It didn’t take 17 innings, but Oklahoma’s 5-4 game two victory over the Florida Gators was no less dramatic than the Monday night marathon that set them up for a second consecutive title.
The championship gives Oklahoma two in a row, three in the past five seasons and four during the increasingly legendary tenure of head coach Patty Gasso.
The scoring started fast this time, and in OU’s favor when fab freshman and leadoff hitter Nicole Mendes hit a homer to left field, putting the Sooners up 1-0.
Oklahoma opted for Paige Parker to start the game after throwing 108 pitches last night, and she battled her way to a scoreless first inning. But she allowed the Gators to respond in the top of the second, giving up a leadoff home run to Sophia Reynoso and three two-out singles. She was pulled for Mariah Lopez with two down, and the Sooners finally got out of the inning trailing 3-1.
Just like the rest of the series, though, the Sooners didn’t stay behind for long. Macey Hatfield got a one-out single in the bottom of the second, followed by a Lea Wodach walk and a Kelsey Arnold single to load the bases. Just as Oklahoma had in the top of the frame, Florida pulled starter Aleshia Ocasio and brought on last night’s workhorse Delanie Gourley.
It didn’t work. Caleigh Clifton walked in a run and Shay Knighten cleared the bases with a double to put the Sooners up 5-3 heading to the third.
Lopez got the first two outs of the third inning, but the long ball struck again — this time it was Gators right fielder Chelsea Herndon who blasted the solo shot and narrowed OU’s lead to just one.
But Lopez got back on track and locked the Gators down for one more inning, then handed off to Nicole Mendes who had pitched just over 17 frames all season long. Mendes was unfazed by the raucous WCWS environment and set Florida down in order in the fifth.
Mendes gave way to Paige Lowary after a leadoff single in the sixth, and Lowary promptly induced a grounder, lineout and strikeout to move Oklahoma just three outs away. The Sooners couldn’t manage any additional offense from the third inning forward — Gourley was fantastic again in relief — but OU ended up not needing any. Lowary set the Gators down in order in the seventh, fielding the decisive groundout herself, to claim Oklahoma’s second consecutive national championship.
Patty Gasso was visibly emotional in the dugout following the win, and it’s not hard to imagine why. She’s won back-to-back title for the first time in her illustrious career and given the Sooners early dibs on Team of the Decade.
Here’s to Coach Gasso, World Series MOP Shay Knighten and the entire Sooners squad for an incredible year and a gutsy, undefeated WCWS run. We’re all extremely proud of you.