The Oklahoma Sooners overcame adversity, heartbreak and hardship to finally come out on top in a back-and-forth Game One of the WCWS finals. They beat the Florida Gators 7-5 in a 17-inning marathon in Oklahoma City on Monday night.
Oklahoma was no-hit for the first four innings of the game by Gators starter Kelly Barnhill, while Paige Lowary held Florida scoreless in her first start of the series. Florida finally broke Lowary in the fourth, as Nicole DeWitt hit a one-out double and the dangerous Aleshia Ocasio singled her home two batters later.
At the time, it looked like the game might easily end with that 1-0 margin. But Oklahoma responded yet again in the fifth, with Nicole Pendley breaking the no-hitter with a double. Sydney Romero singled her home to tie the game at one apiece.
Oklahoma took the lead in the sixth when Nicole Mendes rocketed a one-out homer to right field, and it looked like destiny was once again on the Sooners’ side.
OU ace Paige Parker relieved Lowary in the sixth and set the Gators down in order. But she walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh inning, which proved her undoing when Sophia Reynoso just barely got a ball down in the left-center gap, scoring Jacqui Switzer all the way from first. The game was tied and heading to extras — and it wasn’t the first lead OU would relinquish.
Florida handed the ball to Delanie Gourley, a senior with big-game experience but not much of a recent track record. While most were relieved to see the ball out of Barnhill’s hands, that relief soon turned to horror as Gourley mowed down the Sooners quickly in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings.
In the 12th, Oklahoma finally managed a hit against Gourley — a Shay Knighten double to left — and Fale Aviu homered to put OU up 4-2. But even though the Sooners took Florida to its final strike again, a double from Amanda Lorenz plated two Gators to tie the game once again. Paige Lowary had re-entered the game with two Gators on base, and couldn’t finish it off for the Sooners.
In the 15th and 16th, OU stranded the bases loaded. It was beginning to look like Florida’s night. But Oklahoma held on with some timely double-plays and lightning-fast pitches from Lowary. OU’s final rally came with two outs in the top of the 17th. Nicole Mendes hit a single to left and Caleigh Clifton was hit by a pitch. That’s when Shay Knighten launched the decisive three-run shot into the left-field bleachers to put Oklahoma on top for good.
Florida made things interesting in the bottom of the frame, and even tacked on a run on a sac fly, but three runs finally proved to be too much of a deficit.
With the win, Oklahoma is now one victory away from its second consecutive national championship. It just won a game that will be talked about for years and years to come — it might be the best in the history of the Women’s College World Series.
Game Two begins Tuesday night at 7 p.m.