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Tradition of National Championships

Arizona has developed under coach Mike Candrea into a top collegiate softball program in the 1990s -- the Wildcats have been in the College World Series title game for seven consecutive seasons and won NCAA Championships in 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997. And UA has made 10 consecutive trips to the World Series.

Among national athletic programs, that kind of success puts Wildcat Softball in elite status. Only two teams -- Arizona and UCLA -- have won consecutive national championships in softball.

Only four teams ever have won the championship at all, and Arizona has been steadily closing the gap in the overall NCAA title standings -- UCLA (8), Arizona (5), Texas A&M (2) and Cal State-Fullerton (1).

It takes consistency to get to that kind of performance level and the Wildcats have achieved that, with the decade of consecutive appearances in the national finals to give them a chance at the NCAA crown.

The Cats have been in the NCAA tournament 11 years in the playoffs' 16-year history since softball became a Division I championship sport in 1982.

1991 NCAA Championship

Arizona wins its first women's team national championship in any sport. Pitching (Debby Day 30-8, 0.50; Susie Parra 14-3, 0.43; Julie Jones 12-5, 1.21) and defense (.970 team fielding percentage, Julie Standering 187 assists at shortstop) were keys to the season. The Cats also stole 119 bases. Jones (.350), Jamie Heggen (.330), Kristin Gauthier (.300), Standering (.296) and Jody Miller (.272) had outstanding seasons at the plate.

The Cats beat No. 1-ranked UCLA twice at the College World Series to earn the championship, including a 5-1 victory in the title game. UA had four extra-inning games in the classic. The Cats used short-game tactics much of the year and were led by Standering with 30 and Miller with 20 stolen bases.

Arizona finished the year 56-16 overall. The Cats were frustrated in the tough Pac-10 Conference at 11-9 and a fourth-place finish. 1991 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher) Arizona 1, No. 5 UNLV 0, 13 innings (Day) Arizona 1, No. 1 UCLA 0, 9 innings (Day) Arizona 1, No. 18 Long Beach State 0, 8 innings (Day) No. 2 Fresno State 1, Arizona 0, 8 innings (Carpenter) Arizona 5, No. 1 UCLA 0 (Day)

1991 Arizona All-CWS picks:
Julie Jones, 1b
Julie Standering, ss
Kristin Gauthier, of
Debby Day, p

1991 Arizona All-Americans
Julie Standering, ss
Julie Jones, 1b, 2nd team
Debby Day, p, 3rd team

1993 NCAA Championship

The Wildcats do not successfully defend their first conference championship (16-2 in 1992), yet again come through with a solid post-season run to win the bigger title.

The power-hitting Wildcats win the NCAA home run title with 36 roundtrippers in their 52 games, and run production leads the way to a 44-8 season and a 15-3 record for second place in the Pac-10. Pitching was not a problem either, as junior Susie Parra sparkled with a 28-3 record, 3 saves and an outstanding earned run average of 0.63. Freshman Leah O'Brien added a 16-5 mark. Catcher Jody (Miller) Pruitt held opponents to 6 stolen bases, the Cats hit a then school-record .328 as a team. Sophomore Laura Espinoza hit the scene in a big way with 12 home runs and Amy Chellevold led a solid group of hitters with a .379 batting average.

The Cats opened the year 22-2 to earn the school's first No. 1 ranking and Arizona later proved it was an accurate peg with an NCAA title-game victory over another No. 1-ranked team, UCLA.

1993 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher):
Arizona 6, No. 7 Long Beach St. 0 (Parra)
Arizona 2, No. 8 SW Louisiana 1, 10 innings (Parra)
Arizona 1, No. 4 Oklahoma St. 0, 9 innings (Parra)
No. 8 SW La. 1, Arizona 0, 8 innings, (Hall)
Arizona 1, No. 1 UCLA 0 (Parra)

1993 Arizona All-CWS picks:
Susie Parra, p
Amy Chellevold, 1b
Stacy Redondo, of
Krista Gomez, 2b
Jody Pruitt, c

1993 Arizona All-Americans:
Susie Parra, p
Jamie Heggen, of
Laura Espinoza, ss, 2nd team
Amy Chellevold, 1b, 2nd team
Jody Pruitt, c, 2nd team

1994 NCAA Championship

The Cats 'chuck-and-duck' hitting attack displays one of the most awesome punches in the history of the college game. The Cats sock their way to an NCAA-record 64 victories (against 3 losses), start the year with a school-record 27-game winning streak and end the campaign undefeated (7-0) in post-season play for the first time.

Along the way, Arizona blasts 93 home runs, led by junior shortstop Laura Espinoza's jersey-number feat (30), 18 by freshman catcher Leah Braatz, 16 by soph second baseman Jenny Dalton and 14 by senior Susie Parra, who capped a remarkable career with National Player of the Years honors by winning the Honda Softball Award. Parra dominated from the pitching circle, completing a 33-1 season. She did not allow an earned run in three CWS victories, plus struck out 13 in the NCAA title game. She threw the seventh and eighth no-hitters of her career.

Junior first baseman Amy Chellevold hit .504 in the leadoff spot and soph center fielder Leah O'Brien .416 batting second. Dalton hit .434. Arizona set a national record with its .380 team batting average. Espinoza knocked in an incredible 95 runs in 66 games. Freshmen pitchers Nancy Evans and Carrie Dolan made marks with 17-0 and 11-2 records.

1994 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher):
Arizona 8, No. 19 Illinois-Chicago 0, 5 innings (Evans)
Arizona 3, No. 6 Fresno St. 0 (Parra)
Arizona 5, No. 5 UCLA 2 (Parra)
Arizona 4, No. 3 CS-Northridge 0 (Parra)

1994 Arizona All-CWS picks:
Susie Parra, p; Leah Braatz, c; Amy Chellevold, 1b;
Jenny Dalton, 2b; Leah O'Brien, of

1994 Arizona All-Americans:
Leah Braatz, c; Amy Chellevold, 1b; Jenny Dalton, 2b;
Laura Espinoza, ss; Leah O'Brien, of; Susie Parra, p

1996 National Championship

For the second time, Arizona followed a season (1992 and 1995) in which it won the Pac-10 title but finished as runnerup in the College World Series... with a second-place finish in the league, but the NCAA title. Decent trade.

Arizona got hot when it counted, ending the season with a 17-game winning streak. There were numerous keys -- everyone on the team. Pinch-runners scored runs, pinch-hitters got hits, pitchers battled whether ahead or behind, and Arizona once again put an awesome offensive attack on the field.

Jenny Dalton won the Pac-10 Triple Crown, the first player to do so, with a .469 batting average, 25 home runs and an incredible 109 RBI. Leticia Pineda, put in the everyday catching role because of Leah Braatz' redshirt season, hit 14 homers and drove in 96, plus batted .404. Carrie Dolan, carrying most of the pitching load because of Nancy Evans' medical hardship season, won a school-record 35 games against six losses, but freshman Lisa Pitt also came through with a dandy 19-3 record, too.

Outfielder Alison Johnsen put herself at the next level with a 94-hit seeason and a .450 batting average. Third baseman Krista Gomez hit .400 and finished with the fourth-best career batting average in UA history, .358, plus hit the career charts in hits, RBI, runs and stolen bases, among others. Arizona played in a regional out of the state for the first time, but used it to pull together, and hit the road for 11 days to bring back the trophy.

1996 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher):
Arizona 5, Iowa 2 (Pitt)
Arizona 4, UCLA 0 (Dolan)
Arizona 10, Iowa 2, 6 innings (Pitt)
Arizona 6, Washington 4 (Dolan)

1996 Arizona All-CWS Picks:
Jenny Dalton, 2b, Most Valuable Player
Alison Johnsen, of
Krista Gomez, at-large
Carrie Dolan, p
Michelle Churnock, at-large

1996 Arizona All-Americans
Jenny Dalton, 2b; National Player of the Year
Leticia Pineda, c
Alison Johnsen, of
Carrie Dolan, p, 2nd team
Krista Gomez, 3b, 2nd team
Brandi Shriver, of, 2nd team

1997 National Championship

Arizona was ranked No. 1 much of the season and just decided to stay on top, completing a remarkable 61-5 season with its fifth NCAA Championship and second back-to-back effort.

Effort paved the way, but talent helped. UA again was represented by five first- team All-Americans as selected by the nation's coaches -- pitcher Nancy Evans, catcher Leah Braatz, first baseman Leah O'Brien, third baseman Leticia Pineda and outfielder Alison Johnsen.

But individual honors were the gravy alone as the Cats stayed locked on target throughout a focused season playing for all the marbles. Integrating a number of young players with championship veterans, coach Mike Candrea kept his team playing hard the whole year. Hard enough for a 26-1 finish and Pac-10 Championship; hard enough for a 27-4 mark against ranked teams.

Johnsen set a lot of tone in the regular season, finishing with a Uarecord .534 batting average and an NCAA-record 132 hits. O'Brien capped a remarkable career by using her talent at its best when all the chips were on the table: she collected 9 hits and 6 RBI in the College World Series and finished her CWS career with an incredible total of 31 hits and 19 RBI in four different classics.

Evans, with an Arizona-record 36 pitching victories, also saved some best for last. She threw all five Arizona games at the World Series and finished the year with verve as UA topped UCLA 10-2 in a runaway title game.

1997 CWS Scores (Winning Pitcher)
Arizona 2, Massachusetts 1
Arizona 2, No. 5 UCLA 0 (Evans)
No. 4 Fresno State 3, Arizona 0 (Scott)
Arizona 6, No. 4 Fresno State 3 (Evans)
Arizona 10, No. 5 UCLA 2 (Evans)

1997 Arizona All-CWS Picks:
Nancy Evans, p, - Most Valuable Player
Leah O'Brien, 1b
Alison Johnsen, of

1997 Arizona All-Americans
Nancy Evans, p
Leah Braatz, c
Leah O'Brien, 1b
Alison Johnsen, Pac-10 Player of the Year
Leticia Pineda, 3b

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