OKLAHOMA CITY - Caitlin Lowe had the best view of any player on the field, and even she wasn't sure if Arizona had finally made its breakthrough against Tennessee ace Monica Abbott.
Pinch-runner Danielle Rodriguez came charging home on Adrienne Acton's grounder in the 10th inning, and catcher Shannon Doepking spun in an attempt to tag her out. Rodriguez scraped her left hand toward the tip of home plate.
"I still kind of had to look at the umpire because I wasn't really sure what he was going to call," said Lowe, who was in the on-deck circle when Acton hit the ground ball.
"I knew she had definitely had a chance, and I saw her hand sneak in," Lowe added.
Umpire Jerry Bark ruled that Rodriguez was in beneath Doepking's tag to score the winning run in Arizona's 1-0 win over Tennessee on Tuesday night that extended the Women's College World Series finals to a decisive third game.
Sam Banister started Arizona's rally with single to left field and moved to second on a sacrifice before an error by Tennessee second baseman Kenora Posey allowed Callista Balko to reach base and Rodriguez, who pinch ran for Banister, to get to third.
Acton then slapped a grounder to shortstop Liane Horiuchi, and she fired home. Rodriguez swerved to the right around Doepking before extending her left hand toward the plate.
"Luckily I have long fingers," said Rodriguez, holding up her left hand.
Rodriguez's run - on her 21st birthday - ended a 43-inning scoreless streak for Abbott and extended the series to another game Wednesday night.
Doepking came away with a different impression of the play.
"When she came, I thought I had her. The umpire saw something different," Doepking said. "No matter what, that's not what lost the game. We couldn't bring a run across when we had runners in scoring position."
Arizona starter Taryne Mowatt (41-12) found her way out of one jam after another to keep the defending champions alive until they could score off Abbott, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.
Mowatt stranded 14 Tennessee runners, pitching out of a bases-loaded situation with nobody out in the fifth and preventing the Lady Vols (63-7) from scoring after putting the potential winning run in scoring position in the ninth.
Her teammates huddled around her along the first-base line after she got Horiuchi to ground out to end the game.
"We certainly had our opportunities tonight and couldn't capitalize when we needed to," Tennessee co-coach Karen Weekly said.
Abbott (50-4), who holds the NCAA records for wins, shutouts and strikeouts, fanned 11 to break the record for strikeouts in a World Series set by Alicia Hollowell in Arizona's run to the title last year. She hadn't allowed a run through her first 37 innings at the World Series, throwing four straight shutouts and then keeping Arizona scoreless through the first two extra innings.
Mowatt matched her with 11 strikeouts.
"I really felt like that in a game like that you've got to match them pitch for pitch and hang in there and get an opportunity," Arizona coach Mike Candrea said. "We finally got an opportunity and made something happen."
The top-seeded Wildcats (49-14-1), who didn't get a runner past second base in Game 1, were equally ineffective against Abbott until the winning rally in the 10th. That called for an unconventional decision by Candrea to have Balko, the catcher, bunt with Rodriguez on second and one out.
But the move paid off when Posey dropped the throw as Balko arrived at first.
"We're trying 18 million different things, obviously, when you've got someone like Monica on the mound and throwing well," Candrea said.
"The name of the game is if you get an opportunity you've got to make something happen. You can't sit back and expect to get two hits."
The Lady Vols' best chance to score came in the fifth, when Horiuchi walked, Posey bunted for a single and India Chiles reached on a grounder to deep short before Mowatt could retire a batter.
Mowatt responded by getting Lindsay Schutzler to ground back to the pitching circle before two running catches from her defense on bloops to the outfield grass. Second baseman Chelsie Mesa made the first, an impressive over the shoulder grab of Tiffany Huff's floater before bluffing a throw to force Horiuchi back to third. Shortstop Kristie Fox followed it by catching Tonya Callahan's soft line drive to end the inning.
"I just kind of had to stay calm and not get too worked up about it that there's no outs, bases loaded and probably their three best hitters up to bat," said Mowatt, who also stranded runners in scoring position in the second, fourth and seventh innings.
"I hit my spots. I thought I jammed the last two batters pretty good and Chelsie and Foxy got really good jumps on those balls behind them and were able to catch them. It was a pretty exciting inning."
Pat Summitt, coach of the Lady Vols' national championship basketball team, was in the stands for the game.