OU Softball: Oklahoma Home Runs, Texas Errors Put OU on the Verge of History

The Sooners continued their postseason barrage by hitting three home runs, and the Longhorns' defense was shaky as OU moved within one game of a four-peat.
Oklahoma's Kasidi Pickering and Tiare Jennings celebrate a home run against Texas Wednesday.
Oklahoma's Kasidi Pickering and Tiare Jennings celebrate a home run against Texas Wednesday. / BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

OKLAHOMA CITY — Texas is playing uphill.

It’s hard enough when Kelly Maxwell is dealing like she did on Wednesday night.

But throw in three home runs by the vaunted Oklahoma lineup and the usual shaky defense by the Longhorns, and the Sooners are suddenly in total control of the Women’s College World Series.

The Longhorns and Sooners returned to Devon Park for a best-of-3 showdown to determine college softball’s national champion. And while these are clearly the two best teams in the game — ranked 1 and 2 all year, seeded 2 and 1 in the tournament — it was the Sooners who separated themselves in Game 1 of the Championship Series in a 8-3 victory in front of 12,317 fans.

After Jayda Coleman hit a walk-off home run in the eighth inning — OU’s third of the day and 118th of the season — to advance OU past Florida on Tuesday, Wednesday’s fireworks were provided by seniors Tiare Jennings and Kinzie Hansen and freshman Kasidi Pickering.

Against Texas starter Teagan Kavan, Jennings got the party started with a two-run shot to left-center field in the first inning. Coleman reached first when Kavan hit her with a 2-1 pitch, and Jennings’ 25th home run of the season, tying her for third in NCAA Division I this season put the Sooners up 2-0. 

Moreover, it was her 11th career home run at the WCWS, one behind the all-time leader, former teammate Jocelyn Alo, and her family has every ball.

"I would say that I remember all of them just because I see my family in the stands when they get the ball, their joy and just so much like, faith in me. And I just love to see them out there with the ball. So I don't know what they're gonna do with them or what. I don't know where they are. But all of 'em are special. Just means the world to me just to do anything I can to help this team."

It was also Jennings’ 68th RBI of the season, moving her to No. 8 nationally (she added No. 69 later in the game on a single).

After Ella Parker led off the third with a single, Hansen hammered a shot to deep left field, putting the Sooners up 4-1.

It was Hansen’s 11th home run of the season.

"It's extremely contagious," Hansen said. "You know, we obviously didn't hit our best the last couple days, I would say, against Florida. But you know, Tiare came out, she threw the first punch of the game and she hit that bomb. So you know, we were super stoked for her and then we just kept passing theh bat. We are constantly giving each other confidence and encouragement throughout every single pitch, every single inning. And that's what takes all of the pressure off of us, is just the comfidence in wanting it (for) one another and being able to trust each other."

That blast was followed immediately by Pickering’s, who also hit her 11th bomb of the year and put the Sooners up 5-1.

"Yeah, super fun," Jennings said. "I just think there it was just brought so much energy in like, the dugout. Like, it just got us so fired up."

With Maxwell again mastering the Longhorn lineup — at least through five innings — that would be more than enough.

But it wasn’t enough for the Sooners.

OU scored single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh thanks to gaffes by the Longhorn defense — a common theme in the Sooners’ three wins over Texas this season.

With Hansen on second base after a two-out double, second baseman Alyssa Washington tried to execute a scoop directly from the glove but the ball sailed over first baseman Katie Stewart’s head, allowing Pickering to reach base safely and sending Hansen home with an unearned run.

In the sixth, after a strikeout gave the Longhorns two outs, Texas catcher Reese Atwood flipped the ball back to Estelle Czech as if it was the third out. That allowed Avery Hodge to race from second to third, and Hodge then scored on Jennings’ RBI single.

Then in the seventh, after Alyssa Brito hit a leadoff double, she scored easily when Atwood tried to throw her out at third but sailed the ball into left field to give the Sooners an 8-3 lead.

In the Longhorns’ four three losses to Oklahoma this season, they committed five errors.

The Sooners have now hit three or more home runs in five postseason games — three against Cleveland State, four against Florida State, three against Duke and three Tuesday against Florida.

In fact, OU’s longest stretch without three bombs was an eight-game stretch in April in which the Sooners hit a total of “just” seven homers.

Oklahoma came into Wednesday ranked third in the nation at 1.84 home runs per game, while Texas was ninth at 1.46.

The Longhorns got theirs early — Mia Scott hit a solo shot to right in the first inning — but couldn’t keep up with Oklahoma’s pace.

Attention now turns to Thursday’s 7 p.m. game back at the softball capital.

Texas will try to live up to its No. 1 billing, while Patty Gasso’s Sooners will try to close out their Red River Rivals and win an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.


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John E. Hoover

JOHN E. HOOVER

John is an award-winning journalist whose work spans five decades in Oklahoma, with multiple state, regional and national awards as a sportswriter at various newspapers. During his newspaper career, John covered the Dallas Cowboys, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oklahoma Sooners, the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Arkansas Razorbacks and much more. In 2016, John changed careers, migrating into radio and launching a YouTube channel, and has built a successful independent media company, DanCam Media. From there, John has written under the banners of Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Fan Nation and a handful of local and national magazines while hosting daily sports talk radio shows in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and statewide. John has also spoken on Capitol Hill in Oklahoma City in a successful effort to put more certified athletic trainers in Oklahoma public high schools. Among the dozens of awards he has won, John most cherishes his national "Beat Writer of the Year" from the Associated Press Sports Editors, Oklahoma's "Best Sports Column" from the Society of Professional Journalists, and Two "Excellence in Sports Medicine Reporting" Awards from the National Athletic Trainers Association. John holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications from East Central University in Ada, OK. Born and raised in North Pole, Alaska, John played football and wrote for the school paper at Ada High School in Ada, OK. He enjoys books, movies and travel, and lives in Broken Arrow, OK, with his wife and two kids.