SOFTBALL / COLLEGE WORLD SERIES : Arizona Bats Overwhelm Fresno State

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was simply another average day at the park for the top-ranked Arizona softball team.

The Wildcats pounded 13 hits to fuel a 3-0 victory Friday against Fresno State in a second-round game of the Women's College World Series at Hall of Fame Stadium.

Arizona, which will face either Illinois-Chicago, UCLA or Utah on Sunday at 10 a.m. (PDT), scored two runs in the first on three hits and two walks.

Leah Braatz's towering solo home run--a 290-foot shot to left--in the seventh increased the Wildcats' lead to 3-0 and its season home run total to 92.

Arizona (62-3), the defending national champion, was batting .383 as a team before Friday's game, and did little to hurt that average after recording 13 hits in 33 at-bats.

Amy Chellevold of Thousand Oaks and Jenny Dalton of Glendale contributed three hits each.

About a half dozen outstanding defensive plays saved Fresno State (49-15) from total embarrassment.

"I felt we could have really broken the game open several times, but Fresno State made some great plays to stop us," Arizona Coach Mike Candrea said. "That's why they're here. Fresno is an emotional team and that brings great emotion to our team when we play."

On three occasions Fresno State shortstop Kim Maher made diving stabs at ground balls, jumped to her feet and threw out a runner. Maher, a senior All-American from Buena High, had one of four hits off Arizona senior right-hander Susie Parra (31-1), who walked three and struck out one.

Fresno State left fielder Laura Berg made a torso-twisting catch on a Krista Gomez fly ball that hooked deep into left field in the sixth. Berg reached back and grabbed the ball a moment before slamming to the ground.

The catch of the day, however, was turned in by Arizona center fielder Leah O'Brien, who reached beyond the four-foot fence 220 feet in center to steal a home run from Maher in the fourth. O'Brien landed on her back on top of the fence, but stayed in the game after being treated by team trainers.

Perhaps the most impressed fan among the 2,793 in attendance was Candrea himself.

"I have a baseball background and it's very difficult for me to sit down and watch a baseball game anymore," Candrea said. "Every year, I am more impressed with the female athlete. People just need to open their eyes."

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