WCWS Day 5 Sees JMU's Epic Run End, Sets Championship Series
Game 13: Oklahoma 7, JMU 1 (Oklahoma advances to the championship series, JMU eliminated)
The dam began to crack, hit by hit, as Oklahoma’s offense was on the cusp of breaking it open. It finally broke in the fifth inning on Monday when the Sooners put up a four spot on the scoreboard behind four hits.
Oklahoma did it without the long ball against Odicci Alexander, wearing down the ace with seven hits and six free passes. Mackenzie Donihoo, Jayda Coleman and Jana Johns combined to drive in five runs from the bottom of the order.
“I thought Jana Johns had some really quality at-bats today,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “It was nice to see Jayda Coleman come through...Of course (Donihoo) is the hottest player in the tournament right now...It was just nice to see different faces and different ways of getting it done besides the big home run.”
Jocelyn Alo did add this blast off of Alissa Humphrey.
Kate Gordon homered off the first pitch she saw to start the game. After that, Giselle “G” Juarez continued her great Women’s College World Series. The lefty tossed a complete game, allowing one run on four hits and striking out 11.
As for Alexander, she left everything she had on the field and brought James Madison to new heights. Her postseason performance was rewarded with a standing ovation from the Oklahoma City crowd. She’s a reminder to every single girl wanting to play softball at the collegiate level that you don’t have to have a Power Five program across your chest to become a star.
“To see them all clapping for me and cheering me on, I mean, it was a great moment, and it warmed my heart,” Alexander said. “Honestly my nine-year-old self never would have thought I would have been here because I was on my couch watching this at this age. I mean, just being here, I honestly have no words. But to people who are watching, I hope I inspired you to be yourself and be the best version of yourself.”
Game 14: Florida State 8, Alabama 5 (Florida State advances to the championship series, Alabama eliminated)
Florida State is simply built different. The Noles once again made a losers’ bracket run to put themselves into the championship series like they did in 2018.
“I think there's something special about FSU that allows us to block everything else out—block out the stats, block out the outcome, block out anyone who's not in our corner,” Mason said. “We just look to our left and our right. I look to Danielle (Watson), I look to (Kaley) Mudge, I look to our coaches, and when you can fight for them, all you want to do is give one more pitch, one more opportunity, and one more game. That's what we did in 2018, and we know we can do it again because we've been there before.”
Elizabeth Mason, who was a big part of the 2018 title team, showed the world that Montana Fouts was mortal after all. Mason belted a three-run home run in the first inning on a rise ball from the Alabama pitcher.
The offense was far from done. Florida State added a run in the second on a bunt play. Then proceeded to score four runs with two outs in the third to race out to an eight-run lead. Kaley Mudge became the first person with a five-hit game in a seven-inning game at the Women’s College World Series.
Bailey Hemphill and Alabama made it into a game in the end. The All-American slugger had a RBI double and a two-run blast to help close the gap. But in the end, it was too little, too late for the Tide.
Mike Candrea and Lu Harris-Champer announce retirements
Two of the head coaches who were in Oklahoma City have announced their retirements in the past 48 hours. Arizona’s Mike Candrea and Georgia’s Lu Harris-Champer have decided to step away from the game that they’ve spent decades in.
Harris-Champer spent 21 years at Georgia as a head coach as well as stops at Nicholls State and Southern Miss. She had seven Women’s College World Series appearances (two at Southern Miss and five at Georgia) and over 1,100 wins.
“A decision like this is always difficult, particularly when you work at a wonderful institution like the University of Georgia," Harris-Champer said in a statement. "I am beyond grateful for my time here in Athens. I was truly blessed to work with tremendous colleagues and coach amazing student-athletes that mean so much to me. This decision came down to family. It was the right time for me to step away from the team and institution I love, while still being lucky enough to have more time with my children before they graduate high school.”
Associate head coach Tony Baldwin will serve as interim head coach. A national search will begin immediately.
Meanwhile, as speculated all week, the sport’s all-time winningest coach Mike Candrea decided to hang it up after 36 years at Arizona. His resume speaks for itself: eight national championships, 24 appearances in the Women's College World Series, 34 postseason berths, 10 conference championships, over 50 All-Americans coached, Olympic gold and silver medals as well as 1,674 career wins.
"It has been an honor to represent the University of Arizona for 36 years," said Candrea in a statement. "I am indebted to every player, coach and member of my support staff that has made the Arizona softball experience one that I will cherish forever. When I arrived in 1985, I wanted to build a culture of excellence and compete consistently at the highest levels of Division 1 softball. Most of all, our goal was to prepare our student-athletes for life after softball and build relationships that would last a lifetime."
Candrea’s successor has already been named with former Arizona All-American and associate head coach Caitlin Lowe taking the reins.
“Caitlin is special and she has continued that growth and success as the associate head coach for Arizona Softball,” Candrea said in a statement. “She is bright, a good communicator, understands what it takes having been there as an athlete, and the players love her. Without a doubt, Caitlin is the best person to continue the Arizona legacy into the future. She will be a superstar for many years to come."
The first game of the championship series between Oklahoma and Florida State will be Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.