OKLAHOMA CITY - Because of tradition or superstition - probably both - the Arizona Wildcats for years have watched a highlight video before every postseason game.
The clips serve as inspiration and a reminder of each player in her best moments.
When the Wildcats boarded the team bus to the Women's College World Series on Sunday, UA coach Mike Candrea turned on the highlight tape to be watched on small televisions.
"The video wouldn't work," he said.
So the Wildcats went out and created their own highlight reel.
After shaming the Tennessee Volunteers with an 8-0 five-inning mercy-rule victory in the afternoon, the Wildcats thumped two home runs to win the evening rematch 5-2 and advance to the best-of-three final series against UCLA that starts today at 5 p.m.
Even for eight-time national champions, this postseason run is already one of the Wildcats' most impressive.
In fewer than 30 hours, the Wildcats won four elimination games.
Saturday, they beat defending national champion Washington and all-time home run leader Hawaii.
Sunday, it was the Volunteers, who last Thursday embarrassed the UA with a 9-0 five-inning win.
The Wildcats are only the fifth team ever to win two games on Sunday during the WCWS; the UA did the same in 2007.
"This has to go right up there with one of the great moments in Arizona history," Candrea said, "to do what they did to give us an opportunity to play for the championship."
They did it, with the exception of one inning Sunday and two Thursday, on the arm of freshman ace Kenzie Fowler.
Since waking up Saturday morning, Fowler threw 459 pitches over 25 innings, getting the win all four times.
"The last two days have definitely been a grind," she said. "Yeah, I was tired. But who really cares?
"As long as you can keep the game where we have a chance to win, I think our team has a good chance."
The best part about the Wildcats' first win Sunday was limiting Fowler to 67 tosses over four hitless innings.
A bonus to the 8-0 victory was psychological. The Wildcats batted around in the third and fifth innings, chasing Tennessee starter Ivy Renfroe from the game.
"I thought the first game today was really crucial," Candrea said. "They kinda came unglued a little bit. Mentally, to try to pick yourself up after that … if it was a 2-1 game, maybe."
Less than an hour later, the Wildcats and Volunteers started the rematch.
Fowler allowed a single and later three walks to score Raven Chavanne in the first inning, giving UT a 1-0 lead.
Left fielder Brittany Lastrapes saved Fowler at least one run in the second. Ashley Andrews rocketed a line drive to left-center field with Melissa Brown on second base. Running toward center field, Lastrapes stabbed the ball with a backhand at the warning track. After hitting the wall, she threw to second base to double up Brown, who had sprinted home, thinking she was going to score on a double.
"I was watching the ball and she flew by me," said Vols coach Ralph Weekly, who was coaching third base. "It kinda surprised me."
Fowler escaped the second, but couldn't in the third, when, with two out, Tiffany Huff hit a blooper into right-center field that Karissa Buchanan dove for. Buchanan rolled over after hitting the ground, sending the ball rolling toward open territory in center field.
Lauren Gibson, who had singled with two outs, scored from first, beating a throw home from shortstop K'Lee Arredondo.
The Wildcats swiftly tied the game when Stacie Chambers launched the team's first homer of the WCWS, a two-run shot, in the third.
Arizona took the lead in the fifth when Brigette Del Ponte singled off Renfroe to score Arredondo from second.
Arredondo, the Wildcats' only senior starter, sealed the game with a sixth-inning two-run homer.
"Outstanding performance," Candrea said. "Gutsy, tenacious, whatever you want to call it."
The Wildcats want a similar showing against the Bruins, who defeated Georgia 5-2 earlier Sunday.
UCLA hasn't lost since Kristen Arriola's walk-off homer May 14 at Hillenbrand Stadium.
The Wildcats are two wins from the national championship. Two days ago, that seemed improbable, if not impossible.
Candrea remembered what he told his players then.
"You have to climb a mountain," he said, "but you're capable of it."
The Wildcats and Bruins have combined to win 17 of the 28 NCAA Division I softball championships. This year they will meet in the finals for the seventh time. Here's a look at how they fared in the title games:
1991 Arizona 5, UCLA 1
1992 UCLA 1, Arizona 0
1993 Arizona 1, UCLA 0
1995 UCLA 4, Arizona 2*
1997 Arizona 10, UCLA 2 (five innings)
2001 Arizona 1, UCLA 0
* The Bruins later vacated the championship after a ruling by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. Even though the Wildcats finished second, the NCAA does not recognize an official champion.
UA vs. UCLA this year
The Bruins won two of three games at Hillenbrand Stadium in mid-May. It was, of course, the worst weekend of the year for the Wildcats.
After losing Game 1, the Wildcats lost Kenzie Fowler to injury in Game 2 and Sarah Akamine to injury in Game 3.
Here's a look at each game:
May 13 UCLA 6, Arizona 5 (8 innings) What happened: Stacie Chambers hit a two-run homer in the seventh to force extra innings, but Julie Burney hit a solo shot to put UCLA ahead to stay.
May 14 Arizona 5, UCLA 3
What happened: Kristen Arriola hit a two-out, two-run walk-off homer an hour after Fowler left the game with forearm tightness and hand swelling in the fifth.
May 15 UCLA 6, Arizona 4
What happened: Sarah Akamine sprained her knee and threw only four innings, and the Bruins scored three runs in the sixth to spoil Senior Day.
BY THE NUMBERS
Pitches thrown by Kenzie Fowler in Sunday's two games against Tennessee
Illegal pitch called against Fowler on Sunday
Illegal pitches called against Fowler in the first three games the Wildcats played in Oklahoma City
• What: Game 1, WCWS finals
• Who: Arizona vs. UCLA
• Where: Oklahoma City
• When: 5 p.m.
• TV: ESPN2