After being forced into a second game by an emotional 2-1 loss to the Fresno State Bulldogs earlier in the day, the UCLA Bruins bounced back to defeat the Bulldogs, 3-0, Sunday to win the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. softball title.
The victory gave the Bruins (53-8) their fifth national title. UCLA, ranked No. 1 all season, went into the first game Sunday undefeated in the double-elimination tournament. The No. 2 Bulldogs (which finished 55-17) needed two victories over the Bruins to win the title.
At least Fresno State got two games, picking up momentum by tagging UCLA's ace pitcher, Lisa Longaker (31-4), for two runs and three hits in the seventh inning of the first game.
That lone loss of the tournament had UCLA Coach Sharron Backus worried. "Aw, nuts," she said. "In this tournament we've come back, and come back, and come back, and you wonder when you are going to the well once too often."
Fresno, which committed a tournament record seven errors in Friday's 6-1 loss to UCLA, made two spectacular defensive plays in the first game and just one error. But that one error, a low throw from second baseman Kathy Mayer to first baseman Gena Strang in the third inning, gave UCLA a 1-0 lead that held up until the Bulldogs' rally in the seventh. Twice in the first game, Fresno right fielder Karin Richter teamed with cathcher Shelly Stokes to nail Bruins at the plate. The plays at home had the Bruins visibly frustrated well into the second game.
Until they scored.
The Bruins pulled ahead of the Bulldogs for good in the fourth inning with a two-run, four-hit attack. Stacy Sunny led off the inning with a bloop single to left. Lorraine Maynez followed with a bunt that third baseman Gina LoPiccolo overran and then bobbled. Her throw to first was late. Sunny took second on the error. Janice Parks then doubled to the fence in left-center, scoring both runners.
Missy Phillips followed with a single to center fielder Jill Polanco, who threw to home. With Parks holding up at third, first baseman Strang cutoff Polanco's throw, and threw to second, where second baseman Mayer tagged out Phillips, who was attempting to advance on Polanco's throw home. Parks tried to come home on the throw to second, but was tagged out on Mayer's throw to catcher Stokes, completing the double play.
UCLA extended its lead to 3-0 with a run in the top of the seventh on Shanna Flynn's RBI single to right.
But, as was the case in the first game, Fresno mounted a comeback. The Bulldogs used a walk and two singles to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh. But Longaker got the next two Fresno batters to fly out.