Arizona State Claims Softball National Championship

June 3, 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Katie Burkhart threw a four-hitter, Kaitlin Cochran finally showed off her hitting prowess with a three-run home run and Arizona State claimed its first NCAA Women's College World Series title with an 11-0 win against Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Burkhart struck out 13 to win her 11th straight decision, and Cochran demonstrated why opponents started the World Series by intentionally walking her six straight times.

She went the opposite way for her 14th home run of the season, giving the sixth-seeded Sun Devils (66-5) a commanding 4-0 lead in the top of the fifth inning in Game 2 of the best-of-three championship series.

Mandy Urfer reached on a fielding error by third baseman Jamie Hinshaw, and Rhiannon Baca followed with a base hit that also deflected off Hinshaw's glove to bring Cochran to the plate in a situation where the Aggies wouldn't think about walking her.

Jackie Vasquez, who was hitting behind her, had already won a semifinal game with a three-run home run and she had driven in Arizona State's first run with a RBI single in the third.

Cochran drove the first pitch over the left-field fence and was greeted by a mob of teammates when she completed her trip around the bases.

The Sun Devils turned it into a rout with seven runs in the seventh inning, including a two-run single by Caylyn Carlson and a three-run home run by Mindy Cowles that caromed off a canopy over the seats in left field.

The margin ended up matching the second-most lopsided game in World Series history. Only Arizona's 12-0 defeat of Fresno State in the first round of the 1989 World Series was a bigger blowout.

The Sun Devils rushed out of the dugout and celebrated in a huddle on the infield.

Burkhart pitched around a single by Natalie Villarreal and a walk to Megan Gibson (41-4) to start the fourth inning, and didn't face much trouble the rest of the way. She retired Jami Lobpries on a pop out, Erin Glasco on a comebacker and then struck out Hinshaw to end the threat.

The only other time fifth-seeded Texas A&M (57-10) got a runner on third was in the sixth, when Gibson doubled with two outs and then stole third.

The victory gives Arizona State some bragging rights in the Pac-10 Conference, which already had a slew of titles from softball powers UCLA and Arizona and one from California.

The Sun Devils had a respectable program for years, but went to a new level after Clint Myers took over three years ago and made them perennial World Series participants.

Myers got into softball while waiting for his chance to be a baseball manager. He took over Mike Candrea's championship-winning program at Central Arizona junior college in 1985 with the intent of eventually becoming the baseball coach.

That took a little longer than expected and he ended up winning six national titles and racking up a .917 winning percentage in 11 seasons. He won another national championship in 2002 with the Central Arizona baseball team and just when he planned on cutting out all his teaching and athletic department responsibilities to focus on baseball, softball came calling again.

Arizona State was looking for a new coach, and Myers couldn't pass up athletic director Lisa Love's offer to return to his alma mater.

He was a catcher on the Sun Devils' College World Series teams in 1972 and 1973 that lost one-run games to Southern California in the national championship game.

Three and a half decades later, he finally has his title -- thanks in part to a few wise coaching moves.

For the second straight night, Myers took the unusual step of pinch-hitting for Urfer -- who had the game-winning two-run double in the Sun Devils' Series opener -- in her first at-bat. It paid off when Jessica Mapes singled in her first at-bat at the World Series and moved to second on a sacrifice ahead of Vasquez's RBI single to left.

He then had Urfer re-enter, and her sharp grounder to third help put Gibson in a tight spot in the fifth.

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