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Softball shows no mercy

By Brandon Johnson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday Feb. 25, 2002

Offensive explosion and an NCAA record highlight weekend for Arizona

The Arizona softball team isn't known for showing mercy to its opponents, and this weekend's Worth Wildcat Invitational was no exception.

Thanks to an offensive explosion that saw the Wildcats outscore their opponents 39-4, No. 3 Arizona picked up five victories - four of them via the mercy rule - to run their season record to 17-2.

As much of a story as the offense was though, the big news of the weekend happened yesterday in the pitching circle.

Arizona senior pitcher Jennie Finch shut out Cal State Northridge (10-9) to win her 51st consecutive game, breaking the NCAA all-time record of 50 set by Florida State's Rebecca Aase during the 1991-1993 seasons.

Finch (11-0), who isn't one to be concerned with personal records, said she is relieved the chase is finally over.

"I just want to come out and play," Finch said. "Every game you want to win, it doesn't matter what game (in the streak) it is.

Finch's teammates weren't about to let her down either, scoring six runs en route to a 6-0 victory over CSUN.

In the first inning, freshman left fielder Carrie Hagen reached base on a single to left.

After a single by Finch moved her to third, Hagen scored on sophomore first baseman Leneah Manuma's opposite-field single to right.

"I'm definitely not going up there thinking 'hit it out,'" Manuma said. "Some weekends the ball is huge and some weekends it's the size of a pea. But this weekend, it was huge."

The Wildcat bats came alive again in the third inning when Finch helped herself by hitting her seventh home run of the year.

Freshman third baseman Jackie Coburn capped off a stellar weekend on both sides of the game, hitting her fifth home run of the year in the fifth inning of yesterday's game.

Arizona head coach Mike Candrea said he was pleased with the offensive production from his team this weekend.

"I thought overall, we played very well this weekend," Candrea said. "I'm not complaining (about the offense); we just need to continue to keep getting better and doing the little things that we need to do."

In Saturday's nightcap against Northern Iowa (9-2), Arizona found itself in the unfamiliar position of trailing with Finch on the mound.

Panther freshman second baseman Tracy Davis took the first pitch she saw from Finch and deposited it into the left-field bleachers to give her team a 2-0 lead.

Arizona responded in the home half of the first though, scoring five runs and cementing the lead for Finch, who struck out nine and did not allow a hit after the home run.

Junior shortstop Lovie Jung got the Wildcats going in the first with a triple down the right-field line. After a walk to freshman left fielder Carrie Hagen, Finch singled to left, scoring Jung.

The Wildcats would load the bases for freshman right fielder Candace Abrams, who doubled to the gap in left center to score two more runs.

Manuma and Finch would add back-to-back home runs in the third inning to help Arizona on its way to a 12-2 victory in five innings.

In Saturday's first game Arizona beat Drake University (0-10) 12-2 behind a solid offensive performance from the middle part of the lineup.

Sophomore pitcher Jenny Gladding, Coburn and Abrams each hit a home run to help Arizona put away the Bulldogs.

Gladding (6-2) showed good control on the mound, walking just one batter for her fourth consecutive victory.

In Friday's second game, the Wildcats met up with San Jose State (6-10) and had no trouble putting away the Spartans 8-0 in five innings.

Sophomore catcher Mackenzie Vandergeest, the freshman UA record holder for home runs in a season, broke out of her home run drought, hitting her second of the year in the third inning.

Finch also hit a home run and struck out eight while Manuma hit two home runs of her own, including a rope that just missed breaking a window on the Ina E. Gittings building in right field.

In Friday's first game, Arizona blanked Eastern Michigan (2-4) 11-0 behind the solid pitching performance of Gladding.

Gladding allowed just two hits in five innings and Manuma hit a pair of home runs to lift Arizona to the victory.

Arizona remains at home for a Wednesday showdown with Eastern Michigan scheduled to get underway at 4 p.m. at Hillenbrand Stadium.


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