OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Sooners survived Elimination Saturday.
A date with the Cinderella of the Women’s College World Series, the James Madison Dukes.
Led by star pitcher Odicci Alexander, the top-seeded Sooners (52-3) will have to beat the Dukes (41-2) twice on Sunday to earn a bid to play a best-of-3 series for the National Championship.
As if the task wasn’t hard enough already, the Dukes have the advantage of a day of rest while Patty Gasso’s Sooners had to scrap with the Georgia Bulldogs and the 2-seeded UCLA Bruins thru a rain delay and deep into the night on Saturday.
“The matchups that we have tomorrow are going to be a big challenge, and this team, they are going to sleep some, but they are going to be really excited to get back on the field,” Gasso said after OU’s win over UCLA Saturday night. “Really, they had a blast tonight. You could see it throughout. You could see it.
“It was fun to watch them. It was fun to coach them.”
The Sooners have plenty of experience with double-headers this season, and Gasso said they’re confident they can manage the fatigue to give their best effort against James Madison.
“We have worked really hard all season,” Gasso said. “We knew what our legs and our bodies would feel like. We used to talk about it all the time. So I think that when you get to this point, your legs are heavy but just adrenaline takes you through this. You can't have any excuses when you go into — you know, if you're in the Final Four. We're in the Final Four. We've got to beat a very good team, twice. So we've got to put everything we have out on the field tomorrow.”
Gasso also said her team was motivated by the ability to avenge their loss to the Dukes in the WCWS opener and wipe their slate clean for the Championship Series.
“I think they know what's at stake,” Gasso said. “They know it will allow them to almost start the tournament all over if we can get through these two games, it's like a new beginning where it's like 0-0, you start all over with whoever it is that you're playing.”
But there will be no room for error.
Alexander proved she was more than a one-hit wonder when she shut down the 5-seeded Oklahoma State Cowgirls offense in Friday’s 2-1 win for the Dukes.
Though if Oklahoma can roll over the momentum into Sunday like Gasso hopes, they’ll enter the day confident in the batter’s box after hanging six runs on UCLA’s two-time USA Softball Player of the Year, Rachel Garcia.
Game 1 between the Dukes and the Sooners on Sunday is scheduled to start at noon from Hall of Fame stadium. If the Dukes win, they’ll secure a spot to play for the program’s first national title on Monday.
If Oklahoma emerges victorious, they will force the winner-take-all, if-necessary game Sunday evening at 6 p.m. Both games will be broadcast on ESPN.
“One game at a time,” Kinzie Hansen said Saturday night. “That's our message after Thursday. It's one game at a time for us. It's survival of the fittest and we've got to do what we've got to do to win. We're here and we're putting our head down and doing what it takes to win.”