Navigating OU’s lineup is like planning for the 1927 New York Yankees for opposing pitchers.
“It’s Murderer’s Row,” Texas coach Mike White said, referencing the storied lineup that featured Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at its core, after the Sooners blasted his team 7-2 in the winner’s bracket of the Women’s College World Series on Saturday at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
Pitchers can have success against them, and for a time Longhorns ace Hailey Dolcini did Saturday, retiring nine consecutive hitters.
But that success is hard to sustain, and OU’s record-setting lineup with Jocelyn Alo and Tiare Jennings as its main stars, are bound to come through.
Saturday, Alo’s first-inning, two-run home run got the Sooners started and then after a bit of an offensive slumber, the Sooners adjusted to Dolcini and pounded Texas to advance within a game of the championship series.
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OU (56-2) advances to Monday’s 11 am semifinal where they’ll take on the winner of Sunday’s matchup between UCLA and the loser of Saturday’s late game between Oklahoma State and Florida.
Texas (44-20-1) will face Arizona in an elimination game at 6 pm Sunday.
In both of the Sooners ‘WCWS games, junior outfielder Rylie Boone signaled the Sooners’ change in approach.
In Thursday’s 13-2 win over Northwestern, it was Boone’s third-inning double that showed how the Sooners had adjusted to Wildcats ‘pitcher Danielle Williams’ changeup.
This time, it took until the fifth inning before Boone once again highlighted a shift.
The Owasso product laid down a bunt single on the first pitch of the inning, leaping in excitement as she crossed the base safely just ahead of the throw.
Jana Johns, OU’s No. 9 hitter, followed by laying down a sacrifice bunt on the first pitch herself before Coleman – again on the first pitch – drove a double into the right-center field gap to score Boone and put the Sooners up 3-1.
Alo also was aggressive in attacking Dolcini, fouling off three consecutive pitches before driving in another run with a single up the middle and driving Dolcini from the game.
Jennings then greeted Sophia Simpson with a two-run homer deep into the left-field bleachers to extend OU’s lead to 6-1.
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Sooners coach Patty Gasso hasn’t been shy about moving her lineup around.
OU hasn’t used the same batting order in more than two games this season.
The lineup that Gasso filled in Saturday was the Sooners’ 51st in 58 games this season.
“It’s like the row changes,” White said, alluding to his Murderer’s Row comments from earlier.
The top three, though, has been fairly consistent for much of the latter part of the season – Jayda Coleman leading off followed by Alo and Jennings.
Saturday, the trio combined to go 7-for-11 with six RBIs and five runs scored. Another Sooners’ run was scored by Hannah Coor as a pinch-runner for Alo.
Coleman said the biggest adjustment wasn’t to Dolcini but internally.
“I think it was more of a mental thing just knowing individually how she’s going to come at us,” Coleman said. “And it worked out.”
The inning before the Sooners broke it open, they finally put base runners on against Dolcini before failing to score as Texas kept OU’s lead at 2-1.
“We were right on it,” Alo said. “So in the fifth, we knew it was coming. It was just a matter of us trusting ourselves and sticking to our plan. ”
The four runs the Sooners scored in the fifth were more than enough for OU starter Hope Trautwein, who allowed a run in the first and then a solo homer with one out in the seventh. But she controlled the game for the most part, improving to 20-1 with the complete-game victory.
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