Jennings Has Game-Winning Double, Oklahoma Tops Stanford, Reaches Women’s College World Series Final
Associated Press - June 6, 2023 11:19 am
Oklahoma players celebrate a win over Stanford in an NCAA softball Women's College World Series game Monday, June 5, 2023, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Nate Billings)
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — It wasn’t pretty, but Oklahoma kept its historic win streak alive.
Tiare Jennings doubled in the ninth inning to score two runs, leading the top-seeded Sooners past No. 9 Stanford 4-2 on Monday for a shot at their third straight Women’s College World Series title.
Oklahoma increased its Division I record to 51 consecutive victories. The Sooners advanced to play No. 3 Florida State for the national championship in a rematch of the 2021 championship series that the Sooners won. Oklahoma (59-1) looks to become the first program since UCLA in 1988-90 to win three consecutive titles. The best-of-three championship series starts Wednesday.
“We win a lot, and that’s fabulous,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “But sometimes I think we’re so used to taking it for granted, and this means a lot. This means a lot. To get to the championship game means a lot.”
Stanford (47-15) reached the World Series for the third time, and the first time since 2004.
Because Oklahoma was unbeaten in the double-elimination bracket, the Sooners needed just one win on Monday, while Stanford would have needed two to advance. Oklahoma handed Stanford both of its World Series losses.
Stanford’s Kylie Chung hit a 2-run homer in the first, the only runs the Sooners have allowed at the World Series. Jayda Coleman’s solo homer tied the score at 2 in the third.
Grace Lyons doubled to start off Oklahoma’s ninth. Coleman came up with Lyons on third base and with two outs and was intentionally walked. With two strikes, Jennings — celebrating her 21st birthday — sent NiJaree Canady’s pitch into the gap in right center to bring Lyons and Coleman home.
Coleman and Jennings are both first-team National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Americans. Gasso said Jennings took advantage of an ideal situation, despite being 0 for 4 before her final at-bat.
“She’s one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen,” Gasso said. “So coaches — all coaches pick their poison. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Tiare has this ability to get locked in like nobody I’ve ever seen as well. Her swing just looked kind of easy. It looked pretty free and easy and ran right into it at the right time.”
Stanford coach Jessica Allister believes walking Coleman to face Jennings was the right move.
“I think we’d make the same decision again,” she said. “Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and it didn’t end up the way that we wanted it to, but we liked the matchup. At this point, you can’t be careful. You’ve got to trust your gut and go with the best decision.”
Oklahoma’s Jordy Bahl put the Cardinal down in order in the ninth.
Bahl, who got the win, gave up four hits in four innings in relief of starter Nicole May and did not allow a run. Bahl is 3-0 at the World Series and has not allowed a run in 14 2/3 innings.
Canady entered the day with the most innings pitched of any player at the World Series. She threw a one-hitter against Washington on Sunday to lift the Cardinal into the semifinals, then threw 85 pitches against Oklahoma. The NFCA freshman of the year had a 1.12 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings at the World Series.
“I think that I can play at this level,” she said. “Coming in (into the World Series), like I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know — we get Oklahoma right off the bat. And now I know like I can, for the most part, I can pitch to any team in the nation.”
Canady and the Cardinal want more next year.
“We got here,” she said. “That was a taste, and now we’re going to come back hungry.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP