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Inola alum Walker helps Duke reach Women's College World Series

May 27—Inola alum Lillie Walker made her 27th appearance in the circle for Duke, helping it secure a dramatic 4-3 victory over seventh-seeded Missouri on Sunday at Mizzou Softball Stadium.

This win earned the 10th-seeded Blue Devils their first-ever berth in the Women's College World Series (WCWS). They will begin their WCWS campaign against second-seeded Oklahoma at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Devon Park in Oklahoma City.

Walker was called upon in the bottom of the ninth inning after Duke starter Cassidy Curd allowed two singles. Walker forced a groundout but then surrendered a three-run home run to Abby Hay, cutting Duke's lead to 4-3.

Unfazed, Walker retired the next batter before Curd re-entered to finish the game. Despite a single that loaded the bases, Duke sealed the win with a game-ending lineout.

This was Walker's only appearance in the three-game series.

Curd earned the victory, pitching 8.1 innings, allowing two runs on six hits, and striking out seven. With this win, Curd improved her season record to 13-3.

Curd praised Missouri's efforts and highlighted the mental adjustments needed for the win.

"First off, I just want to tip my hat to Missouri, they're a phenomenal team and they really gave me a run for my money this weekend," she said. "It was about just continuing to go at them with my best stuff and having the most unwavering confidence in the defense being right there to back me up."

The Blue Devils' overall record now stands at 52-7, while the Tigers concluded their season at 48-18.

Senior Claire Davidson led Duke's offense, going 2-for-4 with two singles. Seniors Kelly Torres and D'Auna Jennings, junior Ana Gold, and freshman Amiah Burgess each contributed with key hits and RBIs.

Duke's bats came alive in the top of the ninth. Jennings hit a lead-off home run to break the scoreless tie.

Jennings emphasized staying composed under pressure.

"I think it's important to not let the moment get too big, to really stay within yourself," she said. "We all had nerves and felt the pressure, but it's all part of the game. We kept telling each other, do not try to do too much, keep things simple, and at some point, the balls are going to fall."

Burgess followed with an RBI-triple to score senior Francesca Frelick, who reached on a hit-by-pitch. Gold's RBI-double and Torres' RBI-double extended Duke's lead to 4-0.

Missouri mounted a comeback in the bottom of the ninth with Hay's three-run home run, but Duke held on to clinch the win.

Duke's historic journey to the WCWS is marked by their resilience and teamwork. The Blue Devils, now 17-11 in extra-inning games and 5-1 this season, look forward to their matchup against Oklahoma, ready to make their mark on the national stage.

"This is what postseason softball is all about—just a dogfight," Duke head coach Marissa Young said. "Kudos to Missouri, they put up so much fight all weekend and are such great competitors. Super proud of our girls for continuing to fight with their backs against the wall. Cassidy Curd came out and threw a heck of a gem, and I knew it was just a matter of time until our offense was able to score some runs for her and open things up."