Cal State Fullerton's surprising bid for a berth in the college softball World Series was only one victory away Sunday, but then the Titans came face to face again with Cal State Northridge pitcher Amy Windmiller.
That hasn't been a pleasant experience for any team this season, much less one with an NCAA regional championship on the line.
Windmiller, beaten only twice in 26 games this season, continued to work her magic Sunday, giving up only three hits, and Northridge came alive on offense with 11 hits to turn back the Titans, 4-0. Northridge, 49-8 and ranked third in the nation, moves on to the World Series beginning Thursday in Oklahoma City.
"We just can't seem to get a run off Windmiller," Fullerton Coach Judi Garman said. "She's been the key for them, although you have to give them credit. They beat us with their bats as well as her pitching."
Windmiller, who has the best earned-run average in the nation at 0.29, shut out Fullerton three consecutive times this season, including a three-hit, 9-0 victory in Saturday's regional.
Garman, whose Titans won the first game, 2-0, behind the two-hit pitching of freshman Trinity Johnson, came back with Johnson as the starter in the second game. But Northridge found the range against Johnson early. She got out of the first two innings without giving up a run, although Northridge threatened in both, but the Matadors loaded the bases with none out in the third.
"I was starting to get a little tired in the third," Johnson said. "I was trying to give 100% as long as I could."
In the third, Jen Fleming singled up the middle, advanced when Beth Calcante was safe on a sacrifice bunt attempt, and moved to third on Tamara Ivie's single. At that point, Garman brought in Jennifer Mortensen, winner in the first game of the regional against Washington but who had been beaten by Northridge on Saturday.
Mortensen almost escaped without giving up a run. She struck out power-hitting Scia Maumausolo, and Shannon Jones bounced out to third, forcing Fleming at home, but Jennifer Parker doubled to deep left, scoring two runs.
Northridge built the lead to 4-0 in the fourth when Fleming connected for a two-run homer after Terri Pearson had reached base on an error. That was more of a lead than Windmiller would need. She had scattered three hits in the first four innings, then put the Titans down in order in the last three.
"I'm really proud of this team," Garman said. "They really fought back at the end of the season. We came a lot farther than anyone expected. . . . I'm so proud of the way the team played here, especially in the first game (Sunday)."
In that game, Fullerton pushed across its two runs in the fifth to win. Laurie LoForti singled, and was safe at second on Christina Wagy's infield bouncer. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on another bunt when the Matador catcher, Maumausolo, had trouble handling a high throw from Jones, the third baseman.
The Titans (35-29), who began the tournament ranked 20th, won 18 of their last 22 games.