Finality didn't creep into Lauren Schutzler's brain until six innings into the Arizona Wildcats' historic 5-2 super regional home loss to Oklahoma on Saturday.
The senior center fielder made a diving catch to end the frame, jogged to the dugout and was told by a teammate that she had probably made her last defensive play ever.
As the game continued, even as the Wildcats again struggled to get relevant hits against Keilani Ricketts, the thought somehow never entered Schutzler's head.
Always, the UA had had magic left, it seemed; as in reaching the Women's College World Series in 22 of 23 years; also as in for 21 straight years, with coach Mike Candrea in the dugout, the team reaching the round of eight.
"I always had confidence," Schutzler said. "It sometimes doesn't work out that way."
One of the most impressive runs in college sports became a little less so Saturday.
Afterward, the UA coach promised a change in the team's personality, and shouldered the blame.
"I didn't do my job," he said.
Answering what was on the table - be it staff changes or player transfers - after a season-ending loss was poor timing, he said.
In the outfield after the game, however, the coach told his team that it had a lot of "dead weight" among its ranks.
"I don't have the magical solution," he said later. "But I do know I don't like the complexion."
Candrea said the UA "got beat by a better team."
Schutzler said the Wildcats simply didn't work hard enough, last summer and fall, after losing to UCLA in the WCWS or during the 43-18 season.
"You really get what you deserve," she said.
For the second straight game in the super regional, the Cats went 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position. The UA's only runs came with two strikes and two outs in the seventh inning, when Lini Koria hit a two-run home run to right field.
The UA put another runner on base in the seventh before Karissa Buchanan, with the potential tying run on deck, grounded into a fielder's choice to end the game.
"I knew I couldn't fall apart, then, on my team," Ricketts said.
The 6-foot-2-inch lefthander did her best to crush the Wildcats' hopes early in the game.
With two outs and a runner on second in the first, Ricketts launched a home run into the front row of the left field bleachers. That, combined with the news of Brittany Lastrapes' broken right hand from Friday night's hit by pitch, dampened the Hillenbrand Stadium crowd quickly.
"I guess we didn't do a very good job of coming back from that two-run bomb," UA third baseman Brigette Del Ponte said.
The Sooners (43-17) batted around in the bottom half of the fourth, scoring twice on Destinee Martinez's single and once when Cierra Hughes scored on Kristen Arriola's error.
The UA put runners in scoring position in the first, second, third, fourth and sixth innings, yet never pushed a run across. Lastrapes bunted twice in two at-bats before the pain became too much and she was replaced.
The UA left the bases loaded in the third inning for the third time in the series. Two more runners were stranded in the sixth when Ricketts struck out Matte Haack and Schutzler to end the threat.
"We knocked on the door and we knocked on the door, but we just couldn't get that," Candrea said. "It was just one of those weekends where we just didn't play championship softball, so we just didn't deserve to win."
The last time the UA failed to reach the WCWS, assistant coach Larry Ray ran the team while Candrea was coaching the U.S. Olympic squad in 2004.
"I told the kids if you use these moments as a motivation, then it can help you," Candrea said. "I thought last year - getting to the championship series and getting beat - that would be enough to motivate this group.
"We just were missing the fight, the nastiness, the competitiveness."
Too much Keilani
Oklahoma pitcher Keilani Ricketts got it done at the plate and on the mound.
20, 2, 2
Strikeouts of Arizona batters, runs allowed and home runs hit for the Sooner in a two-game sweep of Arizona in the super regional at Hillenbrand Stadium