For the first time in 26 years -- in '86 Cal State Fullerton beat Texas A&M for the title -- the Pac-12 will not be in the Women's College World Series Championship. It's down to first-timers No. 2 Alabama (SEC) and 2000 champions No. 4 Oklahoma (Big 12).
The Crimson Tide and the Sooners will face-off Monday night at 8 p.m. ET in a best-of-three series.
Both Cal and Arizona State needed to win each of their respective games on Sunday, June 3 to make it to the championship series.
No. 2 Alabama 5, No. 1 California 2: June 3
No. 1 California - including Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Jolene Henderson and Pac-12 Player of the Year and Lowe's Senior CLASS Award winner Valerie Arioto - lost to Alabama 5-2 on Sunday.
Cal was ranked first for eight straight weeks, rounding out the regular season, in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll and the Golden Bears won the Pac-12 title.
"I would just like to say that I'm very proud of the University of California softball program," said Pac-12 Coach of the Year, Cal's Diane Ninemire postgame. "This was a tremendous season. We broke our record for the most wins in a season, and it was a lot of heart and soul in those wins this year, and I know we're disappointed right now. Alabama has a great team. We congratulate them on their efforts. We had a shot today to possibly win this game.
"We had some opportunities, but we just weren't able to get some key hits in some key situations," Ninemire continued. "But Jolene [Henderson] threw a great game. It was a total team effort today. And we just want to wish Alabama the best."
Freshman Danielle Henderson was the only Cal Golden Bear (58-7) able to score on Alabama's most-winning pitcher, sophomore Jackie Traina (40-2). Henderson hit a two-run homer in the top of the fourth after Jace Williams walked and advanced to second on a sac bunt by Ashley Decker.
"I think [Traina] was really effective with hitting her spots," Danielle Henderson said. "She was hitting her corners really good and staying on the knees good, and every now and then she'd throw you off with coming inside on you, and she had that changeup that would throw you off every now and then. She's a good pitcher. Nice speed."
Alabama (58-7) was able to score in every inning except the first, including three home runs against Cal junior pitcher Jolene Henderson (38-4). No team had hit more than two home runs in a single game against Jolene Henderson this season.
The Crimson Tide began scoring in the bottom of the second when Traina hit a solo shot to the center bleachers, her 10th home run of the year. They added a second run in the third when Kayla Braud came home on a Kaila Hunt infield single.
Cal tied it 2-all with Danielle Henderson's 2-run homer in the top of the fourth but Alabama came back in the bottom when Jazlyn Lunceford made it a 3-2 game scoring on Kendall Dawson's single up the middle. Then, Alabama bolted home runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Hunt drilled her 21st of the season in the fifth and Lunceford led off in the sixth with her eighth on the year for the 5-2 score.
"It would be cool to say we're the first SEC team [to win a championship], but it's not something that we're playing for, in a sense," Hunt said. "I think we go out and we're just trying to play our best game."
"It would be great to be the first SEC team, but you're not thinking about that when you're out there," Traina agreed. "You're not thinking about, oh, we're going to be the first SEC team. We're just going out there and having fun. We get to play with the girls like our friends, our best friends on the field. What more can you ask for?"
Traina tossed a complete game and allowed just two earned runs on two hits while both walking and striking out six. Hunt led with 2 RBI and was 1-for-2, as was Braud.
Jolene Henderson threw 6.0 innings and allowed four earned runs on nine hits while walking two and striking out eight.
"I think that my team came out really strong," Jolene Henderson said. "They have a lot of passion. And we lost a game so we were still strong. My team doesn't give up. I couldn't be any more proud of the season ending. I never played with a better team."
No. 4 Oklahoma 5, No. 3 Arizona State 3: June 3
It was definitely a battle in the first game on Sunday between the defending National Champions No. 3 Arizona State -- including aces Katelyn Boyd and Annie Lockwood - and the Oklahoma Sooners who have gone 8-0 in postseason with National Player of the Year, junior pitcher Keilani Ricketts. Ultimately the "home team," after-all they're playing in Oklahoma City, took down Arizona State 5-3.
The Sun Devils ended their 2012 season with an overall 53-11 record.
13 Sun Devils were struck out by Ricketts (36-7), who followed up her season-high 16 strikeout performance from Friday against Cal. Ricketts now has 25 games this season where she's struck out 10 or more and has fanned 84 hitters in 52 innings this postseason, including 40 in 21 innings in the WCWS.
"We know Ricketts is a great pitcher, but our goal for this game was to make her work," Amber Freeman said postgame. "And like Annie [Lockwood] said and Coach [Clint Myers] said, we definitely made her work. We had a lot of full counts, a lot of pitches fouled off. So I think we did a great job. We came up short, but I think we swung the bats pretty well."
"All I remember is every inning was a battle," Ricketts said. "Those hitters were making me work. I'm thankful I had my teammates behind me."
Arizona State had eight hits off Ricketts and three runs, with Freeman, Elizabeth Caporuscio and Talor Haro leading the Sun Devils with two hits apiece.
ASU started the game with a 2-0 lead in the top of the first after Lockwood doubled to right center to score Alix Johnson and Amber Freeman.
But then Oklahoma (53-8) came charging back against sophomore pitcher Dallas Escobedo (24-8), who struck out eight and allowed nine hits and four earned runs.
In the bottom of the second Oklahoma's Katie Norris smacked her fifth home run of the season, a solo ball over the right field fence, and in the third the Sooners took a 5-1 lead with a four-hit, four-run inning, including a two-run double by Jessica Shults.
Arizona State scored a single run in the top of the fourth but that wasn't enough to propel them past Patty Gasso's team.
"To find a way to play for a national championship has been our ultimate goal," said Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso. "There's not another team that deserves it more than my Sooners.
"It's a dream come true for our athletes," Gasso continued. "The crowd and the noise is indescribable. Something they'll remember forever."
Who will win the 2012 National Softball Championship?
No. 2 Alabama (8 votes)
No. 4 Oklahoma (10 votes)
18 total votes