Pitcher Susie Parra was named the 1994 player of the year, the first Arizona Wildcat to receive the honor.


In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams.

Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

Arizona softball pitchers

Achievement: Considering the importance of pitching in college softball, maybe it's no surprise.

But en route to its eight NCAA championships, the Arizona softball program has produced a remarkable string of all-American pitchers. One of those all-Americans, in fact, was behind every Wildcat NCAA title.

In 1991, for Arizona's first championship, it was the combination of Debby Day and Susie Parra, with Day earning third-team all-America honors that year. Day posted a 30-8 record and 0.50 ERA while Parra finished at 14-3, 0.43. Day became UA's first all-American in 1992, while Parra was a second-team all-America pick that season.

Parra was named first-team all-America in 1993, when UA won its second title, and was dominant while UA successfully defended the title in 1994: She went 33-1 and did not allow an earned run in three College World Series victories, while striking out 13 in the NCAA title game.

Oh, and she hit 14 home runs that season, too.

Fittingly, Parra was named the 1994 player of the year, the first UA Wildcat to receive the honor, while Nancy Evans did so in 1998 and Jennie Finch picked up a pair of national player of the year honors, in 2000 and 2001.

In 1996, Carrie Dolan went 35-6 and won second-team all-American honors to help the Wildcats win the NCAA title without Evans, who was sidelined with a foot injury. Evans returned in 1997 to lead Arizona to the title.

Then, Finch led the Wildcats to the 2001 title and was named player of the year in 2001 and 2002. She had a memorable, decade-long ride with USA Softball that included a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Evans (first, .938), Parra (third, .918) and Finch (fourth, .881), all rank among the NCAA's all-time top five pitchers in career winning percentage. But even with Finch having moved on, the Wildcats kept going. Hollowell, the Wildcats' winningest pitcher ever with 134 wins from 2003-2006, led Arizona to the 2006 NCAA title while Taryne Mowatt did so in 2007. Mowatt recorded 522 strikeouts that season, the most in school history.

Both were named first-team all-Americans, too.

Where it happened: Tucson

She said it: "I don't like giving up runs. When I do, I'm shocked. My expectations are higher than that." - Finch, after giving up a home run, while pitching for Team USA in an 2004 exhibition against Arizona.

Bruce Pascoe

On StarNet: See the archive of Sports Centennial articles at: azstarnet.com/sportscentennial