OKLAHOMA CITY — The first two weeks of the NCAA Softball Tournament was a breeze for Oklahoma. The Sooners were virtually unchallenged in five games.
That string ended on Thursday. Oklahoma was out-pitched, out-hit, out-defended and on the wrong end of the game’s biggest break in a 2-0 loss to Washington in the opening round of the Women’s College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
The Sooners (55-4) arrived in Oklahoma City rolling toward their third straight national championship. They had a 16-game winning streak and went 5-0 through the Norman Regional and Super Regional, outscoring their opponents 40-2.
But Washington pitcher Gabbie Plain (21-4) took all that momentum away. She dominated Oklahoma, limiting the Sooners to 4 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Taran Alvelo gave up 2 hits in the final 1 1/3 innings but secured her third save of the season.
Oklahoma pitcher Paige Parker, who entered Thursday’s game with 8 career WCWS victories in the circle, dropped to 29-3 this season. She allowed 1 run on 6 hits in 6 innings.
“Losing is never fun but I know how much fight our team has and how much heart that we have,” Parker said. “I fully believe that this team can do anything, and so just having so much faith and trust in each other, I know losing is not fun, but I know we’re going to come out strong our next game, and you know, bounce back from this.”
It was a dominant performance by the senior. She made enough quality pitches to get out jams throughout the first four innings. The Huskies (50-8) left nine on base.
But they cashed in the top of the fifth inning. After Parker walked leadoff batter Trysten Melhart, Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso turned to reliever Paige Lowary. Instead, Melhart advanced on a pair of bunts, one a single and the other a sacrifice. With runners on second and third and one out, Sis Bates hit a ground ball to the pitcher and Melhart scored. Julia DePonte followed that up with an RBI single.
Controversial call thwarts Oklahoma rally
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Sooners finally got to Plain. They had Sydney Romero on second and Jocelyn Alo at first with two outs when Shay Knighten laced a line drive to right field. Melhart made a diving catch but the ball popped out as she was coming to her feet. It was ruled an out on the field, ending the inning.
Gasso argued the call to no avail.
“I saw the ball come out after it looked like maybe she made the catch but I don’t know. I don’t know what — they said that it was a 100-percent clean catch right to me. That’s what the umpire said — like ‘I’m 100-percent sure that she made the catch, and the transfer is when the ball came out.’ That was what I was told.”
NCAA Secretary Rules-Editor Vickie Van Kleeck gave full support to the call on the field.
“The right fielder caught the ball. She made the catch. And the ball was dropped on the transfer, trying to take the ball from her glove to her hand,” she said. “This is considered a secondary motion, so it’s ruled a catch. Any type of secondary motion, not standing so much as the transfer. It was ruled on the transfer. That secondary motion means that the catch was good.”
Oklahoma has to fight through the losers’ bracket
The Sooners get Friday off then return to ASA Hall of Fame Stadium at noon ET on Saturday. They’ll face Arizona State, who fell to Oregon in the opener Thursday. Oklahoma has to win four games — each an elimination game — in order to reach to the best-of-three championship series.
“Just kind of brings everyone together and gives you a choice to either face it head-on or turn the other way and go out how you don’t want to go out,” said Oklahoma catcher Lea Wodack, who went 1 for 2 on Thursday. “It’s just us making a choice together that we are going to face the challenge head-on and not be afraid.”