NCAA Softball World Series : Titans Enjoy Status as Defending Champions
The Cal State Fullerton softball team has been here at the College World Series before, but it has never been here quite like this.
This time, the Titans are defending champions.
It’s not quite the same as it used to be, and that’s something the Titans are happy to live with.
“We have a different confidence and a more positive feeling than in the past,” said Judi Garman, Cal State Fullerton coach.
The Titans (57-8) won their first NCAA title last season after finishing second twice and third once. This marks the sixth year the NCAA has sanctioned a national softball championship--all of them in Omaha. And it’s the fifth year Fullerton has been here. Fullerton did not make the series in 1984.
“There’s a lot less pressure, but we still want to win as badly as ever,” Garman said.
Fullerton will open its title defense today at 4 p.m. (PDT) with a first-round game against Florida State (50-12), a team that has Garman searching for tactful ways to say “gimme.”
“Of all the teams in the tournament, it is the one we would choose to open with,” Garman said. “They don’t have the national reputation of the others. But, of course, all the teams here are good.”
Some are simply better than others.
“We’re going to be able to hit them,” Garman said, explaining that Florida State lacks what so many of these teams have--a dominant pitcher. “We know we’re going to be in it right from the start.”
Wednesday, UCLA (47-8) defeated Arizona State (41-14), 1-0, in nine innings, and the game between Fresno State (53-14) and Nebraska (39-9) was suspended because of rain with Nebraska leading, 1-0, in the fourth inning. It will be resumed today.
Texas A&M; (51-7), which lost to Fullerton in the 1986 final, will play Central Michigan (36-12) in the final game tonight in the double-elimination tournament.
It’s no wonder the Titans are confident. They have won more games this season than any team in the tournament, and they are top-seeded.
There are certainly teams the Titans are wary of, however.
For one, there’s Nebraska, the local favorite that finished second to three-time champion UCLA in 1985. Garman remembers the Cornhuskers drew so loud a crowd two years ago that the Titans couldn’t hear each other on the field. To add to its home-team advantage, Nebraska has pitcher Lori Sippel (19-2), who can dominate a game.
Fresno State tied the Titans for the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. title and was the only team to defeat Fullerton twice this season.
UCLA missed the series last year after winning in 1982, 1984 and 1985. Texas A&M; won the title in 1983.
Connie Clark (31-3), who threw a no-hitter and a four-hitter in Fullerton’s sweep of Cal Poly Pomona in the regionals, will lead the Titan pitching. Catcher Michelle Gromacki is 3 for 6 in two playoff games, leading the Titan hitters in the postseason.