California's top pitcher to be decided Thursday

Cal's Kristina Thorson garners less ink than crosstown rival Anjelica Selden, but her numbers are absolutely gaudy, writes Mary Buckheit.

Updated: May 8, 2006, 3:47 PM ET
By Mary Buckheit | Special to ESPN.com

The UCLA trophy case is already as congested as the 405 on a Friday afternoon, but as the No. 1 Bruins (42-5, 14-3) continue to reel off wins, they had better make room for some more hardware.

In the final week of the regular season, it seems as though the Pac-10 trophy is headed back to Westwood, and no one looks likely to join the Bruins, so they can't even hop in the car-pool lane.

The Bruins have just three games left. They wrap up their season in Palo Alto, Calif., with two games they should take from an underachieving Stanford squad. The remaining test for the Bruins comes Thursday, when they head to Berkeley for a date with the No. 7 Cal Bears (42-11, 10-8) in a contest that already has college softball fans salivating.

California Media RelationsKristina Thorson and the Bears don't have an easy road to Oklahoma City, but our experts believe Cal will advance.
Back on April 1, Cal beat up on UCLA in Los Angeles for a 10-3 win. The next day, the Bruins came out seeking a little redemption and mustered a 3-1 win over the Bears. This Thursday will decide the series, but more important, it will provide a head-to-head showcase of arguably the two hottest pitchers in the country right now: Anjelica Selden and Kristina Thorson.

Back-and-forth debates are sparked at the mere mention of their names. Cal's Thorson seems to garner less ink than the other ace in blue and gold, but her numbers are absolutely gaudy. Her Bears might not be capable of the kind of power young Selden's teammates provide at the plate (oh, but what if they were?), but her hurling stats meet and often exceed the likes of those of Selden, Alicia Hollowell, Katie Burkhart and Brianne McGowan. Thorson will head into Thursday's matchup with 29 wins and 14 shutouts. She is coming off a sterling weekend at Arizona State in which she struck out 14 Sun Devils in 11 innings over two games.

For her part, Selden is an impressive 12-2 in the circle against Pac-10 opponents. In 93 innings pitched against fellow Pac-10 players, she has 116 strikeouts. Last week, Jelly passed legend Lisa Fernandez for third place on UCLA's career strikeout list -- halfway through her sophomore year!

These talented women have provided us with eye-popping box scores all season, and if you've been lucky enough to see them throw in person, then you know they both have the power to humble anyone who steps into the batter's box. Both seem equally deserving of any award thrown their way, and whether or not they're aware of it, we're all wondering which way pitcher of the year honors will be tossed.

Look for a strong showing from these amazing arms as they go at it Thursday.

Mary Buckheit is a regular contributor to ESPN.com and can be reached at marybuckheit@hotmail.com.

Mary Buckheit started as ESPN.com's college intern in 2000. She signed on full-time as an editor in 2002 and became a Page 2 Columnist in 2006. She went west to cover life in California, the UFC, AVP, X Games and anything else she can dig up under the sun.

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