They didn’t take the smoothest path there, but the Oklahoma Sooners are right back where they expected to be this preseason: in the best-of-three finals of the Women’s College World Series.
OU topped the Oregon Ducks 4-2 on Sunday afternoon, becoming the first team to overcome a deficit in the World Series this year. A four-run fifth inning made all the difference as Oklahoma overcame a Danica Mercado two-run homer earlier in that frame.
The first innings of the game were a lightning-fast pitcher’s duel, with Paige Parker and Megan Kleist trading zeros. Oklahoma did get Nicole Mendes to third base in the first inning and Sydney Romero back there in the second, but OU missed both opportunities.
For their part, the Ducks got runners to scoring position in the third and fourth with nothing to show for it.
Jenna Lilley’s two-out single seemed minor enough in the fifth inning, as there was little reason to worry about Paige Parker and her scoreless game. But Mercado somehow caught up to an eye-high riseball in the next at-bat, rocketing it on a line just over the right-field fence to put the Ducks up 2-0.
To their credit, the Sooners didn’t panic and quickly got to work on the deficit. As has been the case, though, the rally began with controversy when Lea Wodach’s bunt died at the plate and the catcher airmailed it into right field as Wodach ran for first. The bunt looked foul on the replay, but the play stood and Wodach stopped at second.
Reagan Rogers pinch-ran and scored two batters later with the Oregon shortstop inexplicably tried to nab her at the plate — Rogers was safe by a mile — rather than simply throwing out Nicole Mendes at first on a grounder. Hits from Shay Knighten and Nicole Pendley plated the next three Sooners and gave OU a 4-2 lead it didn’t relinquish. Paige Lowary came on to finish the game for the Sooners and pitched two perfect frames.
Oklahoma will now face Florida in a best-of-three series for the national championship. Like the Sooners, Florida has not dropped a game during the WCWS and will probably be favored despite OU’s home-field advantage.
The Gators are looking for their third title in four seasons, a winning streak broken only by OU’s own win last year. The two teams are responsible for each of the last four titles and at least one has played in every championship series since 2011.
The final series begins Monday night at 6 p.m.