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WCWS Day 3 Brings Legends' Last Ride, Late-Night Heroics

(Photo courtesy of UCLA Softball Twitter)

Game Seven: Oklahoma 8, Georgia 0 (Georgia eliminated)

Patty Gasso hasn’t been afraid to move around her lineup regardless of the fact that it's been so good this season. In Oklahoma’s first elimination game, Gasso played the hand that included Mackenzie Donihoo in the starting nine, and the sophomore outfielder provided the spark Oklahoma was missing on Thursday.

Donihoo fouled off four straight pitches from Georgia’s Mary Wilson Avant before lifting out a two-out, two-run home run to put the Sooners on the board in the second inning. That wasn’t that only piece of clutch hitting from the Oklahoma native. In the fourth, Donihoo found a hole on the left side for a two-out single. The speedy Jayda Coleman already went from first to third on the play but scored on an error from Georgia amidst the chaos created from her speed. Donihoo finished the day going a perfect 3-for-3.

“I think that really energized our team, as well, because it was just a really clutch-style offense that we were producing with (Donihoo), and energized the team,” Gasso said. “So she's been waiting her turn, and she's going to get more opportunities as long as they align with her swing.  But she was the catalyst today and I know that was really exciting for her and the rest of our team.”

Giselle “G” Juarez didn’t pitch in the Super Regionals, but the two-time All-American certainly looked like her old self on Saturday. The Bulldogs had no answers for the lefty. Aside from Lacey Fincher, who had two hits, Georgia went 1-for-17 and struck out 10 times against Juarez in 5.1 innings.

“It has been a tough year for her,” Gasso said. “I think she just really wanted to be the pitcher that she used to be and it just didn't come as naturally as she expected...she had really good practices the last couple weeks and this is what showed today.”

Jocelyn Alo also now stands alone as Oklahoma’s single-season home run record holder after she hit this bomb for her 31st of 2021.

Game Eight: Florida State 4, Arizona 3 (Arizona eliminated)

An absolute thriller between two squads that refused to lose. In the end, Florida State, like it did on its 2018 championship run, found a way to win.

After an errant flip from Arizona second baseman Reyna Carranco allowed Kaley Mudge to reach third with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Cassidy Davis, one of the remaining members of the 2018 national title team, did her job and sent a fly ball to left field for the walk-off sacrifice-fly.

The Florida State offense didn’t score until the sixth inning. Dani Morgan, another senior that put her post-graduate life on hold, gave the Noles the clutch hit they lived off of. Morgan drove an inside pitch from Mariah Lopez out of the park for a go-ahead three-run bomb.

“We've been here before. We know what it takes to come out of the losers' bracket and win the whole thing,” Morgan said. “Sharing that experience with the young ones and being the leaders to get us there is something that us upperclassmen that have been here before are trying to do.”

Arizona threw its own punch back to keep its season alive. Carranco bounced a double into center field and Janelle Meoño zoomed around from first base to score the game-tying run.

This does spell the end for the "gold standard" that is Arizona’s senior class consisting of Jessie Harper, Dejah Mulipola, Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, Malia Martinez, Alyssa Denham, Carranco and Lopez. It might also be the end of a legendary, groundbreaking career for Arizona coach Mike Candrea, who had been surrounded by the possibility of retirement all postseason long.

“At the end of every year, once you get to my age, you kind of evaluate life and things,” an emotional Candrea said. “And the only thing I can tell you is when that day comes, I will do it on my own terms and make that decision.”

Game Nine: Oklahoma 10, UCLA 3 (UCLA eliminated)

The most anticipated matchup of the season came a bit earlier than we all thought, but it didn’t disappoint. Oklahoma and Giselle “G” Juarez got revenge in the rematch from the 2019 Championship Series. UCLA scored eight earned runs against Juarez in that title fight, but the lefty—as she did in the early game Saturday—looked dominant.

After she replaced Nicole May, who had surrendered a three-run bomb to Rachel Garcia and a lot of hard contact to UCLA, Juarez threw five scoreless frames to let her powerful offense find life.

“She's been waiting for this moment, a little bit of redemption,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “I know her season in 2019 ended with a couple tough outings against UCLA, so this was, I think, something a little personal to her, as well.”

The Sooner lineup was quiet for two innings, but the storm quickly came down. Jocelyn Alo ripped a triple into center and later scored to close the deficit to one in the third. Tiare Jennings' two-run double in the fourth gave her team the lead for good.

Part of the reason Oklahoma’s lead grew rapidly in the later innings was that Mackenzie Donihoo hit two more home runs making it three on the day after not hitting one since April 16.

Rachel Garcia had her final send-off as a UCLA Bruin.The two-time Player of the Year’s college career might be over, but she still has plenty of games to be played with the Olympics and Athletes Unlimited ahead of her.

“I left everything out there on the field tonight, and I couldn't be happier for this team,” Garcia said. “...I'm super grateful that they were so welcoming with me and Bubba coming back, and just having that moment with Coach. I'll be grateful to her, she gave me the opportunity to get my degree at the No. 1 university, and here I am in my last moment as a Bruin. I'm super honored.”

Game 10: Florida State 4, Oklahoma State 2

No team has made losers’ bracket runs look quite as easy as Florida State has the last few seasons. The Noles won their sixth straight elimination game at the Women’s College World Series dating back to their 2018 championship.

Anna Shelnutt hadn’t had a hit since the opening game of regionals, but the game itself doesn’t know when a player is slumping. Her solo shot kick-started a three-run frame for her team in the third inning.

Florida State added an insurance run to its already established lead in the sixth. The sequence couldn’t exemplify the Noles’ gritty nature any better. Kaley Mudge was on the wrong end of a poor call, but reached anyway on an error. She then tagged up on a foul out, stole third and scored as the throw sailed into the outfield.

While the offense was scrappy, Kathryn Sandercock went the distance without allowing an earned run, after she earned the late-game win over Arizona earlier in the day.

“This is the time to go all out, pitch your arm off, and that's what I tried to do,” Sandercock said. “That's what I kept telling myself to do and just being all in for every single pitch.”

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