The Cal State Fullerton softball team celebrated its victory over Cal Poly Pomona Saturday afternoon not so much with exuberance as with pleased relief.
"The pressure's off now," Titan Coach Judi Garman said.
Fullerton, the defending NCAA softball champion, completed a two-game sweep of Pomona in the NCAA West Regional with a 3-1 victory in front of 350 at the Titan Softball Complex.
It hardly mattered that none of the three Fullerton runs were earned; they were sufficient to earn the Titans a return trip to the College World Series, which begins Wednesday in Omaha.
Connie Clark (31-3), who pitched a no-hitter Friday in the first game of the series, allowed one run on four hits, walked two and struck out three.
Fullerton scored two runs in the first inning on three hits and two errors and added a run in the fifth on a hit, an error and a sacrifice fly. Pomona committed four errors in the game.
Much has been made of Fullerton's late-season "slump"--the Titans lost six of their last 18. Garman figures that is all over now.
"These are the Titans," Garman said. "I don't know where they went, but they're back."
Fullerton (57-8) will play the South Regional champion on Thursday, the second day of the eight-team double-elimination tournament.
Florida State leads Adelphi, one game to none, in the best-of-three South Regional at Florida State. The second game of the series was rained out Saturday and will be played today.
Rhonda Wheatley (35-21), Pomona's a three-time All-American, gave up eight hits Saturday.
Pomona (42-23) started a rally in the fourth inning, using a hit batter, a single and an infield out to score a run. But Pomona settled for the lone run after a controversial interference call on pinch-runner Heather DeLuca.
Clark intentionally walked Wheatley--who was batting .362 with five home runs--putting runners on first and second with one out.
Kris Rokosz then hit a grounder toward shortstop Charis Monroe. As Monroe charged the ball, she collided with DeLuca, who got a late start from second base.
DeLuca was ruled out for interference, stifling the rally. Denise Correa then flied out, ending the inning.
"To me, having played shortstop, you would be moving to your left to get that ball," said Carol Spanks, Pomona coach. "Was she (Monroe) really going for the ball or was she running in that direction (straight) to draw the interference call?"
"I was trying to go for the ball and forget about the runner," Monroe said. "If not for that call, they probably would have come back and tied it."
"That definitely hurt us. We had something going there."
Fullerton second baseman Valerie Van Kirk injured her hand as she attempted to tag a sliding baserunner at second and may be lost for the season.
"Her left hand looks broken," said Garman, adding that Cheryl Dazalla will replace Van Kirk at second if she is unable to play.