The defending national champion’s quest for a repeat came to an end Saturday night, but the other Big 12 team in the hunt, the Baylor Lady Bears, is still in the hunt at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
Both Baylor and Oklahoma had won elimination games on Saturday afternoon, setting up a second elimination game that same day.
The Lady Bears disposed of No. 8 Florida State 7-2 in the first game of the day on Saturday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. That was followed by Oklahoma’s wire-to-wire 3-1 win over No. 6 Louisiana-Lafayette. With those two wins, the two Big 12 entries in this year’s Women’s College World Series advanced to play Kentucky and top-seeded Oregon, respectively, in the nightcap of the day’s WCWS action.
No. 13 Baylor literally seized victory from the jaws of defeat in it elimination contest against No. 14 Kentucky, making its first appearance in the WCWS. The Lady Bears staked their SEC opponent to a 5-0 lead before making an improbable comeback with three runs in the sixth and four more in the seventh to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
Heather Stearns, on in relief, put down the Kentucky batters in order in the top half of the ninth. Then, in the Baylor half of the inning, the team’s leading hitter on the season, junior outfielder Kaitlyn Thurmann, rocketed a double into left center to leadoff the inning and scored the winning run one hitter later on a sacrifice bunt successfully laid down by freshman Ari Hawkins with two strikes. Thurmann scored on a Kentucky throwing error to first base in an attempt to get the out on Hawkins.
The miraculous comeback in the evening game and the two-game Saturday sweep by the Lady Bears advances them to a Sunday semifinals rematch with No. 5 Florida, which handed Baylor its opening-round 11-0 shutout loss.
Oklahoma’s loss to No. 1 seed Oregon was less dramatic but no less thrilling. The Lady Sooners started the game with reserve pitcher and regular third baseman Shelby Pendley in the circle. The game was scoreless after two innings, but in the third, Oregon broke through for three runs on just two hits to take a 3-0 lead.
Regular starter Kelsey Stevens, who pitched a compete-game win over Louisiana-Lafayette earlier in the day, came on in relief of Pendley in the third. The Lady Sooners fought back with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings to cut the deficit to one. OU’s Pendley hit her 19th home run of the season and second of the WCWS in the fifth.
That’s the way things stood until the seventh, when Oregon added an insurance run in the top half of the inning to go up 4-2.
The defending champions did not go quietly, however, in their half of the final inning. Catcher Whitney Ellis snapped an 0-16 streak in the WCWS with a single to left to leadoff the bottom of the seventh. Leadoff hitter Destinee Martinez grounded out, but Pendley followed two batters later with an infield hit, placing runners at the corners and the potential winning run at the plate.
Oregon changed pitchers, and Brittany Williams, the next hitter, grounded out to shortstop. Pendley was forced at second to end the scoring threat, the game and a 51-win season for the Lady Sooners.
Oregon will next play No, 2 Alabama in the semifinals on Sunday.
Oklahoma drew an unfortunate break in having to play both the No, 1 and No, 2 seeds in their three-game run in this years Women’s College World Series.
Other highlights from Saturday’s Big 12 action in the WCWS:
- Oklahoma managed only 11 hits in three games in this year’s Women’s College World Series. The Lady Sooners were third in the nation in the 2014 season, averaging over seven runs per game. They averaged just over two runs in going 1-2 against Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette and Oregon in the 2014 WCWS.
- OU’s 51-13 win total in 2014 ranks third all-time in Sooner softball history.
- Shelby Pendley made only the second start of her career as a pitcher to open Oklahoma’s game Saturday with top-seed Oregon. Her long home run to right in the fifth inning was the 60th of her career and her 41st as a Sooner.
- Baylor advanced to the semifinal round of this year’s WCWS with its two elimination-game wins on Saturday. The last time th Lady Bears were in the WCWS, in 2011, they also made it to the semifinals.
- Baylor freshman center fielder Lindsey Cargill is the 14th player in the school’s postseason history to record three hits in a WCWS game. Sophomore Linsey Hays accomplished the same thing earlier on Saturday in the Lady Bears’ 7-2 win over Florida State.
- Baylor had six hits in the sixth inning off of Kentucky starter Kelsey Nunley. Nunley had given up just seven hits in the WCWS prior to that.
- Baylor is 5-5 all-time in Women’s College World Series games and 35-20 in NCAA postseason play.
- Baylor head coach Glenn Moore on his team’s incredible WCWS comeback win over Kentucky on Saturday” “Wow! I won’t forget that one until I forget who I am!”