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Sooners thump Vols in second round of WCW

Oklahoma’s Jordy Bahl delivers a pitch against Tennessee Saturday afternoon during the Women’s College World Series at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. Photo by Michael Kinney

Oklahoma advances to semifinals with 9-0 win over Tennessee

By Michael Kinney
Contributing Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY – Heading into the 2023 Women’s College World Series there was a strong belief that the University of Tennessee was the second best team in the field. After winning the always tough SEC and riding a nine game win streak, many thought they might have what it takes to give top-ranked Oklahoma a battle.

However, when the two teams finally faced off on the big stage, it was a different story altogether as the Sooners pummeled the Lady Volunteers 9-0 at USA Hall of Fame Stadium.

“Extremely proud of this team and the way they played pretty flawless, attacking offensively, pitching staff, all of them, on point,” OU coach Patty Gasso said. “Everything was exactly the way we hoped it would be. Very proud of this team. Really stepping forward, getting the day off, getting to recover is really important.”

Oklahoma (58-1) moves on to the WCWS semifinal and will play Monday at 11 a.m. Tennessee (50-9) drop to the elimination bracket where they will face Oklahoma State Sunday at 6 p.m.

One of the first questions Tennessee coach Karen Weekly had to answer was why her ace, Ashley Rogers (18-1, 0.75 era) didn’t get the start against the nation’s top offense.

“I felt like Karlyn (Pickens) presented a pretty good option to start with. I didn’t plan on anyone going the full game or letting them see anybody too many times,” Weekly said. “I thought that was something else important in terms of just trying to keep them off balance. We planned to throw different people at them. The people we put in there I thought had the pitches in their arsenal that would be most successful. We didn’t execute in a lot of those instances, but ultimately that decision is on me.”

The decision looked like it was going to haunt the Lady Volunteers early when Oklahoma loaded the bases in the first inning. They had Pickens on the ropes before the freshman was able to pitch her way out of the jam without surrendering a run.

However, the Sooners didn’t let Pickens get away in the second. With two runners on base, Oklahoma’s Tiara Jennings crushed a shot over the centerfield fence. It was the junior’s 17th homer of the season.

“I know my first at-bat got a little jammed,” Jennings said. “I wanted to make a good adjustment. Two outs, two on, just tried to hit the ball hard, keep passing the pat. Got a good pitch, drove it, it ended up working out.”

That was the end of Picken’s day and she was pulled before the next batter. But the damage was done as OU ended the inning with a 3-0 advantage.

Sooners kept the momentum going in the bottom of the third inning. With Cyndey Sanders on second base, Kinzie Hansen smashed a line drive homerun to push the advantage to five runs.

“You are rounding second, you look up, you see your family going crazy, get to third, you see Coach going crazy, then you turn left, seeing the whole team at home just jumping and barking,” Hansen said. “Seeing the joy this team has consistently, they know that’s what keeps us going. That’s what motivates us, is all the joy and love we have for each other.”

Rylie Boone added a 2-run triple to give the Sooners a commanding 7-0 lead.

A wild pitch from the Vol’s Nicola Simpson brought in the fifth run of the inning as Tennessee continued to fall apart.

By the time the third inning ended, Oklahoma held a 9-0 advantage and Tennessee was scrambling for answers on how to slow down a juggernaut.

Once again Jodry Bahl put together another strong performance for Oklahoma. The sophomore righthander gave up one hit, one walk and fanned three in three innings of work.

OU’s Alex Storako, Kierston Deal and Nicole May closed out the game without giving up a hit.

“It’s all about matchups for us,” Gasso said. “I think maybe that’s why they started their freshmen, as well. It’s about matchups. But we also knew Nicole May and Alex were good matchups for them. I was really hoping to get a lead to allow us to do the things that we did. It worked out well.”

The Volunteers only hit came when Kiki Milloy led the game off with a double. The rest of the lineup went 0-13 on the day.  That includes Mustang native Mackenzie Donihoo who went 0-1 with a walk.

Jennings led the Sooners at the plate after going 2-for-3 with a homer and 3 RBI.

The victory pushed the Sooner’s win streak to 50 games. However, it is something Gasso said her team really doesn’t discuss. They just want to win their final game.

“We don’t talk about it. We really don’t,” Gasso said. “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.”

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