Number 1 seed Oklahoma trailed early in the NCAA tournament on Thursday; but the deficit lasted all of four batters and ended with Sooner softball taking a 13-1 win in their opening game of the Women’s College World Series.
Facing off against Northwestern, whose star slugger Rachel Lewis hit a solo home run in the top of the third inning for an early lead, the juggernaut Sooners scored six runs in the third inning and seven runs in the fourth to reach run-rule territory.
The Sooners moved to 55-2 on the year with the victory, their 39th win via the run-rule this season.
In the first game of the day, UCLA and Texas faced off. The Bruins and Longhorns faced off once during the regular season, in February in a game that UCLA won. Thursday’s affair had a different result.
Texas pitcher Hailey Dolcini dominated the Bruins, as the senior pitcher threw a complete game and earned the win in her Women’s College World Series debut.
On the other side of the ball, Texas’ offense collected thirteen hits in total off a trio of Bruin pitchers. After initially tagging starter Megan Faraimo with a 4-run third inning that forced the All-American out of the game, the Longhorns added a run in the 4th and 2 in the 6th and cruised to a 7-2 win.
Saturday’s first winner’s bracket game will see the Red River Rivalry in postseason softball form, when Texas takes on Oklahoma.
In the evening’s leadoff event, Florida ran roughshod over the Beavers of OSU, collecting thirteen hits on their way to a 7-1 win. Florida got a sensational performance in relief from senior Natalie Lugo; after entering in the second inning to help the Gators get out of a jam, Lugo threw every pitch the rest of the way. She closed the day with a line of six innings pitched, one hit, and no runs allowed.
The only SEC team in the WCWS field, the Gators move on to the winner’s bracket to face the winner of Oklahoma State and Arizona.
Speaking of the evening’s finale, it was a pitcher’s duel throughout, but one specific pitch will be the one that holds on in some Cowgirl fans’ memories for quite a while.
In the sixth inning, the home-team Cowgirls collected some base runners and had two on with Karli Petty to the plate. Petty deposited a 2-2 pitch into the center field bleachers, a 3-run home run that swung the lead – and the momentum – into her team’s favor.
Arizona threatened but didn’t score in the 7th inning and Oklahoma State took home the win, 4-2.
Both the winner’s- and loser’s-bracket games stemming from Thursday evening’s results should be interesting – the Florida vs. Oklahoma State matchup pits OSU head coach Kenny Gajewski against his former boss and longtime friend, Florida head coach Tim Walton.
Friday’s loser bracket will see two games starting at 7p ET. Loser goes home when UCLA takes on Northwestern and Oregon State plays Arizona in a PAC 12 elimination game.