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Coleman's walk-off home run sends Sooners to WCWS finals

A solo home run by Jayda Coleman gave Oklahoma its first lead over Florida in two games at the Women’s College World Series.

After eight back-and-forth innings, Coleman’s homer put Oklahoma back in the championship series for the fifth season in a row in a dramatic, walk-off win in extra innings.

“Going around the bases, I lost it, just started crying,” Coleman said. “Just the presence that I felt with God, it was incredible. Incredible feeling.”

The Sooners needed to come back from down three runs after five and a half innings just to set up Coleman’s winner.

Kelly Maxwell shook off a rocky start and was fantastic down the stretch in a 6-5 win in eight innings.

“I think one of the better games in College World Series history,” head coach Patty Gasso said. “A nail-biter. A little bit of everything.”

Oklahoma will meet Texas in the championship series for the second time in three seasons. The best-of-three series will begin 7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN.

The day started with a lot of the focus on the Sooners’ starting pitcher. On Monday, the Gators hit four home runs and scored in five of six innings with Maxwell sitting out for the first time at the WCWS.

Still, the rematch seemed to be destined for a similar result when Jocelyn Erickson hit a two-run home run in the first inning. Unlike Monday’s game, the Sooners responded when their backs were against the wall.

Tiare Jennings doubled on the second at-bat of the first inning and freshman Ella Parker stepped up and hit a laser over the center field wall to tie the game.

It was Parker’s first home run at the World Series and made it clear that the defending champions weren’t going down without a fight.

“My teammates got my back, and I know … that we’re all for each other,” Parker said. “I guess that’s what drives me, is doing everything for my team.”

Parker hit a ball into the gap in fifth inning and collided with Florida shortstop Skylar Wallace as she was approaching second base. It was a violent collision that left both players shaken up, but they were able to remain in the game.

Florida hit two more home runs in the second and third to take a 5-2 lead.

The Gators only had three hits through the first three innings but all of them left the yard. Through their first 10 innings against the Sooners, the Gators had 13 hits, seven home runs and scored 14 runs.

For the first time over those 10 innings, the momentum finally flipped after the third inning Tuesday.

Maxwell said she had a conversation with pitching coach Jennifer Rocha after the third inning that she took as a personal challenge. The senior struck out two batters and put the Gators down in order in the fourth.

Kasidi Pickering led off the bottom of the inning with a single and Cydney Sanders hit a two-run home run four pitches later.

Maxwell walked two batters in the fifth, but, after battling through a 32-pitch inning, forced a fly out to escape the jam.

The Sooners’ ace only allowed one hit and held the Gators scoreless over the final five frames.

“The fact that Kelly is going to be playing in a national championship game is one of the highlights of our season,” Gasso said.

The Sooners’ two runs in the fourth inning cut the deficit to one, but they still trailed with four outs remaining.

Avery Hodge hit a line drive down the first base line for a double, but Coleman hit a pop up into left field on the first pitch of the next at-bat. Jennings was intentionally walked, putting Parker back at the plate for the first time since her injury.

After taking a strike, Parker singled into left center to score the tying run. She went 3 for 3 on Tuesday with three RBIs.

The Sooners had 12 hits including seven for extra bases. Coleman, Parker, Pickering and Hodge each had multiple hits.

Maxwell retired the final six batters she faced to set up Coleman’s home run. When her team needed her most the Oklahoma State transfer threw a season-high 148 pitches with four hits and five earned runs allowed with eight strikeouts.

She improves to 22-2 in the circle and has won her last eight starts.

“I knew today was going to be tough,” Maxwell said. “I knew coming out the gate I didn’t kind of have my best stuff. I knew I was going to make an adjustment middle of the game. I flipped a switch, chose my fighter and went to war. Just being able to attack and go out with a fight.”