With one swing in the bottom of the fourth inning, Mack Leonard gave Florida State a lead as her team looked to force a Game 3 in the Women’s College World Series.
It lasted all of two batters.
Reflecting the dominance it has shown all season, Oklahoma led off the top of the fifth inning Thursday with back-to-back homers. The Sooners then tacked on an insurance run in the sixth to beat Florida State, 3-1, and win a third straight national title in front of a partisan crowd of over 12,000 at a packed stadium in Oklahoma City. The Sooners also beat Florida State in 2021.
Only one other program, U.C.L.A. from 1988 to 1990, had won three straight titles. But the Sooners’ run extends beyond the 2020s. They’ve won six national championships in the past 10 years, and seven in program history, all under Coach Patty Gasso. Only U.C.L.A. and Arizona have more.
Pick just about any statistic, and the Sooners figure to be toward the top of the list.
Home runs? Yes. Slugging percentage? Naturally. Runs per game? Of course.
What about pitching? They lead in E.R.A., too.
It all adds up to 53 straight wins, besting the 47-game streak Arizona pieced together in 1996 and ’97 for an N.C.A.A. Division I record. Oklahoma’s lone blemish was a 4-3 loss to Baylor in February.
In a television interview after the game, Gasso said the weight of the team’s high expectations and streak had been “suffocating.”
“They handled it like champions and that’s why we’re here right now,” she said of her players.
Oklahoma was a juggernaut last year, too, getting off to a record 38-0 start. Two key members of that team were at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday but not on the field. Jocelyn Alo, who ended her college career as the career home runs leader, sat in the stands, and the star pitcher Hope Trautwein was on the coaching staff.
Enter the transfer portal. Thursday’s starting pitcher, Alex Storako, struck out 300 batters last year at Michigan. The No. 3 hitter, Haley Lee, joined Oklahoma after four seasons at Texas A&M, where she hit 40 homers in her final two years. And the No. 7 hitter, Cydney Sanders, came to the program after hitting 21 homers and earning first-team all-American honors as a freshman at Arizona State.
There were also several key holdovers, including Tiare Jennings, Jayda Coleman and Jordyn Bahl, who were among the final 10 candidates for Player of the Year this season. Alyssa Brito, in her second year after transferring from Oregon, matched Jennings and Coleman with 17 homers.
The accolades and sterling record do not mean Oklahoma was not tested in Oklahoma City, though. The standout Stanford freshman pitcher NiJaree Canady mostly held the Sooners’ bats in check in the teams’ first matchup of the final eight, and the Cardinal pushed Oklahoma to extra innings in a semifinal.
Then Florida State looked to have found an opening in Game 2. Kathryn Sandercock wriggled out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the top of the third, and in the bottom half, with two runners on base, Kalei Harding sent a drive toward the center field fence.
But Coleman raced back, timed her leap and, for the second straight year in the championship series, robbed a home run, snatching away the ball and, effectively, anyone’s chances of beating Oklahoma.
Sanders and the captain, Grace Lyons, hit the tying and go-ahead home runs. Then Bahl, who pitched a two-hit shutout in Game 1, came on in relief. She retired all nine batters she faced to close out the win and was named the most outstanding player of the Series.
After all the fanfare and anticipation built throughout the season, one final swing and miss brought on the celebrations. It also brought, Gasso said, “freedom.”
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