OKLAHOMA CITY -- Texas' finished tied for third at the Women's College World Series and saw its season come to end Sunday night after losing a 3-0 decision to UCLA in an elimination game at the WCWS at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. After defeating third-seeded Arizona, 1-0 in 11 innings earlier in the day to advance to the semifinal game, fourth-seeded Texas (49-13) dropped its first game of the season to the seventh-seeded Bruins (39-18) after entering the game 2-0 against UCLA this year.
The loss signified the second third-place showing at the national championship event in the last three years for Texas and culminated the program's third trip to the WCWS in the nine-year history of the program. Moreover, Texas has participated in three WCWS in six total appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Texas, the Big 12 Tournament champions, was the only Big 12 team in the event, and defeated two top-10 teams at the WCWS this season. UT opened with a 3-0 victory over No. 8 Alabama before defeating third-ranked Arizona on Sunday afternoon. The Longhorns losses were to No. 1 Michigan (4-0) and 12th-ranked UCLA.
UCLA advanced to its third-straight championship round and awaits the winner of the Tennessee-Michigan match-up. Tennessee needs to defeat Michigan twice to advance to the championship series, while Michigan needs just one win to move into the best-of-three finale.
"At the start of the season, you say you just want to make it to the World Series and any time you make it this far, you've had a successful season," Texas head coach Connie Clark said. "Once you get this far, any one of the eight teams here has a chance to win it all and you can't be ashamed if you don't come away with the title. We had an excellent season and we're not going to let this result tonight take anything away from that fact. I'm proud of all of our players. We had an up and down season and we stayed together and fought through it all. We believed in each other and that faith in one another led us back to Oklahoma City."
ULCA scored all the runs it would need in the first inning when the Bruins jumped on the board with three runs, two of which were unearned. Texas starter Meagan Denny (Crowley, Texas) walked lead-off batter Andrea Duran, but she was erased on the base paths by Tara Henry's fielder's choice. After a foul fly out, Denny walked Emily Zaplatosch before Jodi Legaspi brought in Henry on a single to left field. Kristen Dedmon - who entered the game with six strikeouts in six official at-bats against Texas this season - then reached on an error, allowing Zaplatosch to score. Krista Colburn followed with a single to bring in Legaspi and push the score to 3-0. After that, Denny was lifted in favor of Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas) who induced a fielder's choice to get Colburn at second for the final out of the inning.
Osterman, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, retired all 16 batters she faced, throwing 5.1 innings of perfect relief with six strikeouts in the no decision. Denny (10-3) ended her freshman campaign after an 0.2-inning appearance that included three runs (one earned) on two hits with two walks in the loss.
Earlier in the day, Osterman tossed an 11-inning complete game shutout against No. 3 seed Arizona in an elimination game of the WCWS. She threw 178 pitches in that game - racking up 19 strikeouts - with approximately two-and-a-half hours of rest between games.
Right off the start of the game, Texas had a scoring threat in the top of the first. Tina Boutelle (Katy, Texas) had a one-out single and Desiree Williams (Tucson, Ariz.) added a two-out single two batters later. However, after a passed ball advanced both runners into scoring position, Megan Willis (Chandler, Ariz.) grounded out to third to end the inning and keep the Horns scoreless.
After Williams' hit, UCLA starter Anjelica Selden retired the next 13 batters before Jacyln Daniels (Sanger, Texas) and Boutelle reached on back-to-back errors in the sixth inning and were able to move to second and third with one out. Selden, however struck out Chez Sievers (Mission Viejo, Calif.) and Williams in consecutive at-bats to end the inning and the threat.
Selden (28-12) threw the complete game shutout, allowing two hits with 12 strikeouts with no walks in the victory.
With the end of the season, Texas saw the careers of seven seniors come to an end at the Forty Acres. Amy Bradford (Lufkin, Texas), Alexis Garcia (Covina, Calif.), Melanie Jarrett (Odessa, Texas), Lacy Robinson (Highlands, Texas), Lizi Sowers (Georgetown, Texas) and Wynter Turner (San Pedro, Calif.) closed their careers with two trips to the Women's College World Series, three Big 12 Tournament championship, two Big 12 regular-season titles and recorded the program's best four-year record and winning percentage. The class also saw Texas reach its highest pre-season, in-season and final rankings, and was the first class to be picked to win the Big 12 title in the preseason.
For the Longhorns, 2006's success already appears bright as six of the eight regular field starters return as well as 12 letterwinners. Osterman will begin the season just five strikeout shy of second place all-time on the NCAA career strikeout record and 128 short of the record (1,773) and is also scratching at several other NCAA records. Sievers and Boutelle will both have one last season to break several school records, while younger players like Williams, Megan Willis (Chandler, Ariz.) and MicKayla Padilla (Cedar Park, Texas) will have another year of experience under their belts to help bolster the program.
· UCLA advances to the WCWS final for the 17th time in its 21 trips to the WCWS. The Bruins have won 12 straight WCWS games, a World Series record (the previous record was 10 held by UCLA from 1988-1990). The Bruins, two-time defending NCAA champions, will look to win three consecutive titles for the second time in school history. UCLA also did it in 1988, 1989 and 1990 (no other program has won three straight WCWS crowns). UCLA will be aiming for its 12th NCAA softball title.
· Texas was eliminated from the WCWS and finished the year with a record of 49-13. The Longhorns leave the World Series with record of 4-6 in three overall appearances. This marked the second trip in a row UT posted a 2-2 mark at the WCWS (its last appearance was in 2003).
· Nine of the Longhorns' 12 losses this season have been shutouts.
· UT's Tina Boutelle collected her ninth hit in eight postseason games. She recorded a hit in all but one NCAA postseason game this year.
· In the all-time series between both teams, UCLA leads 7-2, but Texas leads the 2005 series by a count of 2-1. In the three games played between both teams at the WCWS, UCLA has eliminated the Longhorns all three times.
· Texas dropped to 5-4 on the season when committing multiple errors and also fell to 6-11 when the opponent scores first. The two errors committed by the Longhorns were their first in this year's WCWS. In addition, the Bruins extended their record to 8-3 this year when committing two errors and won their first game when being held to three or fewer hits (they had two).
· With six strikeouts, Texas' Cat Osterman moved into second place in the NCAA record books for strikeouts in a single season (593). Tennessee's Monica Abbott is also battling for the spot and currently has fanned 590 batters with her team still alive in the WCWS. The all-time NCAA leader for strikeouts in a season is Courtney Blades (Southern Mississippi in 2000) with 663.
· Osterman is closing in on the NCAA career strikeout record. The junior trails second place (1,640) by five strikeouts and only needs 138 K's to tie Blades' record of 1,773.
· With 12 strikeouts in tonight's contest, UCLA freshman pitcher Anjelica Selden moved into a tie for 16th place on the NCAA's single-season strikeouts list (451). She shares the honor with former Oklahoma State lefty Lauren Bay.
· Osterman made her ninth relief appearance this season and was perfect, retiring 16 straight batters after entering the game with two outs in the first inning.
· Senior first baseman Alexis Garcia is the only Texas player to not record a hit against UCLA this season (she was 0-for-7).
· After giving up two hits to Texas' first four batters of the game, UCLA's Selden rebounded to retire 13 straight Longhorn hitters. Texas' Jaclyn Daniels broke the string when she reached on a shortstop error in the top of the sixth inning. Selden also recorded her 25th game this season with 10 or more strikeouts.
UCLA POSTGAME QUOTES
HEAD COACH SUE ENQUIST
General comment: I'm proud of how we saw the situation when we came into this game, and we capitalized on our opportunities. I thought Anjelica (Selden) was terrific in remaining poised throughout the game. It was a collective effort today. I tip my cap to the University of Texas. They're a tremendous team. We're just very fortunate that we were able to capitalize early, and that was enough for us.
On getting on the board early: When we saw they had given (Meagan) Denny the nod, it was really a matter of remaining poised offensively. I think the team sensed a possible opportunity. I really appreciate how the team went out there and didn't get too big like we did early in the year when we faced Denny. I like how we capitalized on the opportunity.
On the team's maturation this season: Seven of our 10 starters are underclassmen, so there was a learning curve involved. That was the first factor. The second one doesn't really get talked about too much, but we have the toughest schedule in the country. We're No. 1 in strength of schedule.
We're not going to play a game where we have a ton of RBIs and a ton of home runs. We're going to go out there and play a hard schedule. We're going to learn what we're not and grow from it. This team has been very unselfish, and because of that, we've learned from our mistakes.
FRESHMAN ANJELICA SELDEN
On playing in the championship series: I'm still shocked because this is my first year. It's overwhelming to me because I came in willing to learn and not really expecting a whole lot from myself. I came in with doubt. But I'm just really excited for the championship game and being able to go out there and play with my team that has come a long way this whole season. We've been through so much struggle, and we didn't have the best season. But our team really deserves to be here considering how much we've been through.
SOPHOMORE JODIE LEGASPI
On getting on the board early: It was important because in tournaments like this, when opportunities are few, you have to take advantage of any opportunity you can get.
TEXAS POSTGAME QUOTES
HEAD COACH Connie Clark
General comment: It's always difficult to be finished. I thought we had a great season. I thought we battled well. I saw some great things with the team. I think Cat (Osterman) had a tremendous year. We really rode on her coattails all the way through. I think we did that at this tournament as well. It's disappointing, but hindsight 20-20, we recruited Meagan Denny to be in the position to help us and not have it be just where we ride Cat. I think she's capable of it - if we did it again tomorrow I would do the same thing. We just didn't quite get the outcome we wanted. We had chances and an opportunity, obviously, in that sixth inning and didn't quite push them across. I'm very proud of the team. I thought we battled very well and had a great, gritty performance this afternoon and followed up with a tough loss tonight. But another great performance.
On going with Meagan Denny as the starting pitcher: Obviously, I was happy that we got Cat through 11 (innings) earlier today. I mean, I really saw the fatigue setting in. She gave us a great performance. You know, we talked a little bit. That was the game plan. Again, Meagan Denny faced UCLA earlier in the year and did some very good things. I don't feel like we needed a quicker hook. It was early. We had an unfortunate error there. You have younger pitchers, younger athletes in those positions and you want to see them grow through that. I think Meagan Denny reached that and probably grew a lot in the time that she was out there. I would go back and do it again.
On her team's lack of run production: It always is disappointing. You want to hit on all cylinders. Yes, I would have liked to put up more runs, because I think our defense and our pitching are giving us everything they can. You want to try to stay in a mindset where you stay positive and you don't get overly focused or allow yourself to let down offensively. The team worked hard with it. We tried to make some adjustments. It's something that I would have liked to have seen it be better, obviously. I think you always want to be hot offensively. We didn't get it done.
JUNIOR CAT OSTERMAN
On how she felt about her performance after pitching 11 innings earlier: Obviously, I was a little tired - I'm not going to lie. You play 11 innings in the heat and it's not easy. I was getting a little tired toward the end of that Arizona game, but I was just trying to gut it out. Coach and I had a talk and I was right there in agreement. Meagan's fresh and Meagan has had decent outings as of late, so I thought it was a good decision as well. I told her I would be ready whenever she called on me. I didn't think I would go out there as strong as I did today in the last game, but I just gutted it out.
On if she got a second wind: I guess you could call it a second wind. I literally went out in the first inning and I told Coach on the way over here I threw about 12 pitches and looked at our manager and said, 'You know what, I feel good.' I honestly think the little break we had served me well. We iced up, I got rubbed out and got my legs worked on. Those were what were dying at the end of the Arizona game. I went out and felt really good.