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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Before the Women's College World Series gets underway tomorrow, I wanted to revisit a story that ended with Arizona's elimination in the super-regionals at the hands of Oklahoma. Arizona senior catcher Stacie Chambers had been seeking the all-time NCAA Division I softball record for home runs in a career, held by former UCLA catcher Stacey Nuveman at 90. Nuveman played for the Bruins from 1997-2002.

Chambers, who overcame a head injury suffered in fall practice of her first year at U of A, entered the 2011 season with 67 homers (21 as a junior, 31 as a sophomore, and 15 as a freshman). She thus needed 23 to tie Nuveman and 24 (or more) to pass her. As it happened, Chambers hit 20 dingers this year to finish her collegiate career with 87, three shy of Nuveman's mark, but in possession of the Wildcat school record, which had been 85.

Chambers hit three homers in last year's World Series championship round against UCLA, seemingly giving her momentum heading into this season. I was curious as to where Chambers fell short this season, so I created the following graphic to document her at-bats and homers game-by-game (you may click on the graphic to enlarge it).

I acknowledge that the chart is pretty "busy," as I sometimes get carried away with graphic arts! If you follow the chart in the same direction one would run the bases, a few key points are evident:

*Chambers's home runs this year (depicted by the home plate icons) tended to occur in bunches.

*The homers occurred to a large degree (but not entirely) against teams that were not from power conferences.

*Her quest for the all-time record was put in jeopardy by a midseason stretch (starting with Game 3 of the Baylor series) that spanned 18 games and 54 official at-bats (e.g., not including walks), but included only two homers.

The fact that Arizona missed the WCWS this year -- for only the second time in the last 24 years -- also obviously harmed Chambers's chances. A World Series appearance would have guaranteed the Wildcats at least two more games and potentially several more, thus giving Chambers some additional cracks at the home-run record.

Ultimately, however, Chambers missed out, not just on the overall career home-run record, but also on the record for most home runs by someone named Stacey/Stacie/Stacy.