By Arnie Leshin
It was tape, you know the way a sports event is already over while it’s still being played. To me, it was not a home run for ESPN. To me, for whatever reason, it was a spoiler, it spoiled my excitement while glued in to Tuesday night’s thriller between Oklahoma and UCLA.
Yes, I knew they were playing in the Championship final of the 48th annual NCAA Division I Women’s Softball World Series played before a record turnout at USA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. Of course I knew, I even made sure to turn on ‘record once’ earlier in the day.
I did this when ESPN had it scheduled for 6:30. Who knows if that meant Eastern Standard time or Mountain Standard tine. That can be pretty tricky some times. I mean the daily newspaper here sometimes has an event slated for EST and it begins at MST or visa-versa.
So there I was following the game, which was quite a different one than the 16-3 hit parade the Bruins played in Monday night’s game one of the best-of-3. I was looking at a 3-3 tie in the top of the fifth inning when I decided to check on some facts that would be in the pre-game news of the event.
So I did, and what I found was way ahead of what was, to me, post-game news. There it was as I rolled my eyes, shuck my head … UCLA wins 2019 Women’s College World Series against Oklahoma on Kinsley Washington’s walk-off single. I knew they couldn’t make it up, and I was right, for when I returned to what I was watching, it was 4-3 Bruins in the last of the sixth.
Taped, they actually taped it, and I hope no one else fell into this trap. I already knew the final score was 5-4 UCLA. I already knew that the Sooners had tied the score on senior Shay Knighten’s solo home run with one out in the top of the seventh. I already knew how the Bruins won it in the bottom of the frame.
Was that a bummer? It certainly was. I even send a text to my friends in McKinney, Texas, to tell them I already knew who had won about a half hour ago, that I found out it was being taped. I didn’t reveal the outcome, but they must have been talking about it.
From how I saw it after 2nd seeded UCLA took the field, the Bruins struck quickly with back-to-back home runs in the last of the first. The Sooners left All-America lead-off batter Sydney Romero on second after she doubled to right-center in the top of the first.
It became 3-1 in the third when UCLA got a 2-run shot over the fence in left by senior Brianna Tautalafua’s third four-bagger of the season when she took junior southpaw Giselle Juarez’ first-pitch curveball for a ride.
But Oklahoma responded in the fifth to cut the gap to 3-2.. Junior Nicole Mendez led off with a base hit to right field, sped to second on a passed ball, and to third on a ground ball out to sophomore shortstop Briana Perez.
Up stepped sophomore catcher Lynnsie Elam, and after six pitches, she lined one into left field and Bubba Nickles almost made a great leaping grab, but it went off her glove to score Mendes.
But Oklahoma tied it at 3-all in the sixth when Romero sent a 2-1 fastball over the wall in left.
And that’s the way it stayed as Juarez and Bruin redshirt junior right-hander All-America Rachel Garcia were hooked up in a circle dual.
But in the sixth, Garcia parked a fastball over the fence in left-center and now her team was up 4-3. Then up came in the 7th Knighten with two out and no one on. She then belted a 2-2 fastball that just cleared the fence in left-center field. It brought the Sooners out of the dugout to happily greet Knighten for keeping them alive.
But it didn’t last long. After freshman Colleen Sullivan drew a full count walk with one down and reached second on a wild pitch, Washington, coming off a 4-for-4 game one, sent a ball up the middle and in raced Sullivan and her joyous teammates now had their 12th national championship, first since 2010.
For the top-ranked Sooners who lost their first back-to-back games in 807 days, it was a gallant effort to force a Wednesday night game after being blown out in game one. This time they came close, but again came up short.
The packed house, a record 9,237 that filled the place hours before game time, was mostly Oklahoma supporters and went wild each time their team made big plays, especially on 2017 17thinning game-winner Knighten’s homer to win a fourth national title, and now for the big blow that kept them alive.
And that’s the way I saw it, I thought live, until the tape got in the way. Imagine how upset I got when I already knew the outcome. Thanks ESPN, but whose idea was this?
NOTES: UCLA finished at 55-5. It loses seven seniors and returns four starters, including Garcia and two freshmen pitchers. Garcia went the distance, striking out four, walking three and throwing 113 pitches.
Oklahoma finished at 58-5. It loses five seniors and returns five starters, including freshman shortstop Grace Lyons, who made some amazing throws to first several times.
Juarez, who also went the route and stuck out seven and issued three passes while serving up 102 pitches, will be back with junior right-handed starter Mariah Lopez and junior righty Shannon Salle, a quality reliever.
Event security called off scalping tickets after the gates shut down and the fire department wouldn’t allow any more people because of the fire law.