1998 Bulldog Softball Brings Home First National Title
1998 Fresno State Bulldog Softball . . . what a year and team to remember.
Fresno State captured its first national title and gave the university its first NCAA championship crown by any sport on May 25 while capping its season off with a No. 1 national ranking in the final USA Today/NFCA Coaches Top 25 Poll on May 28.
From comeback performances to overcoming physical injuries to celebrating 20 years of Bulldog Softball, one thing that stood out above all was the team's composure and their belief in themselves. Without one another each would have stood alone. With each other's trust and unspoken bond of human strength and perseverance, a champion was born.
The 1998 Fresno State softball team accomplished what no other Bulldog athletic team has done -- bringing home a NCAA championship title to the university and making the city and surrounding communities swell with pride.
The stage was set last fall with a 22-player squad and a committed coaching staff. With the fans support and their faith in the Bulldogs, the ultimate dream was achieved in Oklahoma City, Okla., at the Don E. Porter Hall of Fame Stadium.
Taking it step-by-step, these Bulldogs captured a Western Athletic Conference title (13th league championship, overall), won their 11 NCAA Regional crown, and made history at the 1998 NCAA Women's College World Series by becoming only the fifth program to win an NCAA title.
Making its 17th straight NCAA Regional appearance and 21st postseason showing overall, Fresno State appeared in its 11th NCAA Women's College World Series out of 17 postseason championships since 1982. As the No. 7 seed, the Bulldogs captured their first softball national title in their fifth appearance in the NCAA championship game after posting a 1-0 shutout win over #1 seed and top-ranked Arizona.
With a 7-1 postseason record in 1998, the Bulldogs notched a final record of 52-11 while recording the fewest losses in the program's history for the fourth time. Fresno State posted a 4-1 record in WCWS action and became the first non-Pac-10 team to win the national title since Texas A&M in 1987 after beating the top four seeds in the series (#1 Arizona, #2 Nebraska, #3 Michigan, and #4 Washington).
The Bulldogs broke Arizona's 29-game win streak as senior second baseman Nina Lindenberg's sixth inning home run snapped a string of 52-consecutive scoreless innings by Arizona pitchers. With the run, Fresno State tied its own single-season record in runs (374) that it set a year ago in 69 games. The Bulldogs also broke their own season record in batting average (.340) and fewest fielding errors (58).
Sophomore RHP Amanda Scott shut down the Wildcats on three hits and struck out six for her 14th shutout and 25th win. Scott tied three WCWS records in lowest ERA (0.00), fewest earned runs allowed (0), and fewest walks (0). In addition, Fresno State's team ERA of 0.00 tied for a series best.
Four Bulldogs were named to the 1998 NCAA All-College World Series team in senior centerfielder Laura Berg, who finished her career ranked No. 1 all-time in career hits at Fresno State and No. 2 all-time in NCAA history, sophomore first baseman Angela Cervantez, Scott, and Lindenberg. It marked the third time in school history that four Bulldogs were selected to an all-series team.
In addition, four Bulldogs were named All-Americans in first team selections Berg, Lindenberg, and Scott and freshman outfielder Becky Witt (second team), who also captured WAC Freshman of the Year honors.
Fresno State, which is the only program to have qualified for each of the 17 NCAA Division 1 Women's Softball Championships own a 62-35 (.639) NCAA postseason record.
In her 13th season as head coach of the Fresno State softball program, Margie Wright directed the Bulldogs to their first national title after being national runner-up three previous times.
With an impressive 673-200-1 (.771) mark with the Bulldogs and a 19-year career record of 822-280-3 (.745), Wright became only the third coach in NCAA Division 1 history to amass 800 or more career wins and is second among active coaches. Guiding the Bulldogs to the WCWS in nine of the last 12 seasons, Wright has collected nine outright or share conference titles, nine regional championship crowns, and 13 straight NCAA postseason appearances.
Averaging 52 wins a year while coaching 37 All-Americans and seven GTE Academic All-Americans, the six-time region and conference coach of the year will lead the USA Softball National Team to defend its world title at the 1998 ISF World Championship in Japan in mid-July.
Fresno State celebrated its 20th anniversary as a varsity sport in 1998. The nationally renowned program has been at the forefront of college softball ever since the Bulldogs earned varsity status in 1978. Home to four all-time NCAA attendance marks, Fresno State softball owns an overall win percentage of .746 (939-320-1) with seven Olympians, 39 All-Americans, and nine GTE Academic All-Americans.