By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY– The Women’s College World Series didn’t start like No. 1 Oklahoma had planned. An opening-round loss to an unseeded James Madison squad making its first-ever appearance in the WCWS was not part of the plan.
However, after winning four straight elimination games, including a 7-1 rout Monday over James Madison, the Sooners are exactly where they wanted to be, competing for a national championship. OU is making its second consecutive and seventh overall appearance in the WCWS national championship.
“We have had to go into every single game knowing this could be our last, and now we get to go into tomorrow but we have some breathing room,” Oklahoma’s Jayda Coleman said. “But we’re really just going to take it the same as we take every single game. We’re just going to go out there and attack every pitcher and we’re going to play hard on defense and just play our game every single game.”
Oklahoma will take on Florida State, who defeated Alabama 8-5 in the second semifinal. Game 1 is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the USA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“I’m honestly star-struck right now,” Coleman said. “This has been my dream ever since I was 12 years old and committing to this University, and I’m just so excited. I can’t wait to go out there with my sisters and just give all we’ve got and just give all of our heart to the game that we love, and hopefully it just goes our way.”
To get to this point, the Sooners had to rebound from a loss to James Madison to open the tournament. But after beating Georgia, UCLA and JMU, they were one game away.
Facing the Dukes and star pitcher Odicci Alexander for the third time in the tournament set up perfectly for the Sooners.
However, it didn’t go that way early. OU pitcher Giselle Juarez gave up a home run on the very first pitch of the game.
Yet, Juarez said she was going to stick to her game plan.
“Just attacking the zone and just trying to keep them off-balance,” the senior said. “They were coming out swinging and they’re a good hitting team, so respecting them and attacking the zone, but really staying within myself and going at my pace and knowing that every time I get three outs, our hitters are back up there. So just giving them the opportunity to get back in the dugout and get hits.”
No one benefited more from the game being postponed until Monday than Alexander. After losing to the Sooners in the morning contests, it was evident she was drained having to pitch a second game that evening did not look good.
But after getting a full day of rest, Alexander was back on the mound and throwing heat at Oklahoma batters in the first three innings.
However, in the top of the fourth senior Nicole Mendez led off with a triple to centerfield. Two batters later, Alexander walked Mackenzie Donihoo, but the pitch got past the catcher and Mendez was able to score easily.
Oklahoma added another run to take a 2-1 advantage.
In the bottom of the fifth, Donihoo came to the plate with two runners on and two outs on the board. She laced a double into centerfield to plate two more runs.
After Alexander gave up two more runs, she was taken out of the game to a standing ovation.
“Game recognizes game, and she is a baller,” Juarez said of Alexander. “I have mad respect for her, and she gave everything she had and I think it’s really awesome that they did give her that standing ovation. She earned it. She deserves it. She’s worked hard, and I think she’s a competitor, and she did great this year.”
After being shut down through five innings, Jocelyn Alo, the national player of the year, smacked her 32nd homer of the season in the sixth. To put the game away and set their sights on the championship series.
The Seminoles won the national championship in 2018. Several players from that squad still remain on the roster.
The Sooners know they will have their hands full with the gritty Seminoles.
“I’m really excited. We worked all year for this moment,” Juarez said. “To be one of two teams is amazing, and we’ve just got to keep playing our game and trusting each other. It feels amazing, but it’s been a grind.”
Copy by Michael Kinney Media