cal game came around, it appeared she was going to have to find ways to get people out other than mowing them down with overpowering heat. For the most part she was successful. Cal would mount a number of threats, but Finch was good enough to keep things even. That is, until the end.
Naturally, the parallels between Nancy Evans and Finch will be made. Evans, now an outstanding assistant with Arizona, was also a dominant pitcher, but lost in the finals of the College World Series in her collegiate curtain call. But unpleasant conclusion aside, there's a lot of potential upside for Finch, obviously a crowd favorite. Her presence was of great benefit to Arizona during her playing days, and she will continue to play the positive role of ambassador regardless of her future endeavors.
For Arizona, it goes without saying that seasons of superiority remain in the offing. This year's UA team was very young. It obviously must find another standout pitcher, and improve upon the hitting in the bottom of the lineup, but head coach Mike Candrea has done an outstanding job of maintaining a top-notch program, and that will undoubtedly continue.
Come playoff time, there wasn't a team superior to California. This is the group that survived the nation's most grueling Regional, and from there continued to play impressive ball through the finals, running the table in the World Series. Pitcher Jocelyn Forest was outstanding.
On a grander scale, the entire World Series field this year was competitive. Now I don't consider myself the great historian on the College Softball World Series, but off the top of my head this was as competitive a field as I can recall. Florida State, the No. 8 seed, was among the last four teams standing and pushed Arizona to 11 innings. No. 7 Nebraska lost to the UA 1-0 in the opener. Top seed UCLA was gone pretty quickly. Better balance leads to better competition, which leads to better entertainment value for the fans. Softball, both at Arizona and nationally, appears in good shape indeed.
From the rant file, I'm generally a calm guy, laid back, relaxed, not much ruffles this illuminatingly positive exterior. Like Teflon baby, just like Teflon. Yet, there seem to be so many things over the course of the last week. I'll try to pick just a couple.
First off, the whole Mike Piazza and New York Post sexual orientation debacle. How stupid is this, and what kind of personalities center their existence on this crap? What a waste of space. I've taken up too much time discussing it as it is.
In local news, the city of Tucson got its proverbial butt handed to it in a Transportation sales tax election. I read a question and answer thingie with developer Don Diamond in the Tucson Citizen a couple days after this proposal got pummeled in much the same fashion as the baseball season dreams of your average laughably obnoxious Cubs fan. Diamond made some reference about how the sales tax increase plan would only benefit certain segments of the community, and that's the reason it went down in flames.
To me, this baby lost on the day the city decided to appeal a court decision that ruled its Let's Go Tucson ad campaign was more propaganda than information, which is something government entities aren't supposed to do. And they lost the initial ruling to a guy who doesn't even have an updated law license. Glorious indeed.
Anyway, the City of Tucson discovered what other Arizona legislative bodies learned some time ago. In this state, if you try to tell the constituency how to vote, they'll purposely vote otherwise, just to spite you. Arizona voters seem to have a bit of that pioneering rebellious streak, and it showed last week. After all, this is the state that voted both Evan Mecham and Fife Symington into the governor's seat. And I suspect Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had a real chance had he not dropped out.
In this state, if you come off as arrogant, you're a chalk outline. As a result, Tucson's transportation plan is in the election morgue.