OKLAHOMA CITY — The tears flowed as Oklahoma departed ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. After two seasons atop the college softball world, the Sooners’ quest for a third straight national championship ended. Their reign atop the Women’s College World Series was over.
The smiles returned as the Sooners started to think about the three-year journey they’ve taken.
“If you can grasp the eliteness of this group to say, wow, we’re in the final four, but it isn’t good enough because we’ve been there two years, that is something that’s indescribable about this group,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said.
Ace pitcher Paige Parker, who pitched the Sooners to national championships in 2016 and 2017 and tossed 14 scoreless innings in elimination-game wins over Arizona State and Florida on Saturday, knew nothing but success in the arena where national champions are crowned.
But that didn’t translate to Sunday. That’s what Oklahoma was thinking about after the reality that the WCWS championship would take place without them for the first since 2015.
“Everything’s got to fall your way,” Oklahoma catcher Lea Wodach said. “You’ve got to get calls to go your way. That’s just the little things like that that a lot of people don’t realize. Everything has to go your way.”
The Sooners didn’t get any of them against the Huskies (52-8).
Gasso sent Paige Lowary to the circle on Sunday. She had to. Parker threw 182 pitches the day before and the Sooners understood they had to win twice to advance.
Lowary (10-2) wasn’t at her best against the Huskies. She lasted just 2 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs. It was the second time Gasso went to her No. 2 starter at the WCWS. Lowary was the starter in Game 1 against Huskies. She got off to a rough start in that one too.
“Paige Lowary was wanting a little bit more opportunity against Washington,” Gasso said. “For some reason, we just we’re making plays that we needed to.”
The Sooners (57-5) weren’t sharp at much of anything on Sunday. They had 7 hits, but were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Freshman slugger Jocelyn Alo went 2 for 3, but only one of her at-bats came with a runner on, much less in scoring position.
Washington pitcher Taran Alvelo (23-4) made every clutch pitch she had to and gave nothing away. She struck out 6 and scattered 7 hits for the complete-game victory.
Julia DePonte went 3 for 3 and drove in 2 runs. She delivered the dagger for the Huskies in the bottom of the fifth inning, belting a towering solo home run down the left-field line. It was the only home run Parker allowed during her career at the WCWS.
Trysten Melhart extinguishes Oklahoma again
In Oklahoma’s Women’s College World Series opener on Thursday, Washington right fielder Trysten Melhart snuffed out a potential Oklahoma rally with a diving catch to end the sixth inning.
In the top of the fifth inning on Sunday, the Sooners had Kelsey Arnold and Alo at second and first, respectively, with two out. Shay Knighten hit another sinking liner to right field.
“Yeah, as soon as I saw the ball, I knew there were runners on, so I knew they were going to have to throw somebody out or catch the ball,” Knighten said. “Your instincts just kick in in that moment and you just go for it.”
That was a break. Washington got them. Oklahoma did not. Gasso summed it up best.
“Every time we got an opportunity, the right fielder is just killing us,” the Oklahoma coach said. “She was exceptional.”
Oklahoma couldn’t shake offensive slump
The Sooners didn’t hit on all cylinders at the plate. Outside of Alo, they didn’t do much at the plate their first three games. The slump carried over on Sunday.
The 0-for-8 effort with runners in scoring position on Sunday fit in with Oklahoma over its four games in Oklahoma City. It went a combined 1 for 19 in those situations over the four games.
The Sooners stayed alive because Parker was dominant on Saturday. The margin for error shrank each day.
“It’s great pitching that we’re facing,” Gasso said. “Every pitcher here, every team here has to have at least two superstar pitchers, and if you don’t have that, you’re probably not going to last very long.”
The Sooners know it better than anyone. If you want to hoist that national championship trophy, you better hit on all cylinders and catch some breaks along the way.
Washington was that team on Sunday.
Oklahoma’s historic run is over
Parker started thinking about the wins more than losses when the topic of her career and the rest of Oklahoma’s seniors came up. Losing stings, but the emotion of something like the loss Sunday was rare.
Oklahoma went 175-22 over the last three seasons. It arrived at the Women’s College World Series expecting to be the last team standing.
“I’m just so blessed that they took a chance on me and have had confidence in me and believed in me,” Parker said. “I’m just so thankful that I’ve had the experiences that I’ve had and had the best teammates anyone could ever ask for.”
Gasso, who has built Oklahoma into one of the premier programs in the sport over the last two decades, said Parker is the best pitcher she’s ever had. Her current team set itself apart because the pain it experienced Sunday afternoon was so rare. Only one softball gets to end the season with a victory.
“They had their minds set that they were going to play on Monday, and I appreciate that,” Gasso said. “That’s why I love this team. That’s why it hurts, because two years straight we have not had to feel this, in a great way, but a weird way, an odd feeling to sit up here and feel emotional, because our emotions were off the charts, oh, my gosh, we just did this.”