Sooners' offense overwhelms Seminoles, takes 1-0 series lead

The momentum had been building since Tiare Jennings’ solo home run in the bottom of the first inning. It seemed to finally reach a tipping point in the third.

When Florida State tied up the game in the top of the third, Alyssa Brito responded with a leadoff home run into left center field to take the lead back. Brito hit a ball hard to the same area in her first at-bat, but it missed the top of the wall by just a few feet.

Rylie Boone laid down a bunt that sent the Seminoles scrambling, a late throw to first base went wide allowing another run to score.

They scored three runs before Florida State got its second out. When they went back to the plate in the bottom of the fourth, Brito homered again followed by another by Kinzie Hansen two batters later.

The Sooners scored eight runs in the third and fourth innings to put themselves over the run-rule limit, but the Seminoles extended the game with a run in the fifth.

Kasidi Pickering eventually walked off the run-rule win with a bases-loaded walk to take the opener 11-3.

“A complete game,” OU head coach Patty Gasso said. “I loved our offense. Very explosive. Attacking. Very timely. Very clutch.”

The Sooners will face Florida State again 7 p.m. Friday needing just one more win to advance to the Women’s College World Series.

The Seminoles finished with three runs and four hits, but that didn’t tell the entire story of the game. Oklahoma starting pitcher Kelly Maxwell had four strong performances to start postseason play, but had a rare off-night Thursday.

The lefty senior had never walked more than four batters in a game this season. Against the Seminoles, she walked six and hit two more batters.

Still, Maxwell continued to battle and was able to hold the Seminoles off enough for the offense to seal the win.

“Sometimes you can see her pace kind of change a little bit,” Hansen said, “and that’s when I call time and go out there to make sure she goes back to her fundamentals and that steady pace she has when she’s lights out.”

The Seminoles loaded up the bases with two outs in the first, but Maxwell made a nice play on a ground ball to throw out the batter at first. She retired all three batters in order in the second, but faced a bases-loaded situation again in the third after hitting a batter and allowing a single and a walk.

Maxwell struck out the next batter, but Devyn Flaherty hit a single into right field that scored the Seminoles’ first two runs of the game.

She faced another jam in the fifth, with two runners in scoring position with two outs. Jahni Kerr cut the Sooners’ lead to seven with an RBI single before Maxwell struck the final batter out swinging.

“My message is fight through it,” Gasso said. “Because we’re all going to have to learn how to fight through it.”

Still, the Sooners’ defense had their pitcher’s back, coming up with big plays that swung the momentum back in their favor.

Jennings made a diving stop on a ground ball and threw out the lead runner at first base that likely would’ve scored the Seminoles’ first run. Florida State got two runners on base before the Sooners’ first out in the fourth and Kaley Mudge laid down a bunt to try to put the Seminoles’ in scoring position.

Brito got a quick jump on the play from third base, crashing down on home plate to catch the ball and rifle it to first base for a double play.

“Holding them to three runs is a big time victory,” Gasso said.

At the plate, the Sooners looked as good as they have all season, with 11 hits in 32 trips to the plate including four home runs.

Jennings’ home run in the first inning set the tone for the rest of the game and gave the senior her 95th career home run. She’s now tied with Lauren Chamberlain for third all-time in school history.

Brito went 3-3 with a double and two home runs. Freshman Kasidi Pickering had two singles and was walked.

The only Sooners starter that didn’t have a hit was leadoff hitter Jayda Coleman.

“It was the first time in a while that I felt like we were taking, top to bottom, really great swings,” Gasso said.