Dynamite Diamonds

The UA Women's Softball Team Is Headed For Another Championship.

What a weekend it was! The UA women's softball team cruised into their 13th consecutive College Softball World Series by outscoring their opponents, 36-0, in four games in the Regional Tournament at Hillenbrand Stadium over the weekend. This sent a shudder through the softball world, which earlier this year had come to the mistaken conclusion that Arizona had been reduced to using humans like all the other teams. The word was that the secret government facility in Sonoita which had been churning out Jenny Dalton androids and Laura Espinosa cyborgs had been a victim of budget cuts.

I'm tellin' you: never believe what you hear on The Drudge Report. He had that cigar thing right and hasn't been right since. The Sonoita facility is still going strong and is reportedly diversifying.

Actually, it looks like the Jennie Finch model (#99-AZ1022-K) is already fully operational. Her no-hitter on Sunday against Nebraska sent the Cats on to Oklahoma City, where they will seek their sixth national championship.

It's sometimes hard to appreciate things as they are happening, but folks, please take notice. As Carly sang, these are the good old days. Twenty, 50, 100 years from now, people will look back at this program in awe and wonder. True, it first tasted success in the early years of softball's buildup, but softball is here now--nationally and internationally--and Arizona hasn't missed a step.

Believe it or not, as recently as three weeks ago, this year's team was considered sub-par. They were 44-7, not in first place in the brutal Pac-10, and in danger of not hosting a Regional. All they did was put together a blistering 13-game win streak, giving them some serious mo' heading into the World Series.

The key game of the year was on May 6, when they came back to beat rival UCLA after trailing 9-1. Overcoming an eight-run lead in major-college softball is almost without parallel in sports. It would be like if a major-league baseball team would come back from being down 20-0. No, that's no good. With the juiced baseball and steroids (I'm sorry; adrostinedione, potato, puh-tah-to) everywhere, Mark McGwire could do that by himself in a couple innings.

Maybe it would be like if a visiting side were to battle back from a nil-nil handcuffing on a sweltery pitch. No, nobody understands that.

Hey, I've got it! It would be like if the UA football team had found itself trailing Oregon by three at Arizona Stadium with only 10 minutes left in the third quarter and somehow found a way to come back and win! Yeah, that's it!

The Cats will be looking to get back to the title game. Last year they failed to reach the championship game after having played in seven straight from 1992-98. Including Arizona, half of the Series' eight-team field will be Pac-10 teams. In fact, all eight Pac-10 teams made the Regionals. (Washington State and, quite mysteriously, USC don't play softball.) Four made the Series and two others came within one game of joining them.

One last note on the games at Hillenbrand. Nebraska emerged as the Cats' main competition, led by former Flowing Wells High pitcher Leigh Ann Walker. Somehow, the Huskers' record was 52-21! That's 73 games. Arizona is 57-7 (that's 64 games, for those of you who are complaining about the AIMS test.)

How in the world can a team in Nebraska get in 73 softball games?! First they have to wait for the snow to go away. Then they have to wait for the ground to thaw. Then they have to watch for the freak, late-winter, early-spring blizzards. Then they have to stand at attention for a week while the entire state comes to a halt during spring football. Then come the tornadoes.

They probably start their season in mid-April and play fourple-headers every day.

WHILE THE UA women were kickin' Husker heinie, over on the other side of the campus, the UA men's baseball team was getting embarrassed by Arizona State. The Devils took two out of three in the series and five of six on the year to erase the last fading images of what used to be a rivalry.

Yesterday's score was 24-10. One might mistake that for a football score if it weren't for the fact that there's no way a Cat kicker could hit a field goal. (There's always the chance that Arizona could have a safety, a touchdown, and then go for two, but their record on two-point attempts makes that a long shot, as well.)

ASU outscored the Cats like a bajillion to 12 in the series, leading me to conclude that college baseball has pretty much ceased to exist as a viable enterprise. And not just because the Cats are struggling. The juiced ball and aluminum bats have reduced the game to sideshow status.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, major leaguers hit an all-time record six grand slams on Sunday and came within one of the all-time record for home runs hit in a day. That record of 58 was set way back in August of 1999. There will be a special place in hell for whoever decided to juice the ball to spur interest in the game.

It's like those Budget Rent-A-Car commercials where the people brainstorm on how to improve service, then come up with ideas like jet-packs designed to get the customer to the lot faster, but instead they fly into high-power lines.

What is happening is a temporary increase in the interest by casual observers at the expense of hard-core fans. Bad, bad idea.

Tom Danehy joins Emil Franzi on Inside Track every Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. on KTKT, 990-AM.

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