For Arizona's Nancy Evans and Nicole Giordano, it certainly was good to be home.
Family and friends all around and the Cal State Northridge softball team providing perfect hospitality on a wonderful sunny day.
With Evans and Giordano leading the way, top-ranked Arizona pounded 20 hits in 12 innings and swept the Matadors, 8-1 and 5-0, on Wednesday in a doubleheader in front of 449 at Cal State Northridge.
Arizona (23-2) left the field abruptly after the fifth inning of the second game--about 4:20--because the Wildcats had to catch the last flight to Tucson out of Burbank at 6 p.m.
Weeks ago, the original 1:30 p.m. start for the doubleheader was moved to noon to accommodate the flight schedule, but no one informed the umpires, who didn't show up until 12:45.
Northridge Coach Janet Sherman blamed herself for the oversight, which cost her team a couple of innings against the two-time defending national champions.
But after the Wildcats bolted to their vans, Sherman's concerns were not about a game halted after five innings.
Her mind was swimming with questions about the uninspired play of her team, a team she thinks is physically capable of much more than it showed against the Wildcats.
"How do you not get excited for Arizona?" Sherman said. "I don't know. I'm out of ideas. The intensity is missing. It's not in our game face."
The Wildcats had no trouble staying focused against No. 19-ranked Northridge (11-7-1).
For Evans, a fifth-year senior, her focus got sharper as the day wore on.
Evans (12-0), who played four seasons at Hoover High, pitched a four-hitter, struck out seven and earned her 100th career victory.
Northridge bunched three hits in the third and scored on Elizabeth Sanches' line-drive single to left. But that was as good as it would get for the Matadors.
With bases loaded, Evans struck out Augrista Belford to end the inning and retired 13 of the final 14 batters.
"I talked to my catcher [after the third inning] and we talked about how to approach the last few innings," said Evans, an All-American and most valuable player last year in the College World Series.
Evans and catcher Leah Braatz decided the ace right-hander would stop throwing drops and changeups, and stick with what was working best--her curve, screwball and riseball.
"As a pitcher, you've got to make that adjustment," Evans said.
Giordano, a freshman from Saugus High, has had no trouble adjusting to Division I softball. The left fielder hit singles in her first three at-bats, had four hits in the doubleheader and extended her hitting streak to 11 games.
"I was really relaxed in this game," said Giordano, the 1997 Times' Valley player of the year. "It was fun because I knew I'd get to see friends and family."
Evans, who has a career record of 100-6, was one of three Wildcats to hit a home run in the first game.
Toni Mascarenas hit a two-run shot in the first inning. Lety Pineda's three-run homer highlighted a five-run fifth.
Tara Glaister (5-5) of Northridge, who gave up the first two homers, was chased with two out in the fifth after surrendering the fifth hit of the inning.
Evans' solo homer in the seventh off reliever Jessica Creith was a liner to center that barely cleared the fence and provided Arizona with its eighth run.
Arizona used eight hits and two Northridge errors to score five runs in the second game.
The Matadors managed just two hits off Becky Lemke (7-2), who recorded her third shutout.