Sooners hit 3 home runs, run-rule Duke in WCWS opener

It was a moment that felt like a tipping point, but it was also the kind of moment Jayda Coleman loves.

No. 10-seed Duke was threatening to steal back all the momentum Oklahoma had garnered in the bottom of the third inning of its Women’s College World Series opener. The Sooners had scored four runs in the inning on two home runs to take a 4-1 lead.

In the next frame, the Blue Devils had the bases loaded with two outs when Oklahoma brought in Kierston Deal to relieve starting pitcher Kelly Maxwell. On the next at-bat, Gisele Tapia hit a fly ball into shallow center field.

Coleman chased it down and laid out for the catch. If she missed it, the Blue Devils would’ve scored at least two runs and put serious pressure on Deal and the Sooners.

Coleman didn’t miss it.

“If she doesn’t make the play, a rally is created. If she does make the play, momentum comes in our dugout,” head coach Patty Gasso said.

The senior’s second highlight-reel catch in as many games kept the momentum in the Sooners’ favor midway through the fifth inning. They scored three more runs in the bottom of the inning and would take the opener in a run-rule win with a walk-off two-run single by Alyssa Brito.

With a 9-1 win in six innings, the Sooners get Friday off before returning to face UCLA on Saturday at 2 p.m.

“The catalyst today was Jayda Coleman,” Gasso said.

Coleman’s contribution would be easily overlooked by simply looking at the box score. The senior was stellar at the plate, going 2 for 4 with a double, but home runs by Kinzie Hansen, Cydney Sanders and Alynnah Torres stole a lot of the spotlight.

The Sooners trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning. Coleman led off the inning and poked a single up the middle of the field.

The Blue Devils pulled starting pitcher Cassidy Curd and replaced her with Jala Wright.

The senior pitcher was able to put the next two Sooners down in order, but one of the nation’s top offenses started to find its groove. Hansen was expecting a pitch low in the zone and swung on the first one she saw.

“I noticed the at-bats before me, she was kind of trying to pound the zone early with really what’s just a good strike.,” Hansen said. “We were taking it the first couple at-bats … In my mind I just went up thinking 70, she’s got to come early for a strike. I loaded early and saw the ball kind of middle, just went for it.”

The Sooners’ catcher sent the ball deep over the wall in left center field to score their first two runs of the game. Brito drew a walk on the next at-bat and Torres hit another two-run home run to give the Sooners a commanding lead.

Hansen moved into third place all-time with six career home runs at the WCWS. It was Torres’ first home run since April 16 against Houston.

Three pitches into the fourth inning, Sanders hit the Sooners’ third, two-run home run in their last six at-bats.

The Sooners extended their lead to 7-1 after four innings. Coleman was in the leadoff spot again in the bottom of the sixth and hit a double into right field.

“What she’s been doing, she loves these big moments,” Gasso said about Coleman. “She’s her best in these situations, in this venue, in this World Series. It’s her favorite thing to do. We’re going to rally behind her and let her lead us.”

Tiare Jennings singled to set up Brito’s walk-off hit. Throughout the game Sooners leaned on their catalyst to take momentum back, but it was the bottom of the lineup that came up big and helped them take the lead.

Hansen went 2 for 3 with three RBI, Brito went 2 for 3 with two RBI, Torres went 1 for 3 with two RBI and Sanders went 1 for 3 with two RBI.

The Sooners had 11 hits and three home runs against a pitching staff that was third nationally in ERA. They faced the Blue Devils’ top two pitchers and had seven hits and six earned runs on those two through three combined innings pitched.

“Duke’s pitching staff is very, very good,” Hansen said. “They have one of the best pitching staffs here in OKC, in my opinion.”

Six of their runs came with two outs on the board and they had leadoff hits in four of the six innings.

Maxwell only lasted 3.2 innings, but had given the Blue Devils very few opportunities before the fourth inning. The lefty only allowed one hit, a home run by Francesca Frelick in the first at-bat of the second inning.

She hit a batter and walked two more in the fourth. Maxwell struck out four batters and walked four in her first World Series start as a Sooner.

Deal inherited a bases-loaded jam and left all three runners stranded. She allowed two hits and no earned runs with no walks over the next 2.1 innings.

The Blue Devils had three total hits, which tied their second-fewest this season.

Up Next

The Sooners move two wins away from the WCWS final with the win. If they fall to UCLA on Saturday, they’ll turn around and play an elimination game on Sunday at 2 p.m.

If they win, they won’t play again until Monday, where they would have two chances to win one game and advance to the championship series.