Langenfeld spurs UCLA 11th NCAA softball title
OKLAHOMA CITY — Megan Langenfeld wasn't about to let a blistered pinkie stop her from leading UCLA to its 11th NCAA softball title.
After overcoming an arm injury and a tweaked hamstring, using super glue to patch together the injured finger on her pitching hand was a no-brainer.
Langenfeld homered for the third time in two games and led UCLA to its first title in six years with a 15-9 victory over Arizona on Tuesday night.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Langenfeld said.
Andrea Harrison hit the first grand slam in the World Series finals, and Julie Burney and Samantha Camuso also homered for the Bruins (50-11) as a matchup of college softball's two most successful programs turned into a home run derby.
Stacie Chambers went deep twice and Lini Koria hit a solo shot for Arizona (52-14) as the teams combined to set a World Series record with seven long balls in the game. Ten of the 29 previous World Series didn't have that many home runs during the entire event.
But in this new offensive era, the championship trophy is headed back to a familiar place.
It's the first title for UCLA since the program won back-to-back trophies in 2003-04, and the first won by fourth-year coach Kelly Inouye-Perez. She won three NCAA championships as a catcher for the Bruins between 1989 and 1992.
A 12th title for the Bruins, won in 1995, was later vacated due to NCAA rules infractions.
"Being a person from the outside and not being in the bubble quite yet, it almost felt like an automatic," Langenfeld said. "It was always automatic that UCLA would be here and winning and doing everything.
"Once you're here, you realize that there is a grind. There is a daily grind that you have to go through to be the best that you can be. Once we committed to that, I think that's when we really got rolling."
Langenfeld was unanimously voted the event's Most Outstanding Player after going 12 for 17 with four home runs and nine RBIs. She reached base in 18 of her 23 plate appearances, also drawing four walks and getting hit by a pitch twice. The national player of the year finalist was the winning pitcher in UCLA's first three wins at the World Series and hit the winning home run in the eighth inning of UCLA's 6-5 victory against Arizona in Game 1 of the finals.
"She's had a great career, a phenomenal career. She's left her name in the record books," Inouye-Perez said. "But to finish the way that she did, she'll have this memory for a lifetime."
Langenfeld, a senior, called it her most difficult season because of the injuries that kept her out of 11 games. She was hit on the right elbow by a pitch in March, leaving her arm numb from her fingers to her bicep.
Then came the hamstring injury, just as the NCAA tournament was getting started, and the blisters.
"You've got to fight through it," she said. "Not being 100 percent, you can't think about it. You just go for it."
The fifth-seeded Bruins wore black armbands with the initials of late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden and a school flag waved at half-staff in center field as the teams combined to score a World Series record 24 runs.
"We knew that we had a little something in the sky, and at this point in the season we'll take anything that we can get," Inouye-Perez said. "Some things may bounce a different way, things may happen, but I think the bottom line: he was with us and we felt it, and he was the extra push that helped us get over the hump."
Langenfeld hit an opposite-field shot to left off Kenzie Fowler (38-9) for an 2-0 lead in the first inning, then got intentionally walked to load the bases in front of Harrison's blast into the right-field bleachers to make it 6-0 in the second.
The duo each hit a World Series-record four home runs as UCLA smashed the team record by hitting 14 over the course of the event. A total of 35 homers went out of the park in the 15 World Series games, breaking the record of 28 set last year.
Burney hit a line-drive, three-run shot to straightaway center in a seven-run fifth inning for the Bruins, as they responded immediately after Arizona scored three times in the fourth off Aleah Macon (13-1) to get within 7-4.
"I think we expended a lot of energy to get here and I'm very proud of this team for the fight that they put up throughout this week," said Arizona coach Mike Candrea, whose team won four elimination games in a two-day span to reach the finals. "I really have no regrets."