Michigan 4, UCLA 1

June 8, 2005

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Samantha Findlay powered Michigan to its first NCAA softball title, hitting a three-run homer in the 10th inning to give the Wolverines a 4-1 win over UCLA on Wednesday night.

The rally started when Tiffany Haas reached on a one-out fielding error by Jodie Legaspi at shortstop and moved to second on an infield single by Alessandra Giampaolo before Selden struck out Jessica Merchant for the second out.

Findlay, who also hit a tying RBI single in the sixth, hammered a pitch from Anjelica Selden (29-13) over the left-field fence. The freshman raised her right fist in the air after rounding first and leaped onto home plate among a mob of happy teammates.

After catching Kristen Dedmon's popup at shortstop to end the game, Merchant ran across the field, tackled Findlay at first base and the two embraced on the infield dirt.

Jennie Ritter (38-4) walked five and struck out four in a five-hitter for Michigan, which became the first team from east of the Mississippi River to win the national championship. Oklahoma (2000), had previously been the easternmost team to win it all.

Ritter, a USA Softball collegiate player of the year finalist, pitched around a leadoff double in the ninth inning by Dedmon to give the Wolverines a chance for the win.

After pinch-runner Jaisa Creps moved to third on a sacrifice, Ritter got Ashley Herrera to pop out and Tara Henry to ground out.

Michigan (65-7), which scheduled its first 33 games on the road because of cold weather in Ann Arbor, overcame the handicap to claim the title that has been dominated by West Coast teams since its inception in 1982.

UCLA (40-20) has won 10 titles and had another one vacated by the NCAA for rules infractions, Arizona won six and Fresno State, California and Cal State-Fullerton also won titles. Only Texas A&M, which won two titles in the first six years, and Oklahoma had broken the California stranglehold before.

Michigan lost its season opener to Baylor, but then won 32 straight _ all on the road _ to climb to the top spot in both major softball polls. The Wolverines, one of only five teams in NCAA history to hit 100 home runs in a season, combined a potent offense with Ritter's dominant pitching. Ritter threw three no-hitters and started the season 22-0.

With the most storied softball program in the opposite dugout, the top-seeded Wolverines were still something of an underdog heading into the championship series.

The Bruins outscored Michigan 7-0 over the first 11 innings of the championship series before the Wolverines rallied for a 5-2 win in Game 2.

The Bruins also struck first in the decisive game.

Lisa Dodd, the Bruins' eighth-place hitter, hit an 0-1 pitch from Ritter over the left-field wall with one out in the second inning to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

The Wolverines rallied to tie it in the sixth after loading the bases against Selden with nobody out. Haas singled, Giampaolo drew a four-pitch walk and Merchant singled to bring Findlay, Michigan's top run-producer, to the plate.

Findlay hit a sharp ground ball to right field to bring Haas home, but Selden got out of the jam without any further damage. UCLA third baseman Andrea Duran snagged a line drive from Nicole Motycka and tagged Giampaolo a few steps off the base. Selden then struck out Grace Leutele looking to end the inning.

-- Courtesy Associated Press