Softball to Face No. 1 Arizona in College World Series Opener

May 21, 2001

BERKELEY - The Cal softball team opens Women's College World Series play against top-ranked and No. 1 seed Arizona on Thursday at 8 a.m. Pacific Time in Oklahoma City. The game will be televised live by ESPN2.

The Bears (53-16) are making their third consecutive appearance in the WCWS and sixth overall. Cal advanced to the eight-team finals by winning its regional in Tallahassee, Fla., over the weekend, capping the tournament with a dramatic 3-2, 10-inning victory over Florida State Sunday.

The Bears, who are seeded eighth at the WCWS, are set to face Arizona (61-4) for the third straight time in the College World Series. The Wildcats beat Cal in the opening round in 1999, 3-0, then eliminated the Bears last year, 6-0. The Bears also lost to Arizona, 2-1, in a WCWS elimination game in 1992.

Cal didn't have much success against Arizona during the 2001 regular season either. The Bears fell by a pair of 2-1 scores in Tucson and lost, 5-0, in Berkeley.

If Cal can upset Arizona, the Bears would face the Michigan-Oklahoma winner Friday at 4 p.m. PT. A loss sends Cal to an elimination game vs. the Michigan-Oklahoma loser Saturday at 9 a.m. PT.

The other four qualifiers for the double-elimination tournament are UCLA, Iowa, Stanford and LSU.

Cal's best finish in the WCWS is a tied for third, a feat the Bears accomplished in both 1986 and 1992. Cal tied for fifth in 1992 and 1996 and tied for seventh last season.

This year, the Bears have set a school record with their 53 wins. Sophomore first baseman Veronica Nelson leads the team in batting (.352), home runs (school-record 18), RBI (50) and walks (NCAA-record 88). Senior center fielder Amber Phillips, who was named Most Outstanding Player at the regional in Florida, is batting .328.

The pitching staff is led by junior Jocelyn Forest (27-8, 0.72 ERA) and senior Nicole DiSalvio (20-7, 0.96 ERA).

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