WCWS Day 1 Provides Upsets, Glimpse Of What's To Come
Game One: JMU 4, Oklahoma 3
When Odicci Alexander and Kate Gordon elected to return for their fifth years, they wanted to leave a lasting legacy at James Madison. And they did just that in the biggest game in program history.
Kate Gordon had been 2-for-24 in the NCAA Tournament leading up to her eighth inning at-bat on Thursday. Gordon believed she had drawn a four-pitch walk against Oklahoma’s Shannon Saile, but when the home plate umpire drew her back following the 3-0 pitch, it worked out for the better. After Saile battled back to force a full count, Gordon won the at-bat by barreling up the eventual game-winning home run.
Meanwhile, Alexander continued her tremendous postseason. She struck out nine Sooner batters, the most Ks by Oklahoma this season, and held one of the sport’s greatest offenses ever to a season-low three runs. Her competitive spirit never wavered. Entering the final frame, Alexander had to face Tiare Jennings, who had hit a three-run blast earlier in the game, the National Player of the Year Jocelyn Alo and Kinzie Hansen. Yet, it was Alexander who prevailed again.
“I was excited. I knew I couldn't let down because they were still at the best part of their lineup,” Alexander said. “I mean, just spinning the ball and focusing on each and every pitch. Got the three outs.”
Game Two: Oklahoma State 3, Georgia 2
Oklahoma State’s starter Carrie Eberle refused to let the powerful Georgia lineup lift the ball out of USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. The Big 12 Player of the Year induced 14 groundouts including two double-play balls in Thursday’s win.
Eberle also got help from her defense with Hayley Busby throwing out a runner at the plate in the fifth and the always-smooth Kiley Naomi doing her typical stuff at shortstop.
Georgia, like it has all season long, didn’t go down without a fight, putting the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position in the seventh. Nevertheless, Eberle gutted it out and Sydney Pennington made a bouncer on the final out look a lot easier than it was to seal the deal.
Game Three: Alabama 5, Arizona 1
As good as Alexander has been, no one is pitching as well as Montana Fouts right now. For her eighth consecutive appearance, she struck out double-digit batters. Fouts tied her career-high and sat down 16 Arizona batters via the K, at one point striking out eight straight. The velocity and movement on her rise ball didn’t seem fair at certain points.
“That's a great hitting team,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “Nothing to take away from them. That is a hell of a hitting team. For a kid to do that against an Arizona team that's legit, that was pretty special to watch.”
Fouts also did it in front of former Wildcat Jennie Finch, who Fouts grew up idolizing. She surely looked as dominant as her idol on Thursday, but unfortunately for Arizona, it wasn’t the beneficiary of the stellar pitching performance.
Game Four: UCLA 4, Florida State 0
UCLA’s Rachel Garcia and Florida State’s Kathryn Sandercock were in a pitchers' duel for most of the contest, but Garcia was just a bit better. The Bruins were able to push across a pair of runs with two-outs hits from Anna Vines and Delanie Wisz. Meanwhile, Garcia used her steady performance to leave six Florida State runners on base.
With the news of Megan Faraimo’s current absence from Oklahoma City due to a hand injury, Garcia will have to continue to be excellent in the circle for UCLA to defend its crown.
“I just think as a team we have to take it day by day and focus on us,” Garcia said. “As long as we keep it within the team, taking one pitch at a time, one day at the same time, one game at the same time, we'll be just fine.”
Maya Brady put the exclamation point on an exciting return for the Women’s College World Series, blasting a two-run homer into the night sky.