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A look at the storied Arizona-UCLA softball rivalry

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to Arizona and UCLA on the softball diamond.

With 21 combined Pac-12 titles (Arizona leading with 11), 20 national titles (UCLA leads with 12) and 2,192 wins between Arizona coach Mike Candrea and UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez (Candrea leads with 1,603), it is the most storied rivalry in the sport.

The two titans take the field this week to add another chapter into this fabled series, so let’s take a look back at some of the top moments throughout the years.

‘Cats bring home first title

Candrea was in his fifth season in May of 1991 and had the program in the championship game at the Women’s College World Series for the first time.

UCLA was looking for its fourth-straight title, but Candrea and pitcher Debby Day spoiled that. Arizona beat the Bruins 5-1 to bring home the first of eight titles. Arizona had previously beat UCLA 1-0 in the second round.

Arizona played four extra inning games during that title run, including a 13-inning first-round game against UNLV, which the ‘Cats won 1-0.

Preventing perfection

Arizona and UCLA met again in the championship game in 1992, but Lisa Fernandez shutout Day and the ‘Cats 2-0.

UCLA’s overall record that year was 54-2, and it was only Arizona that bested the Bruins with two regular season wins. The ‘Cats won those games 1-0 and 7-0.

Finch is perfect

Jennie Finch won her 32nd of the season in the championship game in 2001 against UCLA.

Finch and the ‘Cats won 1-0, and the legendary pitcher finished the year 32-0. She’s still the only college softball pitcher to finish a year with a spotless record.

The 90s

Beginning with the 1991 championship game, the two programs played against each other for the title five times during the 1990s. The ‘Cats were winners in three of those meetings.

On top of the conference again

It had been a decade since the ‘Cats had won a conference title, but in 2017 the program was on top again after beating the Bruins on their home field in the regular season finale.

Arizona lost the first two games of the series, almost letting it slip away, but Danielle O’ Toole held UCLA to two runs and Arizona won 7-2 the series finale to capture a Pac-12 championship.

The last time (for now)

In 2010, the two programs took the diamond again in the championship game for the first time since 2001. UCLA beat the ‘Cats twice to win its last championship.

It’s also the last time Arizona played in the Women’s College World Series and the last time UCLA played for a title.

What’s at stake now

Arizona and UCLA cap the 2019 regular season with a three-game series beginning Thursday in Westwood.

Arizona (40-11, 17-4 Pac-12) is tied for second in the Pac-12, while UCLA (45-3, 19-2 Pac-12) is in first.

The Bruins can clinch their first conference championship since 2009 with a series win. The Wildcats need a sweep to win their first Pac-12 title since 2017.

UCLA leads the all-time series 83-57 and is riding a five-game winning streak over the ‘Cats. Here is our series preview.