OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Sooners have been here before.
They know what it takes to have their backs agains the wall. After dropping their Women’s College World Series opener to James Madison, the top-seeded Sooners won four straight games, including a pair over the Dukes, to punch their ticket to the Championship Series.
Oklahoma hasn’t lost to the same team twice, and the Dukes are the only team OU has faced more than once who they didn’t run rule.
Now, they’ll have to replicate their success seeing teams multiple times to take home the program’s fifth national title.
OU head coach Patty Gasso said her team needs no reminding of their success seeing teams a second time after their 8-4 loss to the 10-seeded Florida State Seminoles on Tuesday night.
“I don't need to tell them. They know. They know exactly how this works,” Gasso said. “You've got to put it all out there. And I think we learned from the way we played tonight. And I'm very confident, as I know they are, that they will not repeat that performance and have a different mentality.”
Gasso said she was also proud of how her team competed until the final out on Tuesday.
“I trust this team. They fight. They're fighters,” she said. “Failure is not something that we believe in. I mean, we've got to keep fighting.
“We fought when we needed to. It just wasn't set up for us tonight. And that happens. But I believe that you'll see a new team tomorrow with a new approach.”
Both Nicole Mendes and Mackenzie Donihoo stressed the need to get off to a fast start against Florida State in Game 2.
“(We must) take advantage of the first three innings. I felt us on them (in Game 1). I felt them pressing. And I felt the momentum in our favor, but we just took too long to respond,” Mendes said after Tuesday’s contest. “But I think this team, whenever we lose, we don't lose again. And I think we're ready.”
Gasso agreed with her players, and wasn’t happy with much of how the Sooners played on Tuesday.
“You can't wait. You can't sit back and wait. And when you're on a stage like this, you just gotta play well,” she said. “You gotta pitch well. You gotta hit well. You gotta do a lot of things well. We didn't do much of that very well. We had signs of it. We were creating a little bit of momentum.
“We've got to make plays. We didn't make plays. We didn't have timely hits when we needed them.”
Oklahoma hit just 1-of-7 with runners in scoring position, crucially coming up empty with runners on second in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
And Sooners needed the run support after their pitchers struggled to find the strike zone.
Nicole May and Shannon Saile combined to allow six walks, with Florida State racking up 11 hits against the OU pitching staff.
“Florida State just does it very quickly. They do it quickly. They get on base and they move their runners quickly. It just happens very fast,” Gasso said. “The fact that we gave up six walks really hurt us. So we didn't pitch well. Not good enough. We didn't play good enough D, like nothing for us was really good tonight.”
With the scoreboard wiped clean in Game 2, Gasso said her team has to be more composed in the batter’s box from the first pitch to have a faster start.
“(We) probably just relax a little bit. Trust what we're doing some,” Gasso said. “You can see that sometimes hitters are trying to do too much.”
Even in defeat, Mendes is supremely confident that her team will be able to bounce back.
“I choose this team no matter what. This team is one of the most talented teams that I've ever been a part of. And we know how to fight. So I think tomorrow whenever we come out, it's not just our backs are against the wall. … I know who is on my team,” she said. “This is the team I want to go with. This is the team that can do it.
“We'll be determined but we won't be pressing. We'll be ready.”
OU will try to deny Florida State the national title and keep their championship hopes alive at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night at Hall of Fame Stadium, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
“I wouldn't pick any other girls to go out there and play on the field,” Donihoo said. “They're my sisters and I know we're going to go battle tomorrow.”