Krista Colburn’s quest for a title begins

As a four-year starter on the UCLA softball team, Krista Colburn has put together an impressive list of accomplishments:

First-team All-Pac-10.

First-team All-Pacific Region.

First-team All-American.

Two appearances in the College Softball World Series.

Yet, for all the accolades, there’s still a hole in Colburn’s collegiate resume.

She’s never won a national title.

That may not seem like a big deal. After all, hundreds of college softball players never get within a bunt single of the championship trophy.

But this is UCLA.

The folks in Westwood, Calif., are fond of pointing out that every softball class in school history has won a national title — “on the field.” The disclaimer is needed because the 1995 squad forfeited its crown for using an ineligible player.

So the pressure is on Colburn and her fellow seniors this week at the 2008 College Softball World Series, which opens today in Oklahoma City. The Bruins (50-7) haven’t won a title since 2004, the year before Colburn arrived as a top recruit out of Kamiak High School in Mukilteo.

If the pressure of upholding tradition weighs on Colburn, she’s not letting on.

“I’m not nervous at all,” she said Wednesday in a phone interview from Oklahoma City.

The absence of butterflies is a welcome change from three years ago, when Colburn made her World Series debut as a freshman. “Oh, gosh, I don’t think I slept a wink the night before my first World Series game,” she recalled.

Still, despite the lack of shut-eye, she went on to earn all-tournament honors as the Bruins advanced to the title game, which they lost to Michigan, 4-1. UCLA returned to the series in 2006, but didn’t reach the finals. Last season, the Bruins were eliminated in the NCAA regionals.

This year, Colburn helped lead UCLA back to Oklahoma City. The team’s starting left-fielder, she’s hitting .335, with two home runs and 25 runs batted in. She ranks second on the team in runs scored (43) and on-base percentage (.448) going into tonight’s 6 p.m. game with Arizona.

“I think it’s nice we are starting with a Pac-10 opponent because we are familiar with them,” said Colburn, whose team is 2-1 against Arizona this season.

By her own admission, Colburn is not a vocal leader. She did, however, offer a few tidbits of practical wisdom to her younger Bruin teammates.

“I just try to show them that it’s not such a big game,” Colburn said. “It’s still 60 feet and turn left. It’s still the same game.”

A game the Bruins have been playing very well all season. They finished second to Arizona State in the rugged Pac-10 — three of the eight teams in the World Series are from the Pac-10 — and enter the Series on a six-game winning streak. They swept Georgia in last weekend’s Super Regionals, 6-1 and 6-0.

“Even though the scores of those games seem (one-sided), they were close games.” Colburn said. “Every player in our lineup contributed to those wins.”

The Bruins will need a similar effort over the next week if they are going to claim the program’s 12th national title, Colburn said.

No matter what happens, the end of the Series marks the end of Colburn’s collegiate career. A history major, she’s thinking about coaching or maybe pursuing an offer she has to play professionally in Holland.

“I don’t think I will do the pro league her in America,” she said. “I really want to travel.”

But before she cashes in her frequent-flyer miles, she has one piece of business to finish up in college.

Filling that hole in her resume.

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