NCAA softball tournament

Monday, May 27th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ California had a quiet confidence and Jocelyn Forest, which was enough to beat tradition-laden Arizona in the NCAA championship softball game.

Forest threw a one-hitter, and California scored six runs in the seventh inning off ace Jennie Finch to beat the Wildcats 6-0 Monday.

``We came out here wanting to play. Just being here wasn't good enough for us,'' said Forest, the tournament's outstanding player.

``We proved a point. People underestimate us all the time and we're definitely the underdogs. Nobody ever believes in us,'' she said. ``The only people that have ever believed in us is ourselves, and we came out here and did the job.''

The Golden Bears (56-19), making their fourth straight trip to the Women's College World Series, had never won more than two games in any of their six appearances. Arizona (55-12) has six NCAA championships and has been to the title game 10 times.

But California had won two of three from the Wildcats during the regular season, and that confidence carried over.

``We knew that anything could go our way,'' third baseman Candace Harper said.

It finally did in the seventh inning, after the Golden Bears threatened in the fifth and sixth against Finch.

Finch (34-6), the player of the year in 2001 when she went 32-0 and Arizona won the title, retired the first two batters in the seventh before Kaleo Eldredge walked. Kristen Morley followed with a single, then Harper singled up the middle to make it 1-0.

After an intentional walk to Veronica Nelson loaded the bases, Finch walked in the second run before giving up a bases-clearing double to Jessica Pamanian that made it 5-0.

Finch was replaced by Jenny Gladding, who gave up a double to Chelsea Spencer that finished the scoring.

``Jennie Finch was the reason why we got here and we rode her, and I think she just ran out of a little bit of gas,'' coach Mike Candrea said. ``It was Cal's day.''

Finch threw 196 pitches in a victory over Florida State on Sunday and wasn't her usual dominant self Monday. She walked eight and struck out just two.

``I felt fine,'' she said. ``At the end, I think I tried to get things going and started to speed up a little bit, but I felt fine out there.''

Forest (29-12) struck out eight and walked three. She was 4-0 in the tournament, allowing nine hits and two runs in 28 innings, with 33 strikeouts.

``It's just been amazing. It's the best group of girls I've ever played with,'' Forest said.

Diane Ninemire, completing her 15th year as Cal's coach, said the championship was as much a result of desire as it was talent.

``This team plays with heart,'' she said. ``They're just so committed to each other and making it happen.

``I don't know that we're necessarily the best team player for player, but we are the best team because we play as a team.''