May 30, 2004
OKLAHOMA CITY - It took 12 innings and nearly four hours, but the defending NCAA Champion UCLA softball team (46-9) advanced to its fifth NCAA Championship appearance in a six-year span with a 3-1 victory over Stanford on Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City. Caitlin Benyi opened the game with a lead-off home run and Lisa Dodd provided an RBI double to score Benyi in the top of the 12th inning to put UCLA in Monday's NCAA Championship game. The game will be televised live by ESPN at 5 pm Pacific Time on Monday evening.
For the seventh time this season, Caitlin Benyi opened the game with a lead-off home run. This time, she took a 1-0 pitch over the left field fence to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. Claire Sua came within inches of a second solo home run in the inning, but a great over-the-fence catch by Stanford center fielder Catalina Morris ended the inning, bringing the Cardinal to bat.
Stanford countered in the bottom half of the frame as Morris posted a one-out single, went to second on a ground out by Lauren Lappin and came around to score on a single down the left field line by Jessica Allister to tie the game at 1-1.
In the top of the second inning, the Bruins loaded the bases on a lead-off walk by Stephanie Ramos and single by Jodie Legaspi. Emily Zaplatosch then put down a sacrifice bunt that was mishandled at first base to load the bases. Ashley Herrera was next up and grounded into a fielders choice. Julie Hoshizaki then stepped in and placed a hit into shallow right field. Legaspi was thrown out at the plate on the force out, but Zaplatosch became caught in a rundown between second and third base to end the inning and the UCLA threat.
In the fifth, the Cardinal rallied with a one-out single by Morris, followed by a sacrifice bunt attempt by Lappin. A Claire Sua error allowed Lappin to reach safely, giving the Cardinal runners on first and second with one out. Jessica Allister then singled into shallow center field. The ball was fielded by UCLA center fielder Stephanie Ramos, who gunned a throw to the plate. Sua cut the throw and fired to Andrea Duran at third base, getting Morris out for the second out of the inning. Leah Nelson then grounded out to end the inning, keeping the score tied at 1-1.
In the top of the seventh, Jodie Legaspi led off with a double for the Bruins and was sacrificed to third by Emily Zaplatosch. Unfortunately, Ashley Herrera and pinch-hitter Alissa Eno both struck out to end the inning and send the game to the bottom of the seventh still tied at 1-1.
Stanford countered with a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh by Jackie Rinehart. A fielders choice by Morris had Rinehart out at second base, leaving Lappin to ground out to end the inning, sending the game into extra innings.
UCLA would load the bases in the top of the ninth inning as Claire Sua opened the inning with a rope single through the left side of the Stanford infield before being replaced by pinch runner Tara Henry. Henry went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Stephanie Ramos before Jodie Legaspi walked. Emily Zaplatosch flied out before pinch-hitter Michelle Turner walked to load the bases for Julie Hoshizaki, who struck out to end the inning.
After Stanford went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, the Bruins tried to rally yet again. Andrea Duran posted a one-out double and went to third on a fly ball to deep right field hit by Zaplatosch. After Claire Sua was pitched around, Ramos struck out to end the inning and send the game to the bottom of the 10th inning.
Stanford took the initiative with the top of their order in the top of the 10th, as Rinehart and Morris started the inning with consecutive singles. After Lauren Lappin sacrificed the pair to second and third, Jessica Allister was intentionally walked to load the bases for Leah Nelson. Nelson grounded to Benyi at second base, and the second out of the inning was recorded on a fielders choice at the plate and Elizabeth Bendig grounded out to end the inning.
UCLA posted a run in the top of the 12th inning to take a 2-1 lead. Caitlin Benyi drew a two-out full-count walk and was sacrificed to second by Duran. An RBI double by Lisa Dodd provided an RBI, and an insurance run came across on a double by Ramos, scoring Dodd to give UCLA a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom half of the 12th, Keira Goerl recorded her fifth and sixth strikeouts of the game to open the inning and threw out Lauren Lappin at first base to end the inning and give UCLA the win.
The Bruins will play in their 17th NCAA Championship game on Monday evening. UCLA won its ninth NCAA Championship one year ago with a 1-0 nine-inning victory over California on Championship Monday. UCLA has played in the NCAA Championship Game in five of the last six years with losses in 2000 (Oklahoma) and 2001 (Arizona) and wins in 1999 (over Washington, 3-2) and in 2003 (over California, 1-0 in nine innings).
The game will be televised live on ESPN at 8 pm Eastern Time (5 pm PT). It is the first time that the NCAA Softball Championship Game will be played in "Prime Time."