Oklahoma’s Kinzie Hansen, Tiare Jennings, Rylie Boone and Jayda Coleman celebrate, from left, celebrate the team’s win over Florida State in the NCAA Women’s College World Series softball championship series Thursday, June 8, 2023, in Oklahoma City.
(AP Photo/Nate Billings)
By CLIFF BRUNT AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma saved its best celebration for last.
Jordy Bahl threw three innings of perfect relief and the Sooners won their third straight Women’s College World Series title and seventh overall, beating Florida State 3-1 on Thursday night for a two-game sweep.
The Sooners finished 61-1 and extended their Division I-record win streak to 53 games. They have won six titles since 2013 after getting their first in 2000, all under coach Patty Gasso.
The Sooners, exuberant and energetic throughout this World Series, stayed true to form. After Bahl struck out Katie Dack swinging to end the game, catcher Kinzie Hansen ran to Bahl and wrapped her in a bear hug as the rest of the Sooners swarmed them and created a massive dogpile that teetered to the ground.
Finishing this title run was no easy task against a Florida State program making its third finals appearance in the past five World Series.
“The message off the bat was eyes are on our circle,” said Oklahoma’s Grace Lyons, who hit a solo homer. “We’re going to keep focusing on what we do every single day. Doesn’t matter what the outside has to say. We’re going to do the little things. We’re going to keep grinding.”
The only debate now is where the Sooners stand in Division I history.
Oklahoma’s only defeat was a 4-3 loss at Baylor on Feb. 19. The Sooners set a record for win percentage and had the fewest losses of any champion. They led the nation in runs per game, earned run average and batting average — even after losing Division I career home run leader Jocelyn Alo from last year’s team.
UCLA was the only other program to win three straight titles, from 1988-90. But the Bruins lost 19 games during that stretch. Oklahoma dropped just eight during its three-peat.
Florida State lost to Oklahoma in the championship series in 2021, and Seminoles coach Lonni Alameda said the Sooners are even better now.
“Congratulations to OU,” Alameda said. “They’re just firing on all cylinders. It’s pretty cool. I think a lot of people were texting me throughout, like a lot of people don’t like that one team’s winning all the time. I get a little vibe sometimes of, like, ‘Take down the machine.’ We gave our best for that, but they’re really good.”
Bahl, a sophomore from Papillion, Nebraska, pitched 24 2/3 scoreless innings in the WCWS and was named its Most Outstanding Player. She went 4-0 and earned the save on Thursday. She became the first pitcher since 1992 to work at least 20 innings at the World Series without allowing a run.
Cydney Sanders and Lyons hit back-to-back homers off Seminoles ace Kathryn Sandercock in the fifth inning. Florida State had taken a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Mack Leonard’s homer off Sooners starter Alex Storako. Alynah Torres padded the Sooners’ lead with an RBI single in the sixth, and that was plenty of cushion for Bahl, who struck out three and threw 39 pitches, 28 for strikes.
Storako (18-0) worked the first four innings for the Sooners, allowing three hits and getting a sparkling defensive play in the third from center fielder Jayda Coleman, who made a leaping catch at the wall to take away a potential three- run homer from Florida State’s Kalei Harding.
“It’s really exciting to make those plays,” Coleman said. “I practice them all the time. But like I say every single time, the best thing out of those plays is watching your teammates react and watching them just be so happy for you.”
In the top of the third, the Sooners got a bunt single from Rylie Boone — executed so perfectly that the ball stopped on the chalk — to load the bases with no outs. But Sandercock retired the next three batters to get out of the jam.
Sandercock (28-4) pitched a complete game to conclude her career with Florida State (58-11).
“Everything that I’ve worked on for the past five years — showing up today, being able to put that to the test against one of the hardest lineups in college softball — was such a fun challenge,” she said.
Oklahoma will have high expectations again next year. Coleman, Bahl and Tiare Jennings are National Fastpitch Coaches Association first-team All- Americans who will be back. Jennings and Coleman, juniors who have won national titles each year of their careers, want to help the Sooners become the first program to win four straight.
“I love doing this career with her,” Coleman said of Jennings. “Hopefully we finish it out with a bang.”