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'We can all hit': Tiare Jennings, Kinzie Hansen power OU softball past Tennessee into WCWS semifinals

Heading back to the dugout to gear up after grounding out with the bases loaded in the first inning, OU catcher Kinzie Hansen wasn’t down at all.

For most teams, letting a prime scoring opportunity pass — especially on a state as big as the Women’s College World Series — would be a letdown.

But this Sooners team isn’t most teams.

They’re not like any team to ever play college softball.

OU proved that once again Saturday, drubbing Tennessee 9-0 in five innings at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium to move within one victory of a return to the WCWS Championship Series.

The Sooners (58-1) will take on Stanford or Washington at 11 a.m. Monday, needing one win in two potential games to move a step closer to becoming the second team in the sport’s history to win three consecutive titles.

More: Tramel: OU softball so dominant that Tennessee loses its mind with WCWS pitching decision

OU's Tiare Jennings (23) celebrates after hitting a three-run home run in the second inning of a 9-0 win against Tennessee on Saturday in the Women's College World Series at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
OU's Tiare Jennings (23) celebrates after hitting a three-run home run in the second inning of a 9-0 win against Tennessee on Saturday in the Women's College World Series at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.

OU also extended its NCAA record winning streak to 50, reaching another milestone in a season filled with them.

“It means we’re winning a lot of games,” Sooners coach Patty Gasso said, once again reiterating that her team doesn’t talk about the streak internally. “Because what we want to do is bring a national championship back to the University of Oklahoma and the state of Oklahoma because that will never be taken away from us. You can never take that away. It will live forever.”

That attitude, Hansen said, helps keep the Sooners’ eyes focused forward, both in the flow of the season from game to game but also from at-bat to at-bat.

That’s why Hansen wasn’t fazed at all by her early groundout.

“With this team, one through 20, we can all hit,” Hansen said. “So the pressure’s really taken off. If I ground out with the bases loaded like I did today, I know that the next inning we will get on base again.

“It allows us to make adjustments quicker, it allows us to be free-minded and joyful in everything that we do because arm-in-arm, one through 20, this team’s tough to beat.”

More: How will OU softball fare vs. Tennessee? Sooners 'don’t always have to hit home runs' to win

Oklahoma and Tennessee pray together after Saturday's game at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
Oklahoma and Tennessee pray together after Saturday's game at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.

It’s hard to argue with Hansen.

The Sooners didn’t score the first time through the order Saturday.

But by the time leadoff hitter Jayda Coleman dug in for her third at-bat, they led 7-0.

By the time the third inning was in the books, the game was all but over, OU leading 9-0 with ace Jordy Bahl looking even better than she did in Thursday’s 2-0 complete-game victory over Stanford.

The Sooners were 5 of 12 with runners on base Saturday. Two of their seven hits and four of their nine runs came with two outs.

OU appears unbothered by situations that often cause normal teams to tighten up under pressure.

“We have so much confidence in the entire lineup, who’s going to get the job done, that there’s not pressure on us so we don’t have to do anything,” Tiare Jennings said. “We don’t have to score that winning run. There’s nothing on our side that we have to do because the whole entire lineup can do it.”

More: How does OU softball stay in the moment and relieve stress? 'Celebrate the little things'

OU's Kinzie Hansen (9) celebrates beside Alex Storako (8) after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning Saturday against Tennessee.
OU's Kinzie Hansen (9) celebrates beside Alex Storako (8) after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning Saturday against Tennessee.

Jennings got the scoring started with a three-run homer to left-center in the second, then Hansen followed with a low line drive in nearly the same spot for a two-run homer the next inning.

Rylie Boone soon added a two-run triple, then the Sooners scored on a pair of wild pitches and the game was in run-rule territory once more.

It was OU’s 28th run-rule of the season.

“Nobody can get the Sooners twice, the second time through the lineup,” Jennings said. “We’ll always continue to make adjustments, continue to get better.

“The minute we get runners on in the first inning, we know we’re at a good place, we’re at a good start. … You can’t really get us out three times in a row. It’s a really tough thing to do.”

More: 'Just a boss': OU softball ace Jordy Bahl dominated Stanford, but don't take it for granted

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OU softball run-rules Tennessee, advances to NCAA semifinals in WCWS