Top-seed Florida, LSU, Washington, defending champion Oklahoma in winner’s bracket games of the NCAA Division I softball championships played in Oklahoma City
Gators versus Bayou Tigers, Huskies against the Sooners Friday as Texas A & M, UCLA, Oregon, Baylor fall into Saturday’s consolation round of double-elimination
By Arnie Leshin
No. 1 seed Florida had no problem disposing of 9th seeded Texas A & M in Thursday’s start of the NCAA Division I softball championships, but the next three games at least provided some drama.
Not so much for defending champion Oklahoma, which turned back PAC 12 rival Baylor, 6-3, in the night game that wound up the opening day at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, but the two middle games were tight and tense.
First, 13th seeded LSU, which was on the brink of elimination in the region it hosted, and then in the Super Regions at 4th seeded FSU, avoided that this time with a stellar pitching performance from right-hander Allie Walljasper to get past 5th seeded UCLA, 2-1.
Amazingly, Walljasper did not have a single strikeout while walking one, but she shut down the high-scoring Bruins with a run and five hits. The Bayou Tigers (48-20) scored once in the top of the first and again in the fifth to break a 1-1 tie and gain a 2-1 triumph. This dropped UCLA into the loser’s bracket and a must-win test Saturday against PAC 10 foe Oregon (50-7).
Then came the 3rd seeded Ducks versus 6th seeded Washington in a match-up of PAC 10 rivals, and the Huskies (47-11) were up to the task as righty Taran Alvelo struck out three, walked the same, and allowed five hits for a 3-1 win that sent Oregon into the loser’s bracket versus the Bruins (47-14).
It was 1-1 when Washington scored twice in the top of the seventh and Alvedo left two Ducks on the bases before getting the final out. Kirstyn Thomas’ two-run shot brought the Huskies the lead in the seventh off of Megan Kieist, who struck out two but walked four and was touched for four hits.
Texas A & M (47-12), the 9th seed that won the Super Regional at Tennessee, was out of it early. The Gators (51-8) scored five times in the first and that was more than enough for right-hander Kelly Barnhill in an 8-0 victory called via the mercy-rule after five innings. Barnhill, national player of the year, went the first four innings, striking out five, walked one and giving up three hits before being relieved by Delanie Gouley.
One run was all Florida needed, for that’s been its formula. Score and bank on its dominating hurling. As for the Aggies, their starting pitcher, Samantha Show, lasted until 1.1 of the opening frame, and was followed by three relievers.
Now it’s the Gators against SEC opponent LSU, and the teams hadn’t met in the regular season. That’s game one Friday.
Following that, it is Washington taking on Oklahoma, which at 57-9 has more wins any another team in the land, but was seeded 10th. It jumped on the Bears (48-13) with four runs in the bottom of the first, powered by the 3-run home run off the bat of Nicole Pendley.
The Sooners added a run each in the third and fourth and their star pitcher, left-hander Paige Parker, fanned two, didn’t walk and batter, and scattered five hits. Baylor trailed 6-1 as it pushed across a pair of runs in top of the seventh.
As did LSU, Oklahoma had to come out of the loser’s bracket in the region it hosted, than headed to Auburn and sweeping the Tigers. It is a young team, with only Macey Hatfield as a senior. Hatfield displayed outstanding fielding in left field and added two hits.
The one downfall for the Sooners was an unusual four errors for one the top defensive teams in the country. Two came in the first and the other two in the seventh. Fortunately for them, they overcame this to emerge with the W,