In what turned out to be a wacky kind of day in first-round games of the Women's College World Series, Cal State Northridge's softball team pulled off the Western Athletic Conference hat trick with a 5-3 victory over Missouri on Thursday night before 2,644 at Hall of Fame Stadium.
Northridge (50-8), playing in the fourth and final game of the day, was the third WAC team to win a first-round game. It is the first time one conference registered three first-round victories in the NCAA national championship tournament, which began competition in 1982.
"I'm glad to win the first game and excited the WAC won all three of its games," Northridge Coach Gary Torgeson said. "I think we're here to make a statement and that's us showing the strength of our softball."
Fresno State, Utah and Northridge were all in contention for the WAC title going into the final week of conference play. Northridge (21-3 in WAC) took the title over Utah (22-4) based on percentage points.
Utah and Northridge, which split a conference doubleheader and had another rained out this season, play tonight at 6:30 PDT in the second round.
It was a reversal of fortune for Northridge, which lost to Southwestern Louisiana in the first round of its inaugural appearance in the World Series last year.
But the third-ranked Matadors committed three errors and had one hit in the first three innings.
However, Northridge broke out the bats in the fourth inning, parlaying five singles and an error into a four-run inning. Scia Maumausolo's bases-loaded single up the middle drove in Jen Fleming for the Matadors' first run. Jennifer Parker and Kelly Hunt also contributed runs-scoring singles and Shannon Jones hit a sacrifice fly. Jones broke Beth Calcante's school record with her 52nd run batted in this season.
But the Tigers (40-22) were not about to pack it in. They scored three runs on three hits in the final three innings and kept Northridge on edge.
Amy Windmiller (25-2), who pitched a no-hitter against Missouri in a game earlier this season, allowed four hits and struck out 11, but blamed herself for the team's letdown in the late innings.
"I take responsibility for that because I came out there throwing hard and my balls were working and then in the last few innings my (rise) ball started to flatten out a little bit," she said.
Shortstop Vicky Rios misplayed two grounders in the fifth inning, both of which contributed to the runs.
"I wasn't real happy with the way we played the last three innings," Torgeson said. "I thought we went to sleep, we weren't getting a jump on the fly balls. I thought Vicky sat back on some balls that she usually routinely plays.
"If we're gonna continue through (the bracket) with 8:30 CDT games--we got another one tomorrow--we can't start yawning at 10 o'clock and expect (to win)."
Northridge added a run in the fifth when Tamara Ivie (two for two) doubled down the right-field line to drive in Calcante from first. It was the 30th double of Ivie's career, tying a school record held by Calcante.
"We want to play to the best of our abilities and we might not have done that tonight," Ivie said. "But we can play a lot better."
With Northridge clinging to a 5-2 lead and its defense looking suspect, Missouri's Gina Anderson led off the seventh with a single. Mary Babb drove a 1-and-2 pitch deep into the left-center field gap to drive in Anderson.
Windmiller however, retired the next two batters on three-pitch strikeouts and enticed Karen Persinger into a pop fly to right to end it. "We didn't work out under the lights," Torgeson said. "Maybe that's an excuse. But we won and we won ugly. I'll take an ugly win any day in this thing."