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Cathi Aradi

Findlay Home Run Leads Michigan to First National Title

Samantha Findlay's three-run home run in the 10th inning gave Michigan a 4-1 win over UCLA for the school's first softball national title. 

The win for Michigan clinched the best-of-three series in the final game, and it snapped the Bruins' quest for a third straight national title. The game was the sixth championship game that went into extra innings, with the Bruins being apart of five and dropping their first. 

With one away in the 10th, Tiffany Haas reached on a ball that was booted by UCLA shortstop Jodie Legaspi. Alessandra Giampaolo followed with a single. After Jessica Merchant struck out for the second out, Findlay, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, launched a 1-1 offering over the left field wall for the deciding runs. 

"It was great for the team," Findlay said. "I'm proud to be on this team (Michigan). I tried to keep my head down. I looked up when I started running to first, and that's when I saw the ball was gone." 

Findlay finished a triple short of the cycle as she went 3-for-5 with four RBIs. For the tournament she hit .353 (6-for-17) with two doubles, a home run, a run scored and four RBIs. 

The big rally for Michigan came just a half inning after the Bruins had the winning run just 60 feet away from the plate. Kristen Dedmon led off with a double that deflected off the glove of a diving Giampaolo. Krista Colburn moved her to third with a sacrifice, and Lisa Dodd walked. With two away, Andrea Duran was intentionally walked, and Ritter got Tara Henry to ground out to Grace Leutele at third to end the threat. 

"The thing I'm most proud of is that this team went on a journey together, and that's why we're here tonight," UCLA head coach Sue Enquist said. "I have to congratulate Michigan. Their players and coaching staff did a nice job. I will go ahead and say that it is good for the game of softball for someone other than UCLA to win the title. I like the best-of-three format because it provides even more drama. 

"It was a game that either team could have won," Enquist added. "We wanted to come out and show that we belonged on that field, and I think we did that." 

After giving up an early run in the second, Ritter fought back and picked up the win as she gave up just five hits and a run with four strikeouts. For the tournament she threw 711 pitches, with 182 coming in the championship series. 

Ritter went 5-2 for the WCWS, giving up 11 runs, seven earned, on 26 hits while compiling a 0.92 ERA with 60 strikeouts. UCLA's Anjelica Selden was solid as well, compiling a 4-2 record behind a 0.78 ERA and 59 strikeouts. 

"I didn't think I had great stuff tonight," Ritter said. "I knew I wasn't at 100 percent, but I knew that I had my defense behind me. The coaches told us to leave it on the field and grind it out." 

Until the sixth inning, it seemed that a Lisa Dodd solo home run in the bottom of the second would be all Selden would need in the game. Michigan answered in the top of the sixth, however. Haas led off with a single in the frame, and she advanced to second on Giampaolo's walk. Merchant brought home Haas with her single, but that would be all the Wolverines would be able to muster as Nicole Motycka lined into a double play at third and Leutele struck out. 

"Jessica (Merchant) summed it up best Tuesday night when she said that it's not just what this team has done this week, but what it's done all year," Wolverines' head coach Carol Hutchins said. "We believed all year. This is a great moment for Michigan. 

"It was truly a great championship game," Hutchins said. "I don't think we could have asked for anything else. It definitely is a dream come true." 

2005 Women's College World Series All-Tournament Team: 

Monica Abbott - Tennessee 
Stephanie Bercaw - Michigan 
Tonya Callahan - Tennessee 
Katherine Card - Tennessee 
Krista Colburn - UCLA 
Jodie Legaspi - UCLA 
Jessica Merchant - Michigan 
Cat Osterman - Texas 
Jennie Ritter - Michigan 
Anjelica Selden - UCLA 
Emily Zaplatosch - UCLA 

Most Outstanding Player: Samantha Findlay - Michigan