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Monday April 23, 2001

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Wildcats take over 1st in Pac-10

Headline Photo

By Brett Erickson

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona sets NCAA home run record, sweeps 3 games from Bay Area teams

The Arizona softball team set a new NCAA record for home runs in a season Friday against Stanford.

More important, the No. 2 Wildcats swept three games from the third-ranked Cardinal and No. 4 California to move into first place in the Pacific-10 Conference.

In yesterday's doubleheader against Cal, senior Becky Lemke and junior Jennie Finch tossed five-hit complete games as Arizona (46-4 overall, 8-2 Pac-10) won a pair of 2-1 games.

Friday, senior Lauren Bauer's three-run homer in the fourth inning was the 101st on the season for the Wildcats, eclipsing the old record of 100 set by the 1995 team.

Freshman Mackenzie Vandergeest tied the record with a three-run blast in the second inning.

Arizona won the game 7-0 to take over first place in the conference from the Cardinal.

Even with the home run record, the Wildcats were more pleased about winning key Pac-10 games against the Bay Area teams.

"It was really good to sweep this weekend - it's good to sweep any weekend," senior third baseman Toni Mascarenas said.

Yesterday's first game began Saturday night, but was suspended with two outs in Arizona's half of the first inning due to heavy rain.

As was the case last weekend against Arizona State, the Wildcats had to rally in the final inning to force extra innings against the Bears (45-8, 4-7).

Lemke coasted for most of the game - giving up five hits in eight innings - but surrendered a solo homer to Cal's Jen Deering with two outs in the top of the seventh to break open a scoreless tie.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, UA's Finch doubled to left. After senior Lindsey Collins struck out, freshman Mackenzie Vandergeest delivered a two-out single to left field to tie the game.

Finch was originally called out at home, but was ruled safe because of fielder interference on Cal third baseman Candace Harper.

Bauer scored the winning run in the eighth inning on a one-out sacrifice fly by Mascarenas to shallow center field.

"When I first hit it I got mad because I didn't think I hit it far enough," Mascarenas said.

Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said he told Bauer to be ready to tag up on any fly ball out of the infield.

"I've got my quickest kid on third, and in a game like that, you're not going to have a lot of opportunities so you take advantage of them," Candrea said.

Lemke, who finished with nine strikeouts, needs seven more to eclipse former UA All-American Susie Parra's career record of 874. Lemke is also two wins shy of becoming the fourth pitcher in UA history to reach the 100-win mark.

She is 14-2 on the season and 98-19 in her career.

In the second game yesterday, Finch upped her record to 20-0 by striking out nine batters, including the final three she faced to preserve the 2-1 win. Bauer and Mascarenas scored the Wildcats' runs after walking to lead off the first and third innings, respectively.

Mascarenas singled home Bauer in the first, and then scored in the third inning when Cal second baseman Eryn Manahan couldn't handle a line drive off Finch's bat.

Finch also earned the win in Friday's game against Stanford (42-6-1, 9-3) while matching her career-high with 14 strike outs.

Arizona had just three hits in the contest, but Bauer and Vandergeest's three-run homers were enough for the 7-0 shutout.

Finch also won two games last week against No. 14 Fresno State and has six victories in the past 10 days. She leads the nation with a 0.28 ERA and has yet to allow an earned run in 41 innings of Pac-10 play.

The Wildcats travel to Tempe Wednesday for a game against No. 8 Arizona State. Arizona beat the Sun Devils twice last weekend, 3-0 (11 innings) and 4-3 (nine innings).