OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – No. 10 Oklahoma (59-9) will play for a second straight national championship after defeating third-seeded Oregon (54-8) Sunday afternoon, 4-2, in the semifinals of the Women's College World Series.
Seeking a fourth national title, OU will face top-seeded Florida (58-8) in a three-game series starting Monday at 6 p.m. on ESPN. Game two will be Tuesday at 7 p.m., while if a game three is necessary it'll be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Either Oklahoma or Florida has won the national championship over the last four years with OU winning in 2013 and 2016 and the Gators going back-to-back in 2014 and 2015. Oklahoma is looking to become the ninth team to repeat as national champions in NCAA history.
Junior Paige Parker won her 16th straight postseason decision and improved to 8-0 all-time at the WCWS, which is the best record in World Series history. Previously, the mark belonged to UCLA's Heather Compton, who was 7-0 between 1990-92. In addition, Parker's eight straight World Series wins are tied with UCLA's Keira Goerl for the most ever.
Just the 10th player in NCAA history to record at least eight career wins at the WCWS, Parker improved to 26-5 in 2017 as she held Oregon to two runs on five hits while striking out four with no walks in 5.0 innings.
Fellow junior Paige Lowary threw 2.0 perfect innings to record her 10th save of the season, breaking the OU record for career saves in just her first season as a Sooner. Lowary has given up just two earned runs in 24.0 innings this postseason for a 0.58 earned run average.
Sunday's pitchers' duel between Parker and Oregon's Megan Kleist lasted until the fifth when Oregon was able to finally solve Parker with a two-out rally.
After getting the first two outs on just four pitches, Parker gave up a two-out single through the right side to Jenna Lilley. Danica Mercado batted next and connected on a full-count pitch, sending a line drive over the fence in right field for her first hit of the WCWS to put Oregon up 2-0.
Oklahoma didn't waste any time responding, posting four runs in the bottom of the frame to become the first team in the entire Women's College World Series to take the lead after falling behind.
The inning started innocently enough as junior Lea Wodach bunted with a two-strike count, but the throw from Oregon catcher Gwen Svekis was wide and went into right field, allowing Wodach to reach second base. After sophomore Raegan Rogers entered as a pinch runner, junior Kelsey Arnold pulled a single into right field to put runners on the corners.
After a steal of second by Arnold, freshman Nicole Mendes hit a chopper to Nikki Udria at shortstop. Udria hesitated before coming home with the throw and it wasn't in time to get the speedy Rogers.
Sophomore Caleigh Clifton executed her second sacrifice bunt of the game to move Arnold to third and Mendes to second base. The play paid off as sophomore Shay Knighten came up next and blooped the first pitch she saw beyond first base to bring home both runners and put Oklahoma on top 3-2.
Knighten stole second to put herself in scoring position and give Oklahoma 110 steals on the year, tying the 2005 OU squad for second most in program history. Only the 2000 Sooners squad stole more with 112. Two batters later, junior Nicole Pendley ripped a double down the right field line, scoring Knighten with Oklahoma's fourth run.
Knighten and Arnold both had multi-hit games as each went 2-3. Knighten drove in two and scored a run, while Arnold added a run scored.