OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kailee Cuico hit a key two-run single, Janie Takeda added two RBIs and top-seeded Oregon held off defending national champion Oklahoma 4-2 on Saturday night in an elimination game in the Women’s College World Series.
Oregon (56-8-1) advanced into the semifinal round against second-seeded Alabama (52-11) and will need to beat the Crimson Tide twice on Sunday to reach the best-of-three championship series.
“We’ll have to make sure that we’re patient and we’ve got to hold them down,” Oregon coach Mike White said. “We’ve got to do a better job of scoring runs and zoning the ball up. We’re letting too many good pitches go, so we’ve got to be aggressive in the strike zone. . We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
Oklahoma (51-13) had its bid to qualify for a third straight championship series end with the loss. The Sooners lost to Alabama in the 2012 finals before beating Tennessee for the title last season.
“This team believed they could win it all,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “As soon as we started to figure some things out and get on a roll, I felt like we were invincible. It’s going to take a little time to come down from that, especially when you’re a team that was holding the trophy last year. Once that happens, that’s the only thing you want to do.”
Oklahoma threatened in the seventh, with two on and two out, but Oregon starter Cheridan Hawkins (35-5) coaxed a ground ball from the Sooners’ cleanup batter, Brittany Williams, to end the game. Hawkins had left the game after the sixth inning but returned after reliever Karissa Hovinga got into the jam.
The Ducks scored three runs in the third off Oklahoma starter Shelby Pendley (2-1). Takeda doubled home Nikki Urida and Cuico followed with her single - a sharply hit ball off the glove of Oklahoma shortstop Jessica Vest - allowing Alyssa Gillespie and Takeda to score.
Kelsey Stevens, who had pitched the vast majority of the innings for Oklahoma during the postseason, replaced Pendley in the circle after Takeda’s double. Stevens, who pitched Oklahoma to a win over Louisiana-Lafayette earlier Saturday, struck out seven batters and kept the Sooners close, but they couldn’t generate much offense.
Oklahoma scored once in the fourth but a blunder cost the Sooners a chance at a big inning. Georgia Casey and Erin Miller led off the inning with singles and one out later, Vest singled to score Casey and send Miller to third.
Vest and Miller both broke on an attempted squeeze bunt by Whitney Ellis, but the pitch was outside and Ellis couldn’t get the bunt down. Oregon catcher Janelle Lindvall held onto the ball for a moment before throwing out Miller, who was trying to dive back into third base when she realized what had happened.
Pendley’s solo homer in the fifth pulled Oklahoma with 3-2. In the sixth, Casey drew a leadoff walk. Erin Miller laid down a bunt in an apparent sacrifice attempt, but Cuico, Oregon’s first baseman, fired to Urida, the shortstop, to retire Casey on a close play at second base. The out call brought a vociferous protest from Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso.
Oregon added an insurance run in the seventh. Udria doubled down the right-field line leading off and scored on a bloop single to right-center field by Takeda.