OKLAHOMA CITY – It was a rough night for the Oklahoma Sooners in Game One of the Women’s College World Series championship series as the UCLA Bruins put up 16 runs, held the Sooners to only three, and gave the Sooners what Head Coach Patty Gasso called their worst loss of the season.
The Sooners faced a two-game battle against Alabama the day before to get to the championship stage where they fell 1-0 in extra innings in the first game and bounced back to a 7-3 win in the second to send Alabama home.
The Bruins had an exciting entrance to the championship series where pitcher Rachel Garcia hit a 3-run walkoff home run in the 10th inning against the Washington Huskies to secure their spot at 3-0 and have Saturday off to prepare for what was to come.
With OU entering the WCWS at the No. 1 seed, and UCLA entering as the N0. 2 seed, this matchup is the first time since 2005 the two top seeds have met in the championship series.
This matchup, however, isn’t the first time these two teams have met this season.
UCLA hosted OU on Feb. 22 where the Bruins took the 7-1 win over the Sooners. UCLA’s seven runs were the most OU has given up this season along with the seven runs Florida State had against the Sooners on Feb. 15 at a 7-4 final.
That all changed Monday night when UCLA’s offense got hot, and OU’s defense made one-too-many errors to prevent the Bruins from racking up 16 points in seven innings.
NCAA does not have a run rule policy in the championship series of the WCWS, so the game continued on, even with the Sooners down by 14 at one point.
“Even in the 7th inning when we’re down by 14, we’re still trying to produce runs and get momentum going,” 2nd baseman Caleigh Clifton said postgame. “I think that says a lot about us and the fight we have. We just have to think positive about it.”
Right-fielder Aaliyah Jordan got things going for the Bruins instantly with a solo home run to right field with two outs putting them on the board at 1-0 in the top of the first.
1st baseman Shay Knighten answered for the Sooners in the bottom of the second with a solo bomb of her own tying the game at 1-1. This home run hit almost the exact same place as Jordan’s had the inning before.
The Bruins added four more runs over the next three innings extending their lead to 5-1, while the Sooners struggled mightily on the defensive end picking up three errors in the top of the third inning, which was highly uncharacteristic for a team who led the nation in fielding percentage.
“Our defense is really good, but today we just happened to have some errors,” center-fielder Nicole Mendes said postgame. “Whenever it happened, we just had to take a step back, take a deep breath, and refocus. If we dwelled in it, we knew we’d make some more errors, so just had to reset and focus on the next pitch.”
The Bruins had a massive sixth inning where they had six runs on six hits skyrocketing their lead to 11-1. 3rd baseman Brianna Tautalafua ignited the hitting spree as she launched a solo home run as the first batter up. This would be her first hit in her last 26 at-bats.
“I’ve had a pretty rough start to my season,” Tautalafua said postgame. “With the help of my teammates, they’ve really given me a lot of confidence. For every at-bat I had tonight, I went up to my teammate Anna Vines, and she would put her hands out and say ‘Just breathe’ and I’d say ‘OK.'”
The Sooners were also able to get a run of their own in the 6th as Grace Green knocked a solo home run to left field cutting the Bruins’ 10-run lead to 11-2. UCLA, however, was able to answer easily with a five-run seventh inning.
Although OU found one final run in the bottom of the seventh, the Bruins took the 16-3 win over the Sooners giving OU their largest deficit loss since 2016 where Auburn had a massive comeback to defeat the Sooners in the WCWS finals at 11-7.
“There was nothing about our game that was working tonight,” Sooners Head Coach Patty Gasso said postgame. “It’s very atypical of this team, it happened at the wrong time, but they are not discouraged because those are the lessons that this sport has taught these young women. We don’t quit.”
The championship series at the WCWS is a best-of-three games, so the Sooners will have another opportunity at the national title on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
This would be OU’s fifth national title and the third one in the past four years if they can defeat the bruins twice.
This would be UCLA’s 13th overall if they were to snag the national title on Tuesday night, and it would be their first one since 2010.
“Even when it’s not pretty, we are going to find a way to rebound and come back stronger,” Gasso said postgame. “We may have embarrassed our Sooner nation tonight, but we’re going to do everything we can to make them proud tomorrow.”
Game 2 of the championship series will be tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.