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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Texas Slinger Cuts Off Matadors at the Pass

College softball: Olympian Williams allows three runs in the first inning, but nothing else in 5-3 victory.

March 20, 1998|PAIGE A. LEECH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

FULLERTON — It was hard to believe that Texas ace Christa Williams, who gave up a three-run home run to Cal State Northridge in the first inning, was the same pitcher who helped the United States win an Olympic gold medal in softball in 1996.

But she proved you can't judge a pitcher on a single inning.

Williams recovered in plenty of time to save face and extend her team's winning streak to 13. She stifled the Matadors in the final six innings and Texas won, 5-3, in a pool-play game Thursday in the Fullerton tournament at Cal State Fullerton.

Northridge (14-10-1 and 1-1 in pool play), managed just two hits off Williams, who transferred to Texas from UCLA after a 21-8 freshman year.

Both of those hits were by designated player Elizabeth Sanches, who hit the three-run home run and singled in the sixth.

For Sanches, who hasn't played defensively since the sixth game of the year because of stress fractures in both shins, it was a small consolation for her team's loss.

"Me getting two hits in this game is just like getting two hits in any other game," Sanches said. "Yeah, it was off an Olympic pitcher but that doesn't make it any more or less of a hit."

Sanches' homer got back most of the four runs Northridge spotted Texas in the first inning. The Longhorns (26-5), ranked No. 11 in their second season in Division I, parlayed two hits, two hit batters, a walk and a dropped third strike into four unearned runs off Cheri Shinn (4-5).

Northridge, which has slipped to No. 22, responded in its half of the inning by patiently waiting for Williams to throw strikes. Williams (14-1), who had previously walked only 22 batters in 93 1/3 innings, walked three in the first.

"I was a little bit nervous going into the game. I don't know why I was nervous. I didn't have such a great warmup, I guess," Williams said. "It was good my team came up and scored as many runs as it did."

Williams, who had previously allowed two earned runs in 76 innings, walked the second and third batters after getting Laura Redding to line out.

Then Sanches blasted a high fly ball down the left-field line on a 2-1 pitch that taught Williams a lesson.

"It was a flat screwball and that was probably the last time I threw that screwball," Williams said.

Williams, who had three wild pitches and walked four, got better as the game went on, striking out nine in the final four innings.

"After Elizabeth's home run, [the team] went right back to trying to hit the ball over the fence and you can't do that against a pitcher like Christa," Northridge Coach Janet Sherman said.

Williams, a Houston native who said she transferred because she was unhappy at UCLA, has struck out 171 in 101 1/3 innings.

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