By Arnie Leshin
Simply said, as Oklahoma keeps winning, the streak keeps increasing, and now’s the record number has reached 50 after the No. 1-ranked Sooners shut down No. 4 Tennessee, 9-0, to gain Monday’s World Series semifinals and send the Volunteers into the elimination round.
It was the usual sold-out Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City Saturday afternoon and brought 13,724 to the venue just south of Oklahoma’s Norman campus.
There was talk that Tennessee, which shellacked No. 5 Alabama, 10-4, in Thursday’s first round, might provide the Sooners with a tough go, but that wasn’t so for it wasn’t close.
It was scoreless after two, but in the last of the third Oklahoma (57-1) put two aboard with no out when senior Rylee Boone walked, junior Jayda Coleman singled to left, and with one down, junior second baseman Tiera Jennings hit one over the fence in right-center for the 3-0 lead against the first of four Volunteer pitchers.
In the fourth, the Sooners added on four more runs when junior Allison Brito doubled down the right field line with two out, and up stepped catcher Kenzie Hansen to step into a fastball and clout it into the left field stands, followed by an infield hit from senior Grace Lyons, a walk to Boone, and a two-run double from Coleman.
No threats for Tennessee against the serves of sophomore right-handed Jordy Bahl, and only in the sixth it appeared she was not as sharp, and after she got the first two batters then yielded a walk and single, out came head coach Patty Gasso to give Bahl’s arm a rest and bring in senior righty Alex Storako, who issued a walk then got the third hitter on a pop out to short left field.
In the last of the sixth, Jennings had her third hit, a single up the middle, and the Volunteers then replaced Storako with freshman southpaw Kirsten Deal, who walked the next batter but got the second out on a grounder to short, and then junior righthander Nicole May took the circle, walked one, and got the game’s final out on a grounder to short.
The final score was 9-0.
In Game 2 and in quest of joining the Sooners in the winner’s bracket of the double elimination, it was No. 3 Florida State against No. 7 Washington, the Seminoles having blanked No. 6 Oklahoma State, 6-0, and the Huskies shutting down No. 10 Utah, also 6-0, and
FSU winning this one, 3-1, behind the relief pitching of senior righty Katheryn Sandercock.
Now 54-8, the Seminoles called on Sandercock to hurl the last 5 and 2/3s and she did so by allowing one run, six hits, striking out seven and walking one. At bat, it was junior Davyn Flaherty answering the call with a pair of hits and the same number of runs.
In the seventh, Washington tried to make up a 3-0 deficit by getting the first two hitters on with singles. But an infield double play hurt the cause, although one run scored, and the next batter popped it to second base.
The Huskies now face the Volunteers in the elimination game Sunday, the loser goes home, the winner survives another time.