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OU Softball: Jordy Bahl Fires Oklahoma Past Stanford in Tight WCWS Opener

The top-ranked Sooners needed a two-out single from Jayda Coleman in the fifth inning to break the deadlock at Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s Women’s College World Series opener was far from straightforward.

The top-ranked Sooners struggled to crack Stanford freshman NiJaree Canady’s code in the circle — for five innings at least.

Jayda Coleman ignited Hall of Fame Stadium with a two-out single, scoring a pair of OU runners after Stanford left fielder Ellee Eck failed to corral the ball.

Oklahoma right-hander Jordy Bahl was happy to protect the lead, shutting out the Cardinal to fire OU to a 2-0 victory on Thursday.

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“Proud of this team,” OU coach Patty Gasso said after the game. “We knew what we were running into in the way of NiJa (Canady), and she has become one of the hardest throwing, ball moving freshmen I've ever seen. So I feel like we got a really tough, tough matchup. Their pitching staff is really good.

“They're very disciplined. Stanford just is very well coached, and I feel that. I felt that watching them, very disciplined, very quick. They do a lot of things really well.”

Bahl’s complete game extended the Sooner winning streak to 49 games, and crucially kept OU in the winner’s bracket.

In the first inning, Oklahoma’s scouting of Canady appeared to pay off.

Coleman battled through a 10-pitch at-bat to lead off with a single, and Tiare Jennings forced Canady to throw 11 pitches before striking out.

“I think those really long at-bats,” said Coleman, “even though we weren't scoring, I think our team was still very motivated. We knew we were having good at-bats, and we were seeing balls.”

The work didn’t pay off until later in the game, putting pressure on Bahl to keep the game tied.

Despite appearing in the WCWS for the first time since 2004, the 9-seeded Cardinal looked prepared for the moment.

For a majority of the game, it was the Stanford who threatened offensively.

Stanford put a pair of runners aboard in the first, fourth and fifth innings all with one out.

But in every instance, Bahl bowed up.

She fired a pair of strikeouts in both the fourth and fifth innings to help keep the Cardinal off the board while the OU offense sputtered.

“She lives for those moments,” Gasso said of Bahl. “It's not a lie. It's real. She loves the pressure, and that's where she thrives the most.

“So she's the right person at the right time.”

Jessica Allister’s Stanford team out-hit the Sooners 4-1 until the bottom of the fifth inning, where Oklahoma’s bats finally found a foothold.

Right fielder Alynah Torres was the first Sooner to reach in the frame with a one-out single, and Rylie Boone moved her teammate over to second with a bloop single of her own, turning the lineup over to Coleman.

“Every time Boone gets on, I know we're going to start rolling,” Coleman said. “… She is a party starter. I don't think people talk about her enough.

“… She is one of the hardest working people that I know. She's a great teammate… When she starts hitting, I know we're going to start rolling. She knows how to flip that lineup around.”

Feeling the momentum in the stadium turn, Coleman waved her arms to pump up the crowd while walking to the plate, but she immediately fell behind in the count 0-2.

Canady was unable to fire a third pitch past Coleman, and the Sooner center fielder dropped a hit into shallow left field.

Gasso waved pinch-runner Avery Hodge toward home, but as Eck tried to field the ball and fire down to home for a close play, the Stanford outfielder mishandled the ball and it continued to roll to the warning track.

The error allowed Gasso to safely send Boone home as well, putting Oklahoma up 2-0.

OU almost added insurance in the sixth. Loading the bases with two outs, but Stanford reliever Alana Vawter struck out Grace Lyons to keep the deficit at two runs.

Bahl fired another trio of strikeouts in the top of the seventh to bring her total to 11 on the day, allowing five hits and a walk.

The victory sets up a juicy matchup, as the Sooners will take on the 4-seeded Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at 2 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on ABC.

Oklahoma will see a pair of familiar faces in that contest, as former OU players Zaida Puni and Mackenzie Donihoo command the left side of the Volunteer infield.

Saturday’s winner will advance to the WCWS semifinals on Monday, where they’ll have to lose twice to crash out of the WCWS.

But headed back to the team hotel on Thursday night, Gasso was just relieved her team cleared its first hurdle against Stanford.

“This field of teams is loaded, and everybody who knows softball knows that,” Gasso said. “So when I saw our matchup, I'm like, okay, oh, no, let's go. Let's get the machine cranking up. Let's grease it up, make sure it's working, they can throw that hard.

“… I do think a battle early — and I think we may have had one of the toughest matchups at the beginning of this World Series — it is going to pay dividends because of the fight, the fight they had all day.”