Oklahoma or Texas will make history in 2024 Women’s College World Series

The dream of the Oklahoma Sooner seniors to win the Women’s College World Series in each of their four seasons lives on. Standing in their way are the Texas Longhorns, who are trying to win their first WCWS title. Neither team took the easy way to get to the final series.

The top-seeded Longhorns ran into trouble in their home super regional against Texas A&M. The Aggies won the first game of the series and pushed the home team in the other two, almost opening up the field before things got started in Oklahoma City.

UT marched through the first three games at Devon Field without giving up a run. That’s not to say it wasn’t challenged. It took a seventh-inning run to defeat Stanford’s NiJaree Canady 1-0 on Monday. That let the Longhorn sit at home and rest while waiting to see if they would face future SEC foe Florida or the Sooners, who will join Texas in abandoning the Big 12 for the SEC next year.

For the second-seeded Sooners, the trouble came in Oklahoma City. They ran through the early rounds at Love’s Field in Norman. In OKC, they run-ruled Duke to open the WCWS before winning a tight 1-0 contest against UCLA. Then came Florida.

The Sooners had won 20 straight games at the WCWS. They had never been run-ruled. The Gators ended that winning streak and came close to getting the eight-run victory in the opening game of their semifinals. It was never really in doubt, and OU was pushed to the if-necessary game on Tuesday afternoon.

The Gators were in control for most of the game. They hit three home runs in the first three innings, going up 5-2 with their star freshman Keagan Rothrock in the circle.

The Sooners chipped away, closing the gap to 5-4 in the fourth and tying it in the sixth. Meanwhile, UF’s offense stalled against senior Kelly Maxwell, as the transfer from Oklahoma State threw up zeros for five straight innings beginning in the fourth, allowing her team to come up needing just one run in the bottom of the eighth.

Senior Jayda Coleman got that run with a leadoff home run to walk off the Gators, 6-5. Not only did it keep the hopes of the Sooners’ seniors alive, but it set up the program to pursue some historic achievements.

If OU can defeat their rivals from Texas in the final series, it will mark their eighth title. That will match Arizona for the second-most in Division I history. UCLA leads all programs with 12.

It would also be the first time any program has won four titles in consecutive years. Currently, both UCLA and Oklahoma have three consecutive titles. Arizona has four in a row, but those championships did not come in consecutive years. The Wildcats won every title awarded from 1993 to 1997, but there was no official champion in 1995 after UCLA’s win over Arizona was vacated.

To reach those marks, the Sooners must avenge their series loss during the regular season. The Longhorns defeated OU two games to one in early April. Both wins were close 2-1 victories and both came in Austin.

The Sooners got a measure of revenge in the Big 12 Softball Tournament last month to take the title. It came on the same field where the two teams will face off beginning Wednesday.

The most interesting part of this matchup will be the pitching decisions made by the head coaches. Who will start? How long will her leash be? Will they stick to the patterns they’ve had at the WCWS or will they try to mix things up?

Kelly Maxwell has pitched in three of Oklahoma’s four games in OKC. She has thrown 32.2 of the Sooners’ 59 innings pitched in the postseason including all eight against Florida in Tuesday’s elimination game.

Will Maxwell be back in the circle on Wednesday, or will head coach Patty Gasso ask one of the other three who have appeared in the postseason to take some of the load off their ace? Kierston Deal has pitched six of the team’s 27 innings at the WCWS, second only to Maxwell with 15. That would seem to make her the most likely second option.

However, Gasso went primarily with Maxwell and Nicole May in all four games against the Longhorns during the regular season. Maxwell threw 17 innings in three appearances. She had a 2.06 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and 23 total strikeouts against UT. May pitched 6.1 innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits and a walk while striking out nine in two appearances.

UT has been a bit more balanced in the circle over the postseason. Freshman Teagan Kavan and junior Mac Morgan have pitched almost the same number of innings with the rookie throwing 27 of the team’s 61 innings and the vet going 25.1 innings. In OKC, Kavan has thrown 14 innings in two games and Morgan went five in the run-rule victory over Florida.

If Texas head coach Mike White sticks with what he’s been doing at the WCWS, Kavan should see a lot of innings. That’s not how the Longhorns found the most success during their four games against OU this season, though.

Earlier this year, Citlaly Gutierrez was the primary pitcher against the Sooners. Both Morgan and Kavan threw fewer than five innings and made just one appearance in the four games against OU. Both were paired with Estelle Czech, who threw a total of six innings in two appearances.

Gutierrez pitched in two of the four games between the teams, throwing complete games each time. She won once and took the loss the second time. She gave up 13 hits but limited the damage to three earned runs for an ERA of 1.50 and a WHIP of 0.93. She struck out 12 in the two games, including fanning 10 in the Longhorns’ loss in the Big 12 tournament.

Gutierrez has fallen out of favor of late, though. Her inconsistency has kept her in the dugout during most of the postseason while Kavan and Morgan have taken charge. With so much on the line, that’s likely to continue.

These two teams are very familiar with one another this season and historically. They have seen what the other has to offer in the circle. Gasso has an experienced senior in Maxwell who transferred in during the offseason to be part of a dynasty. White has Kavan, a freshman who has shown composure throughout the week as she tries to pitch her team to its first national title. Both have deep bullpens. Both have strong offenses that never give up. One will make history.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top