OMAHA — Cal State Fullerton's run at the NCAA softball championship ended symbolically enough Saturday night: The Titans went down swinging.
More than anything else, it was a lack of hitting that did in Fullerton's hopes of repeating as NCAA champions. Other than leadoff batter Chenita Rogers, who was 6 for 15 in the series, the bread and butter of Fullerton's lineup--batters two through five--had a dismal series.
Rina Foster, who hit .306 during the regular season, was 2 for 12.
Tiny Glomboske, who hit .309, was 2 for 14.
Lisa Baker, who hit .293 and led the team in doubles (13), triples (4) and home runs (4) during the regular season, was 2 for 14.
Missy Coombes, who hit .361, was 2 for 15.
"They were what got us here," said Judi Garman, Fullerton coach. "We just didn't get the hits once we were here."
The slump came against some of the best pitchers in the nation--UCLA's Lisa Longaker and Texas A&M's Shawn Andaya, both first-team All-Americans.
"They're good," Garman said. "You're not going to bat .400 off them. But (Rogers) had no trouble."
Fullerton, which already had lost once, came back from what appeared to be certain elimination Saturday afternoon against Fresno State, scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh on Cath1763723361sacrifice fly by Rogers to win, 2-1.
Saturday night against UCLA, there was to be no such comeback. With UCLA leading, 1-0, in the seventh, Coombes fouled out for the first out. Then Alani Silva swung and missed and took a called strike two.
By then the Fullerton chatter began to die down as each player took to contemplating the end of a season. Silva swung and missed for the second out, and then Michelle Gromacki struck out on three pitches.
Both of Fullerton's tournament losses--2-1 to eventual champion Texas A&M, and 1-0 to runner-up UCLA--were by one run.
Connie Clark, Fullerton's first-team All-American pitcher, pitched all 34 innings for Fullerton, allowing only two earned runs.
"I got a little bit tired, but not too much," Clark said. "I got frustrated some because I'm not really used to us not hitting. All through the season, they'd hit anybody. . . . We played great defensively, but we couldn't get the bats going."
Now the Titans have a 59-10 season and a third-place NCAA finish to look back on.
"I'm really proud of this team and how well we played most of the season," Garman said. "Our program has been so successful, we feel like we failed because we finished third in the country. A lot of teams would love just to get here. . . . We are really disappointed now because we thought we had the team to do it."
Said Clark: "We just didn't do it this time around."
Fullerton has played in five of the six NCAA College World Series, twice finishing third, twice second, and winning the championship in 1986.