Alabama battled to the very end against top-seeded Oklahoma in Thursday’s opening-round game at the Women’s College World Series, but a late push by the Sooners ultimately put them ahead in the narrow 3-2 victory over the Crimson Tide.
Alabama (57-9) fell behind early when Oklahoma (55-3) scored a run in the first inning. An RBI single from junior Bailey Hemphill in the top of the second tied it up at 1-1 before the Sooners moved back ahead with an RBI single in the bottom half. Junior Claire Jenkins tied it at 2-2 with a solo home run in the top of the fifth but a sixth-inning RBI triple put Oklahoma back ahead, 3-2, which ultimately proved final.
“We just needed one more hit to go our way,” UA head coach Patrick Murphy said. “Claire’s lineout or Elissa’s in the last inning, [Oklahoma] made some good plays. If anyone is built for going through the loser’s bracket, it’s us with our pitching staff. Everybody is ready to go. I thought tonight was a well-played game between two really good teams.”
Jenkins’ home run was part of a 2-for-3 day at the plate, breaking a 0-for-19 streak at the plate over 10 hitless games leading into the WCWS. Hemphill’s RBI single increased her season total to 79, one shy of Marisa Runyon’s single-season school record.
Oklahoma led off the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles, putting runners at the corners before a fly ball to center allowed the lead runner to tag up and score on a sacrifice fly. Jenkins dropped a leadoff single into shallow left in the top of the third, Alabama’s first hit of the day, and senior Merris Schroder followed that with a sac bunt to move her into scoring position. A bunt single from junior Elissa Brown put runners at the corners and Hemphill poked an RBI single into right, tying the score at 1-1 before as strikeout ended the half-inning.
A leadoff triple from Oklahoma senior Sydney Romero in the bottom of the third put the potential go-ahead run 60 feet away. Alabama nearly got out of the inning with a popup and strikeout putting two outs on the board but sophomore Jocelyn Alo roped a single up the middle to score her from third and give the Sooners a 2-1 lead.
Jenkins led off the top of the fifth with a solo home run to tie the game at 2-2. A two-out RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth gave Oklahoma back the lead and the Tide went down in order in the top of the seventh as the Sooners held on for the one-run victory.
With the loss, Alabama will play Florida in an elimination game Saturday, June 1 at 1:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. The winner of that game will advance to play the loser of Friday’s Arizona vs. UCLA game in another elimination game later Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. CT.
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