OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Sooners showed plenty of fight, but their late-game rally wasn’t enough.
Buoyed by a five-run fourth inning, the 10-seeded Florida State Seminoles outlasted top-seeded OU 8-4 on Tuesday night at Hall of Fame Stadium.
But the Championship Series is far from decided.
The Sooners (54-4) dropped their first game of the Women’s College World Series to the James Madison Dukes, and then promptly reeled off four straight victories to stave off elimination and advance to the championship round.
Now, to take home the trophy, Florida State (49-11-1) will also have to pull off a feat no other team has all season long — beat the Sooners twice.
Questions about the Sooners' pitching rotation ultimately cost Oklahoma in Game 1.
“I don't think that we were quite ready the first three innings, and those first three innings are really important. But tomorrow it's a whole new game,” OU left fielder Mackenzie Donihoo said after the game. “First few innings, we're going to come out and flip the switch.”
After Giselle Juarez threw a complete game on Monday, OU head coach Patty Gasso opted to roll out freshman Nicole May in the circle from the jump against FSU.
The Seminoles were keyed in May’s offerings from the opening at-bat, and the Sooner pitcher never recovered.
In the top of the third inning, FSU's Kalei Harding opened the scoring with a two-run blast.
Harding would then return to torment May in the next inning.
With two on and two out, the FSU freshman came through again a two-RBI double, making the lead 4-0.
“(Harding) did just a great job. We just couldn't get her out,” Gasso said after the game. “She was clutch for them, definitely. Hitting gaps. Driving in runs. Give her credit for that.”
Instead of pulling May, Gasso decided to stick with her freshman, a move that proved insurmountable for the Sooners.
May, who has been arguably OU's best pitcher down the stretch of the season going into the WCWS, surrendered three straight singles, pushing the lead to 7-0, before Oklahoma turned to the bullpen.
All seven of the runs allowed by May were earned, and she gave up seven hits while only striking out three batters in 3 2/3 innings.
Oklahoma finally showed signs of life in the bottom of the fourth.
Kinzie Hansen broke up FSU pitcher Danielle Watson’s no-hit bid with a two-out solo bomb to dead center. On the very next pitch, Nicole Mendes made it back-to-back homers, cutting the deficit to five.
The pair of home runs brought OU’s season total to 157, just one shy of tying Hawaii’s 2010 single-season record.
After Tiare Jennings lined out in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of runners in scoring position, Oklahoma battled back in the sixth.
Jocelyn Alo led off the inning with a single, and Watson plunked Mendes in the back to put two aboard.
Then WCWS hero Donihoo pulled through with two outs.
Singling up the right field line, Donihoo drove both runners in to cut the lead to 7-4. Jayda Coleman then reached on an error, but pinch hitter Grace Green bounced out to end the rally.
Mendes said the bats heated up too late on Tuesday, and that the Sooners must have a better start to claw their way back in Game 2.
“I just felt like we waited. We were just waiting for somebody to get a big hit, waiting for something to happen instead of attacking,” she said after the game. “So tomorrow whenever we play, we come out and we come attacking we'll score in the first three.”
The Seminoles added an insurance run in the top of the seventh on an obstruction call at the plate. Lynnsie Elam appeared to tag out Josie Muffley, but she was ruled to be blocking home plate, allowing the run to count and extending the lead to 8-4.
Alo put runners on second and third in the bottom of the seventh, but Jennings was waved home and was promptly thrown out, effectively ending the chances of an OU comeback.
The Sooners' reprieve from elimination games was short, as they’re yet again one loss away from the season coming to an end.
“I trust this team. They fight. They're fighters,” Gasso said. “But we did not play well enough to win. And that gives credit to Florida State.
“They did. We did not.”
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, OU needs to beat the Seminoles to extend their season and deny Florida State. Wednesday evening’s contest will be broadcast on ESPN.