OKLAHOMA CITY — Thursday’s National Championship Game was less a close game than it was a coronation.
The top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners won six elimination games at the Women’s College World Series, culminated by Thursday’s 5-1 victory over the 10th-seeded Florida State Seminoles, to be crowned national champions.
After relying on senior pitcher Giselle Juarez to battle back through the consolation bracket, the Oklahoma offense put on a show for the fans who packed Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
OU finished the season 56-4 and won its fifth national championship in unforgettable fashion.
For the first time since Oklahoma’s Sunday matchup against James Madison, the Sooners scored first.
In the bottom of the first inning, who other than USA Softball Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo rocketed a solo bomb to left field. It was her 34th homer of the year, just three shy of Lauren Espinoza’s single-season record set in 1995.
"As a hitter, I try not to think so much about outcomes, more so just focusing on the process of things," Alo said after the game. "Today when I saw the ball go out, I was like, yes, finally.
"Really I was just going up there and I was doing my thing."
Not to be outdone, Jayda Coleman added a solo shot herself in the bottom of the second, giving Juarez all the run support she needed to clinch Oklahoma’s fifth crown.
The freshman center fielder came through for her team again in the bottom of the third inning.
Stepping into the batter’s box with the bases loaded, Coleman watched as the first offering from Emma Wilson skidded past catcher Anna Shelnutt, allowing Tiare Jennings to score from third. Five pitches later, Coleman almost roped her second homer of the game to left field. Instead, it fell inches short, hitting off the top of the wall, and the freshman had to settle for the two-RBI double to push the lead to 5-1.
Once the Sooners built a four-run lead and handed the ball back to Juarez in the circle, the result was never in doubt.
Closing out her WCWS in stellar fashion, Juarez only allowed two hits while striking out seven Seminoles on the afternoon.
In fact, her only allowed run was the result of Jennings losing track of what should have been a routine popup, failing to track the ball in the sun with a runner at second base in the top of the third inning.
Juarez retired 13 of the last 14 batters to finish off the game, slamming the door shut on Florida State’s hopes of a dramatic comeback.
Fittingly enough, Juarez recorded the out to seal the National Championship, catching a popup as her team was waiting to dog pile on their senior pitcher.
"Honestly I was kind of hoping it didn't go in the sun and that they would let me catch it," Juarez said. "It felt so slow motion, and then just to look up after I caught it and see (Kinzie Hansen) running at me, surreal, awesome moment."
Patty Gasso's Sooners got their storybook ending on what has been one of the most dominant seasons in program history.
It was never easy though, as every team playing amidst the pandemic had to battle through obstacles off the field as well as their opponents on it.
"I just don't know that people understand how rough it was. I think every coach in the country could relate, where week by week you're wondering who's going to be at practice and who might not, whether they are contact traced and they're out for two weeks, 10 days," Gasso said after the game. "It was really tough."
But when the Sooners needed it most, they got a massive lift from the fans at Hall of Fame Stadium.
"We were all absolutely overwhelmed with the fan support from the Sooner (fans)," Gasso said. "Our athletes were talking about, feels like we're on the sidelines of an OU football game, how loud it is. We just couldn't hear each other.
"It's moments that these players will never forget. It'll live in their lives forever, and they'll be able to tell their grandchildren what this felt like."
In finishing the season winning 56 of its 60 games, Oklahoma never lost to the same team twice.
Setting both the NCAA single-season home run record and run record on Wednesday, the 2021 Sooners will go down as the greatest offense in college softball history.
But in her final season at OU, Juarez found her best stuff when the Sooners needed it most and carried her team across the finish line.