Coming into its first Women’s College World Series since 1986, no one expected the Wildcats to make much noise. That changed Sunday afternoon, however, as Northwestern got back-to-back home runs from Tammy Williams and Garland Cooper in the eighth inning to down UCLA 3-1 and punch its ticket into the best-of-three championship series here in Oklahoma City.
“I’m speechless. This is amazing,” Northwestern head coach Kate Drohan said. “UCLA is the standard in college softball. They have so much tradition and so many weapons. My team felt that they didn’t need to beat that, but just the players on the field. It was exciting after our meeting last night because our team was excited to play UCLA in the Women’s College World Series. I was proud of the guts our team showed in the eighth. This is just such a great moment for us.”
The win by the Wildcats (50-13) puts a Big Ten team in the final for the second straight season. Last season, Michigan knocked off UCLA for the title in the first year of the three-game championship set. UCLA ends its season at 50-9 and short of the title game for the first time since 2002.
Williams took the first pitch of the eighth inning over the left field fence. The shot was her 14th of the season, tying her for the single-season school record. Cooper followed, and after taking a pair of balls, she hit her second round-tripper of the series in nearly the same vicinity as Williams’ previous blast. Eileen Canney retired the Bruins in order in the eighth to start the Purple and Black celebration.
“They just scored to tie the game,” Williams said. “I was trying to get a base hit since I knew Garland (Cooper) was behind me. I didn’t know I hit it out at first, but I watched it.”
“I didn’t want to be upstaged by a freshman,” Cooper joked. “Tammy came up big for us. I knew against a good team like UCLA that one run wouldn’t do it. Tammy’s home run was a tough act to follow.”
Canney struck out six and allowed a run on six hits as she upped her record to 26-7 on the year. Anjelica Selden finished the season 35-7 after allowing the three runs, all via home run, on nine hits with eight strikeouts.
“It was definitely an intense game,” Canney said. “It came down to who wanted it the most.”
Jamie Dotson opened the scoring in the second with a leadoff home run out right field that just cleared the fence for her fourth home run of the season.
Canney and the Wildcats’ defense made that run hold up as she retired 11 of the next 13 hitters she faced heading into the seventh.
Facing elimination, the Bruins weren’t done in the final frame of regulation. Jodie Legaspi led off with a double down the third base line. Lisa Dodd moved her to third with a sacrifice bunt, but Whitney Holum grounded out to third for the second out.
“I was proud of the way we competed today,” UCLA head coach Sue Enquist said. “We weren’t able to execute our game plan. It wasn’t UCLA’s day today.”
Kristen Dedmon pinch-hit as the last hope for the Bruins. The junior pinch-hit in the 2003 national title game and delivered the game-winning hit, and she came through again this season with a single to left that scored Legaspi with the tying run that forced the extra frame.