Citizen Staff Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY – With the Arizona fan section chanting her name, Taryne Mowatt, blond ponytail bobbing in the brisk wind, delivered pitch No. 1,035 of her Women’s College World Series.
She steadfastly denied she was tired as she worked her way through the tournament, firing strikeouts, working out of jams and baffling hitters with change-ups.
Somehow she made it through to the top of the seventh in the championship game, Arizona up 5-0 and one pitch from the title.
Shannon Doepking hit a ground ball to third baseman Jenae Leles, who threw to first baseman Sam Banister, and that was that.
The Mowatt Miracle was complete.
The Wildcats rode the right arm of Mowatt to the point of exhaustion and supported her with a flurry of hits Wednesday off Monica Abbott to win their eighth national title, all since 1991, and their second in a row.
When even the talking was almost over, after the news conference at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, Mowatt admitted she had taken to saying to her right arm, “One more game, one more game.”
Mowatt rubbed her bicep and smiled.
“She’s been good to me,” Mowatt said.
Mowatt pitched eight games in seven days, showing a toughness of body and spirit that even UA coach Mike Candrea said he wasn’t sure existed.
With Arizona needing to win the final two games of the best-of-three championship series, Mowatt worked in and out of trouble, stranding 26 runners in the two games, including 12 Wednesday night, and not allowing any runs.
“I can’t remember seeing an athlete with so much grit,” Candrea said. “Everything was on her shoulders. And she did it.”
Mowatt (42-12) ended the Series with a seven-hitter, striking out 11.
After the final out, her teammates mobbed her near the pitching circle. After carrying the team all week, her teammates returned the favor by lifting her on their shoulders.
They handed her the national championship plaque, which she held above her head.
“I didn’t want them to drop me, but it was kind of cool,” she said with a laugh. “Good TV time.”
The game was scoreless until the fifth inning, although both teams knocked on the door, putting runners in scoring position three times. Both teams left the bases loaded in the third.
Finally, the Wildcats kicked down the door. Caitlin Lowe and K’Lee Arredondo led off with singles, and a fielding error let Arredondo go to second.
Tennessee intentionally walked hot-hitting Kristie Fox, for the second time in the game to bring up clean-up hitter Jenae Leles.
“I take it as an insult. Yeah, that bugged me a little bit,” Leles said.
Before her at-bat, Candrea pulled her aside and offered encouragement.
“This is what you love,” he told Leles.
Abbott, who had worked Leles away during the Series, tried it again, and Leles jumped on the first pitch, lining it to right to drive in two runs.
The cushion came when Chelsie Mesa launched a high, deep three-run home run to right for a 5-0 lead.
“It was hard for me to take my eye off that ball and touch first base,” Mesa said.
Abbott, the USA Softball player of the year and the NCAA career leader in wins and strikeouts, gave up just five runs in her previous 90 innings.
The Wildcats scored five runs in a glorious span of five at-bats.
“This is a funny game,” Candrea said.
Tennessee loaded the bases in the sixth, but Mowatt escaped again, retiring the final two batters. She walked a batter with two outs in the seventh – appropriate given her high-wire act – before getting Doepking.
Mowatt had one bad emotional moment during the week, breaking down with her mother, Suzie, at the team hotel after UA lost the first game of the championship series 3-0 on Monday.
“The whole week piled up and I knew that in order to win I was going to have to pitch two more games, and everything just came down and I started uncontrollably crying,” Mowatt said. “I definitely was thinking getting that out (of) my system was good.”
There definitely was something about Arizona with its back to the wall.
UA came through the losers’ bracket to reach the title series and had to come from behind in that. The Cats won five elimination games at the World Series by a combined score of 19-1.
“I never saw doubt in my kids’ eyes,” Candrea said. “Just the grit, the focus, the relaxation, the fire, T-Mo on the mound, all seniors stepping up when it mattered . . . it all culminated in one of our best games in the year at the right time. That’s kind of a perfect season.”
BY THE NUMBERS
5: Earned runs given up by Tennessee’s Monica Abbott in the Series. All five came in the fifth inning Wednesday against UA.
26: Runners left on base by Tennessee in the final two games
60: Innings pitched by UA’s Taryne Mowatt at the Series, the most in history
522: Strikeouts by Mowatt this season, the most in UA history