OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — No. 10 Oklahoma scored four runs in the fifth inning to eliminate No. 3 Oregon from the 2017 Women’s College World Series. The Ducks (54-8) were leading 2-0 before the late rally by the defending champions in the WCWS Final Four from USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
Oregon concludes a fantastic season with a bad taste in their mouth. The Ducks were just innings away from one game to advance to the national championship best of three. It just wasn’t meant to be for UO this season.
Paige Parker (W, 1.28 ERA) has not lost a game since March 18. The southpaw allowed just six earned runs in her last 79 innings of work. Impressively, she did not allow a run until two outs in the Duck fifth on Sunday.
With two outs in the fifth inning and Jenna Lilley on first base, Danica Mercado came to the dish. A full count offering was delivered just over the right field wall. The 2-run homer was the first tally of the day, as Oregon crept ahead of the defending champs 2-0. It was a moment to behold.
The good feeling ended quickly though. Sooner Lea Wodach reached base following a game-changing play in the bottom half of the fifth. After laying down a bunt that seemed inches foul, the umpire continued play. UO catcher, Svekis errantly threw the ball down the line, enabling the runner to reach base and advance to second.
Oklahoma had two in scoring position with nobody out after a Kelsey Arnold single and stolen base. Then, Nikki Udria made an uncharacteristic decision when she fielded a ground ball and threw home, instead of taking the easy out at first base. Not conceding a run for an out cost the Ducks dearly.
Oklahoma tallied four runs (two unearned) in the fifth frame, capturing the lead for the first time in the game, 4-2. Shay Knighten highlighted the outburst with a two-run single that gave the Sooners a 3-2 advantage.
“Against a team like this, you got to take advantage,” said Oregon head coach Mike White.
Megan Kleist (L, 1.27 ERA) took to the pitching circle once again on Sunday. Opponents entered play hitting .198 off the righty. Kleist secured the save in Oregon’s first elimination game against Baylor on Saturday afternoon. She then tossed a complete game one-run gem for the win in the night cap vs LSU. Yet, she would exit Sunday’s contest prematurely with the loss.
Kleist departed after 4.2 innings of work and 23 total batters faced. Not to mention, her 8.0 innings of brilliance a day earlier may have taken a toll on her. The RHP yielded two earned runs (four total) on six hits. She struck out two and walked one.
Teams that scored first were 11-0 at the 2017 Women’s College World Series PRIOR to Oklahoma’s comeback. In fact, no team had relinquished a lead in the WCWS until Oregon’s dreadful fifth frame. Make that 11-1 now.
Oklahoma closer Paige Lowary entered the fold in the seventh. It’s not frequent to see a closing pitcher in softball, but the Sooners are loaded with talent. The right-hander breezed through the order in Oregon’s final frame.
The Ducks scored two runs on five hits Sunday afternoon. Parker did not allow any Oregon player to record more than one hit. Mercado’s blast was the lone highlight of the day for the Ducks. It was just their second home run in the tournament.
The Sooners will be looking to defend their crown at the World Series. They will be vying for back-to-back titles when they play the previous back-to-back champions.
Six combined runs were tallied in the fifth inning on Sunday between Oregon and Oklahoma. However, the two teams combined for zero runs in the other six innings of action.
Udria had her nine game hit-streak snapped. The All-American senior was riding an incredible 43-game on-base streak prior to postseason action.
After finishing with seven extra-base hits in two games on Saturday, Oregon had one on Sunday vs Oklahoma.
Shay Knighten Bloops 2-Run Game-Winning Single into right field on the first pitch.
The dominant No. 1 Florida Gators (3-0) cruised by Washington, 5-2, to reserve their spot in the 2017 Women’s College World Series best of three. The Gators won back-to-back titles in 2014-15. It is their fifth title appearance in the last nine years. They await the No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners (59-9) for Game 1 on Monday at 4:00 p.m. PT from OKC.
After beginning the season with the best start in college softball history (35-0), Oregon has nothing to hang their collective heads about. This was a brilliant season with an incredibly young and talented squad. These Ducks are just getting their feet wet. A future softball national championship has never seemed more attainable.