UCLA stuns rival Arizona in NCAA softball finals
OKLAHOMA CITY – Megan Langenfeld hit a game-ending homer in the eighth inning to give UCLA a 6-5 victory over Arizona in the opener of the Women’s College World Series finals on Monday night.
Langenfeld, a finalist for national player of the year, homered twice and drove in three runs for the fifth-seeded Bruins (49-11). Monica Harrison had a two-run double.
Arizona (52-13) rallied from a two-run deficit to take the lead in the seventh, only to lose it in extra innings.
Game 2 of the best-of-three series is Tuesday night.
The championship features college softball’s two most storied programs, with UCLA and Arizona combining to win 18 of the sport’s 27 World Series titles.
And the two powerhouses sure put on a show down the stretch.
Harrison’s clutch hit with two out in the sixth clipped the outside of the left-field foul line and put UCLA up 4-2, but that was only the start of the drama.
Arizona answered with back-to-back homers by K’Lee Arredondo and Stacie Chambers to go ahead in the seventh. Arredondo’s opposite-field drive just cleared the wall in left-center for a two-run shot. Chambers then blasted a mammoth drive that ricocheted off an elevated camera positioned beyond the bleachers in center.
Just when the 10th-seeded Wildcats looked as if they were going to win, they found a way to let UCLA back in it.
Brittany Lastrapes and Lauren Schutzler swerved to avoid a collision on Dani Yudin’s potential game-ending fly ball to left-center, allowing it to fall between them for a double. After Julie Burney – who hit the winning homer in one of the teams’ regular-season meetings – was intentionally walked, Kaila Shull tied it at 5 with an RBI double off Karissa Buchanan’s outstretched glove at the track in right.
Then Langenfeld, who gave up the back-to-back homers before being replaced by Aleah Macon (12-1), came up with the biggest hit of all. She pumped her right fist in the air twice after rounding first and was mobbed by her teammates when she made it to home plate.
The Bruins are seeking their 11th NCAA title, not counting the one that was vacated, but their first under coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. She won three championships as a catcher for UCLA.
The Wildcats have won four of their previous six meetings in the finals, with one of UCLA’s wins coming in the 1995 championship that’s been erased from the record books. The last meeting came in 2001, when the championship was still decided in a single game.
All eight of Arizona’s championships have come under Mike Candrea, who also coached the U.S. to gold and silver medals in the Olympics.
The Pac-10 rivals took opposite paths to get to the finals. The Bruins powered their way through the earlier rounds, never trailing while racking up a World Series-record eight homers along the way. The Wildcats suffered a mercy rule blowout in their opening game against Tennessee, but fought back to win four straight elimination games over two days to make the championship series.
As a result, Kenzie Fowler (38-8) threw 459 pitches over the course of two days to earn the chance to pitch again on Monday night. Langenfeld threw 111 in one start during that span.
Of course, Arizona’s last run to the title in 2007 was perhaps best remembered for Taryne Mowatt going the distance in every game, hurling more than 1,000 pitches over the course of seven days.
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