OKLAHOMA CITY - Dani Yudin hit the ball and it sailed toward left-center field, the assumed final out of Monday's game hanging in the heavy heartland air like a Christmas ornament.
Leading by one, confident from a seventh-inning, two-home run outburst to stave off defeat, the Arizona Wildcats were going to win Game 1 of the Women's College World Series.
Center fielder Lauren Schutzler charged in and to her left, calling for the ball. Brittany Lastrapes, the left fielder fighting mononucleosis, chased the yellow orb, too.
As it arched toward the ground, a galloping Schutzler reached to make the catch - to seal the Wildcats' fifth-straight victory, needing only one more for the WCWS title. Then she saw Lastrapes in the corner of her eye, and recoiled a bit.
The ball landed, safely. Yudin stood on second, and scored two minutes later when a line drive to right field bounced out of the webbing of Karissa Buchanan's glove.
An inning later, Megan Langenfeld hit a walk-off homer to bury the Wildcats 6-5 in one of the wildest WCWS games in years.
The two teams play again tonight at 5. If the Wildcats win, they will force Game 3 on Wednesday.
UA coach Mike Candrea said it was Schutzler's ball.
"We've done it a million times," he said. "In the moment in time, there was a little bit of confusion."
After the booted ball in the seventh, the Wildcats intentionally walked Julie Burney to face Kaila Shull, the Bruins No. 8 hitter. She ripped a line drive to the warning track in right field, and Buchanan, on a dead run, put her backhanded glove in the air to make the catch.
It went in and out of the top of her glove, and the Bruins forced extra innings.
"She started stumbling right as she got to the ball," Candrea said after the game. "It's a game of inches."
After the game, the coach gathered his team on the sidelines in front of the dugout.
"What are you going to say?" Candrea said. "This team spilled their guts. They've been spilling it all week."
Here's what K'Lee Arredondo, the only starter on the Wildcats to be on a WCWS championship team, told her teammates: "I've been here before."
In 2007, the Wildcats were down one game to zero in the finals against Tennessee, and rallied to win.
"I know everyone was really down," the senior shortstop said. "I don't care if we just lost that game. My freshman year, I lost that game and we battled back and won two games in a row."
Arredondo was one of Monday's heroes until the Bruins forced extra innings.
Trailing 4-2 entering the top of the seventh - staring at their last three outs - the Wildcats walloped back-to-back homers.
Schutzler walked to lead off the inning, and Arredondo roped a first-pitch screwball from Langenfeld that grazed the top of the left-center field wall.
The next batter, Stacie Chambers, hit probably the farthest home run of the tournament to give UA a 5-4 lead. The count full, she belted a no-doubter to center field, sailing at least 40 feet over the wall and caroming off a cherry picker that served as a temporary camera well.
The Bruins took a 4-2 lead the inning before.
With two outs, Monica Harrison ripped a two-strike double down the left-field line that landed on the outer half of the foul line, five feet in front of the wall. Two runs scored.
Fowler struck out 12, but was hardly dominant, allowing 12 hits and six earned runs.
She allowed Langenfeld's first-inning solo homer. In the third, Langenfeld singled in a run.
"I thought I battled," Fowler said. "I think it's going to be the same thing coming out (today)."
The Wildcats hope it will have a happier ending.
"We fought so hard," Arredondo said. "There's no reason we can't come back and beat this team two times in a row."
• What: WCWS finals Game 2; UCLA leads 1-0.
• Who: Arizona vs. UCLA
• Where: Oklahoma City
• When: 5 p.m.
• TV: ESPN2