I saw this video of the 1994 Arizona softball team floating around social media on Wednesday, so I thought I would dig out my old story on the championship victory over Cal State-Northridge.
Happy memories …
OKLAHOMA CITY — Dominant in the regular season, dominant in the postseason, dominant in the title game.
The Arizona softball team did it all.
In a game of inches, Arizona seemed to be miles ahead of everyone else, so the season could have really ended only one way.
With a national championship. With Susie Parra striking out the last batter.
Parra closed out her Arizona career with one of her finest performances — a one-hitter with 13 strikeouts that ended in another Wildcat celebration at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
In a game that was never close, the UA beat Cal State-Northridge 4-0 in front of 3,966 fans to win its third national title in four years.
“I should probably retire,” said UA coach Mike Candrea. “It’s not going to get any better than this . . . until we start next year.”
Well, well. Parra saved her best for last.
She faced a lineup that took a .318 average into the game, and made it look silly, mixing riseballs with changeups that had batters swinging wildly. She allowed a solid double in the first inning, but then retired the next 18 batters.
“That,” Candrea said, “was vintage Parra.”
In the final inning, the Arizona contingent, at least 200 strong, alternated chants of “U of A, U of A” with “Par-ra, Par-ra, Par-ra.” She responded by getting Jen Fleming to ground out and Beth Calcante to strike out. Then, Tamara Ivie coaxed a walk from Parra.
“I told her later that we thought she just wanted to keep on pitching,” said Amy Chellevold.
Parra likes to say she’s only as good as her last pitch.
Her last pitch makes her a champion.
Parra’s 85th pitch of the game was in the dirt, which was just fine. Scia Maumausolo swung at it for strike three. The ball briefly eluded catcher Leah Braatz, who threw to first for the putout.
“The throw to first was a little high. I was a little nervous about that,” said Parra, chuckling. “I didn’t realize at that moment that that was it.”
When she did, Parra gave her glove a little punch, and smiled.
And then came the charge from the dugout. Players, coaches, trainers, managers. There wasn’t a lot of glove throwing, and nobody even dumped ice on Candrea, but there were hugs for everyone.
“A lot of people have asked us if this season would be successful even if we didn’t win,” Chellevold said. “No, it wouldn’t be. We practiced three, four hours a day for this one game, and it paid off.”
Arizona got the only run it would need in the first. Leah O’Brien doubled with one out and scored when Laura Espinoza’s hard drive deflected off the glove of third baseman Shannon Jones for a hit.
Nancy Evans made it 2-0 an inning later. Running from third on an infield bouncer, she scored on a play at the plate when Jones’ throw got past Maumausolo.
Braatz’s RBI single in the third gave the UA a 3-0 lead.
“After we got that 3-0 lead, with Parra pitching the way she was, I was like, ‘This is over,’ ” Candrea said.
Northridge coach Gary Torgeson, whose staff entered the game with the best ERA in the nation, elected to go with his No. 3 pitcher, sophomore Jen Richardson, who was 16-0 in her career.
Kathy Blake (0.51 ERA) would have started, but she had a fever on Sunday night, and wasn’t physically ready. Even though senior Amy Windmiller led the nation with a 0.36 ERA, Torgeson thought her hard-throwing riseball style would be easy for the UA to hit.
Windmiller pitched two innings of scoreless relief.
Arizona had seven hits off Richardson, who threw the kind of off-speed pitches that have sometimes given the UA trouble.
“Man, I thought the Yankees had a lineup,” Torgeson said. “These are the Tucson Bombers.”
When it was all over, Candrea handed out the national championship T-shirts, the ones that say “Back to back” on them. Making good on a promise, assistant coach Larry Ray allowed the players to cut his hair, and while they didn’t shave his head, their scissor cut left his hair kind of patchy.
The four seniors — Parra, Susie Duarte, Valerie Zepeda and Michelle Martinez — accepted the championship trophy, the sure-handed Duarte holding it high. If you don’t want the trophy dropped, give it to your best defensive player.
“It was just a real fun year,” Candrea said.
“Fun to the point where I don’t want it to end. I’ve never had a team I enjoyed so darn much, because of their work ethic, because of their attitude, and because of their ability.
“When you put all three of those things together, you have a dream.”
The dream has come true.