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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 7, 2007

Arizona No. 1 in softball

By Mike Griffith
Special to The Advertiser

Arizona pitcher Taryne Mowatt, center, holds the trophy after the Wildcats beat Tennessee, 5-0, for the NCAA softball title.

Associated Press photos

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Tennessee players, from left, Anita Manuma, Jennifer Griffin, Megan Rhodes, Tiffany Baker and India Chiles look on as Arizona celebrates winning the Women's College World Series softball championship.

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OKLAHOMA CITY Hawai'i's Liane Horiuchi and Anita Manuma wore the dried tears of a lost championship season in the aftermath of Arizona's 5-0 victory over Tennessee last night.

The Wildcats won the decisive game of the best-of-three championship series of the Women's College World Series to capture their second consecutive title and eighth over the past 17 years.

Lady Vols senior ace Monica Abbott (50-5) had given up just one run through the first five games, that coming on a controversial play at the plate in the bottom of the 10th in Tuesday's 1-0 Arizona win, before the Wildcats (50-14-1) exploded for five runs in the fifth inning last night.

Tennessee (63-8) stranded 14 runners in Tuesday's loss and 12 more last night against Arizona junior Taryne Mowatt (42-12), who was named the WCWS Most Outstanding Player after throwing eight complete games and 1,035 pitches in seven days.

"It was very disappointing, having all those opportunities and not capitalizing,'' said Horiuchi, a sophomore from Kamehameha Schools. "There were a lot of calls that didn't go our way, and that's unfortunate...(Tuesday) night's game was the key because we had been in control.''

Indeed, the Lady Vols had cruised since being taken to the limit by the University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine in Super Regional play, winning their first four games at WCWS without giving up a run.

Hawai'i scored 10 runs in its three-game series with Tennessee, leading UT coach Ralph Weekly to say that as much talent as Arizona has, Hawai'i's offense was comparable.

"No doubt, Arizona and Hawai'i were the two best offenses we saw in the (NCAA) tournament,'' Weekly said. "Hawai'i was the most powerful team we saw in the postseason. Their ability to hit the long ball was unparalleled.''

Arizona's five-run surge against Abbott in the fifth inning included a two-RBI single by Jenae Leles and a three-run homer by Chelsie Mesa that was aided by a 30 mph wind at Hall of Fame Stadium.

It was the first home run given up by Abbott since Hawai'i's Brandi Peiler hit a solo shot to give the Rainbow Wahine a 1-0 lead in the second inning of the third and decisive game of the Knoxville Super Regional on May 26.

Manuma, a freshman from Campbell High School, said she'll always remember the series with Hawai'i, and that her WCWS experience will prove invaluable in the future.

"It was very tense, and I was nervous,'' said Manuma, who grounded out in the second inning last night in a pinch-hitting role. "But I knew the reason I was in there was because Ralph and Karen (Weekly) believed in me.

"That Hawai'i series, with all of us praying after the game and the leis being presented, was just so special.''

Horiuchi and Manuma said they see more big things in their future, even though Tennessee will lose Abbott, the NCAA all-time strikeout leader.

"Not coming to UT in the fall hurt me, but now I have a chance to come back and start all over,'' said Manuma, who enrolled in December. "We'll learn from this experience.''

Horiuchi, who established herself as one of the nation's best shortstops by committing just one error in 71 games, said she's not ruling out what would be the Lady Vols' fourth consecutive trip to the WCWS next season.

"There's nobody like Monica Abbott,'' Horiuchi said. "But I still think we'll have a great ball club and will contend.''