UCLA pitcher Lisa Fernandez provides composure for the Bruins, but their five freshmen provide the emotion, and it took a combination of both to defeat Arizona, 2-0, on Monday to win the championship of the NCAA Division I women's softball tournament at Oklahoma City.
Bruin freshman Jennifer Brewster hit a two-run home run during the seventh inning to help UCLA to its seventh national title in 10 years.
Yvonne Gutierrez, who hit a tournament record three home runs in two games on Sunday, opened the seventh for the Bruins (54-2) with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Brewster ended a two-for-15 slump with her homer to left field.
Fernandez (29-0), a junior, gave up four hits and struck out six in seven innings. It was her 22nd shutout of the season and her fifth of the tournament, including one during regional play. Fernandez has pitched 65 consecutive innings without giving up a run.
Arizona's Debby Day (32-5) gave up six hits and struck out one in 6 1/3 innings.
Brewster is one of five freshman who start for the Bruins, with Kathy Evans, Cindy Valero, Joanne Alchin and Jennifer Brundage.
"They (the freshmen) were the heart and soul" of the team, UCLA Coach Sharron Backus said.
The last time UCLA had five freshman starters was in 1988, when the Bruins began a string of three consecutive titles.
The Bruins have dominated college softball since 1982, never finishing worse than third in the national tournament. This year, UCLA remained undefeated in the double-elimination tournament, outscoring its five opponents, 31-1.
"They are good ballplayers," Backus said. "You can't do much without the talent, and we are very fortunate that we attract that kind of athlete."
The UCLA-Arizona rivalry has been smoldering since last season's national tournament, when Day led Arizona to a 5-1 victory over UCLA in the championship game, ending the Bruins' three-year streak of championships.
During the regular season, UCLA split two doubleheaders with Arizona. In one of them, Arizona handed the Bruins their first home loss since 1990, and in the other, Arizona defeated UCLA, 7-0, the most runs against the Bruins since 1989. The Wildcats also edged the Bruins for the Pacific 10 Conference championship, their first. UCLA won the previous four Pac-10 titles.
"This is the ultimate satisfaction," Backus said of the national title.
Arizona threatened during the first inning, when Amy Chellevold, who was three for three, led off with a single and reached second when Jamie Heggen flied out. But Jody Miller-Pruitt popped out to shortstop Kristy Howard for the third out, ending Arizona's biggest scoring threat.