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Oklahoma Sooners Softball: OU edges Alabama, 3-2, on WCWS opening night

Nicole Mendes’ late RBI triple gave her Sooners the lead and was as clutch as it gets.

Texas Longhorns At Oklahoma Sooners Softball | Game 3 Gallery

The No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners won a hard-fought battle against 8th seeded Alabama, 3-2, in the opening round of games at the Women’s College World Series. With the victory, OU moves into the winner’s bracket and will face a familiar foe in Oklahoma State.

Despite a bad call early one, this Oklahoma team showed a ton of resolve and heart. It also proved why it’s one of the deepest teams in the nation, with big play threats throughout the batting lineup.

Here’s the postgame press conference following the Sooners’ win.

Giselle ‘G’ Juarez received the start in the circle for the Sooners to kick off the WCWS festivities, and on the night the junior struck out nine ‘Bama batters while only giving up four hits through seven innings. Things weren’t always smooth, but Juarez relied on her teammates to keep her even-keeled.

“I think I felt calm,” Juarez said after the game. “I knew my team had my back. But I think the thing that kept me calm, especially in the last inning, when I came back from the top of the sixth, Nicole saw me, she’s like, ‘Can we pray together?’. I think that was just really amazing because it’s something that I felt like spoke to me. It was just really needed in that moment.”

OU started the game’s scoring right away. In the bottom of the first, Sydney Romero led things off with a bloop single to right. Fellow senior Fale Aviu followed her up with a single grounded to left, putting Sooners on the corners with no outs. Alabama would finally record its first out of the night on a Caleigh Clifton fly out, but it was far enough into center field to allow Romero to cross the plate. Oklahoma took the early 1-0 lead into the second.

Alabama was able to put a run on the board in the top of the third shortly after an incorrect (and I mean incorrect) call was made at first base. On every angle of the video replay, it was clear that the Sooners successfully threw out the runner, but the umpire wrongfully called the play safe. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, replay review in college softball has only been used on an experimental basis and is not officially part of the game. Both sides were tied up at one run apiece going into the bottom of the frame.

Romero wasn’t about to let her team get jobbed on this night, so with her next at-bat she tripled to center. A couple hitters later, Jocelyn Alo singled up the middle for the lead-grabbing RBI. After three, the Sooners would lead, 2-1.

The Crimson Tide would knot up the score once again with a solo home run to lead-off the top of the fifth. With two championship caliber teams playing with so much on the line, a dog fight was to be expected.

In the bottom of the sixth, Alo would find success at the plate once again with a lead-off freebie. Pinch runner Raegan Rogers replaced Alo at first, then a couple at-bats later, seventh hole hitter Nicole Mendes would record an RBI triple to center and nearly put it over the wall. Half an inning later, the resulting 3-2 lead proved to be enough to seal the win.

“I didn’t know it hit the wall, I just knew it was over her head and I knew as soon as I saw it go over her head I was going to go, so I stopped looking after that,” Mendes said of he clutch hit. “It wasn’t until afterwards that I saw how close it was to going out. But, yeah, I was kind of thinking about going home, but coach held me up.”

Next up, softball fans will behold the WCWS edition of Bedlam. After 13th seeded Oklahoma State upset No. 5 Florida, the Cowgirls await the Sooners in the winner’s bracket. OU ended its regular season with a three-game series sweep over OSU. The fourth meeting of the season between these in-state rivals is scheduled for Friday at 8:30 p.m. CT, and will be televised on ESPN.

“OSU’s a great team,” Romero said of Friday’s counterpart following Thursday’s win. “And I just think the cool part about it is you have two Oklahoma teams playing at the world series, and just the fact that both of these teams are from Oklahoma — I think it just says a lot stuff, and it’s awesome.

Mendes added, “It’s cool to see another Big 12 team. The Big 12 has really progressed over the years, and this is a testimony to that. I’m excited because they’re always a tough game, and for this game I think it’s really going to grow it not only in Oklahoma, but around the U.S.”

When asked if the situation added significance, Patty Gasso gave a coach’s answer.

“I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but I would say not really. It’s got to be somebody. If it’s not them, it’s Florida. There’s history. I know everybody wants to see it. We just want to find ways to win. We want to get ourselves to a place where we’re playing on Sunday and not playing all day. That’s the important thing. That’s what we’ve got to focus on, not get caught up in the hype. They (Oklahoma State) feel the same way. I’m sure they feel the same way. It’s a big game for tomorrow night. It puts somebody in a good driver’s seat. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”

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