Hollowell leads Arizona to seventh NCAA softball title

June 6, 2006

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -With Caitlin Lowe's speed and Alicia Hollowell's savvy leading the way, Arizona claimed its seventh NCAA softball title Tuesday night.

Hollowell threw her third straight shutout and set the Women's College World Series record for strikeouts in a 5-0 win over Northwestern that gave Arizona the championship with a two-game sweep.

Lowe had two hits and scored twice, and Autumn Champion and Callista Balko drove in two runs apiece to give Arizona (54-11) plenty of support for Hollowell (32-5). She struck out 13 to pass UCLA's Debbie Doom for the most strikeouts in a Women's College World Series. She finished with 64 in six games, two more than Doom had in 1982.

Lowe and Champion led off the first with back-to-back singles and each moved up a base on Kristie Fox's bunt. Lowe then came home on Balko's grounder to second.

Lowe, Arizona's leadoff hitter, sparked a rally in the fifth when she singled and moved to second on second baseman Ashley Crane's throwing error. Lowe advanced to third on a wild pitch by Eileen Canney (26-9) that ticked off the top of catcher Jamie Dotson's glove and careened to the backstop, then came home on Champion's line single into center.

Balko followed with a double that Northwestern right fielder Erin Dyer couldn't field cleanly, and Champion raced around from first to make it 3-0.

Arizona scored two more runs in the sixth when Lowe reached on a bases-loaded error and Champion smacked her second RBI single.

It's Arizona's first title since 2001 and its second since 1997, when it won the last of five titles in a seven-year span.

Hollowell, who'd given up only one hit in two previous games against Northwestern this season, had to fight out of trouble early.

Northwestern (50-15) got singles from Kristen Amegin and Dyer in the second inning before Hollowell struck out Crane to end the threat.

Hollowell again got away unscathed after Darcy Sengewald, Katie Logan and Tammy Williams had consecutive singles to start the third inning for Northwestern. Garland Cooper struck out looking, Dotson popped out to third base and Amegin flied out to left field with a full count to let Hollowell off the hook. She pitched around Logan's one-out double in the fifth by striking out Williams and Dotson.

Hollowell gave up three straight two-out singles in the seventh but then got Dotson, Northwestern's cleanup hitter, to strike out on a full count before leaping into the air, dropping her glove and igniting Arizona's celebration.

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