OKLAHOMA CITY — A back-and-forth contest appeared to be unfolding at Hall of Fame Stadium.
Both Oklahoma and UCLA hit a home run in the first two innings of Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series championship series on Monday.
“Okay, this is going to be an exciting game,” Patty Gasso says she thought at the time.
The top-seeded Sooners unraveled over the next five innings, however, and lost 16-3 to the No. 2-seeded Bruins.
“They cleaned our clocks,” Gasso said. “There's no tiptoeing around it, that's bottom line. There's nothing in our game that worked tonight, nothing. Our pitching wasn't good. Our defense wasn't good. … It's very atypical of this team. It happened at the wrong time.”
The Bruins were first to strike with Aaliyah Jordan’s solo shot to right field in the first inning.
OU starter Giselle Juarez limited the damage to Jordan’s homer and the Sooners swiftly responded.
Sooner senior Shay Knighten recorded a own solo home run in the bottom of the second. It was a timely score for Knighten, who hasn’t hit a home run since April 26 against Iowa State.
The 1-1 tie — and the seemingly exciting game — quickly evaporated, however, after the Sooners were plagued by fielding errors in the top of the third, which snowballed into the blowout loss.
The Sooners committed three consecutive errors in the third inning, starting with a throwing error by freshman Grace Lyons. The shortstop fielded a bunt from UCLA’s Kinsley Washington but Lyons’ throw to first base went over Knighten’s head.
The mishap allowed the UCLA runner to advance to second. And on the next at-bat, OU second basemen Caleigh Clifton dropped a throw from Knighten, allowing Kelli Godin to reach first and Washington to score.
The sloppy sequence concluded with Bubba Nickles sending a ball through the left side on the next at-bat, which passed by Lyons, who dove for the ball and missed. Sooner outfielder Fale Aviu then struggled to pick the ball up off the grass and gave Godin enough time to round third and cross home plate.
“I feel like for us that doesn't happen a lot,” Clifton said, “especially three (errors) in one inning. We can't be perfect all the time. We know that. This game is about failing. It just so happened to be in the same inning, so that stinks.”
Washington added UCLA’s fourth run via an RBI double in the top of the fourth and Taylor Pack added UCLA’s fifth in the next inning.
The game went off the rails for OU when UCLA went off for six runs in the top of the sixth.
Brianna Tautalafua prompted UCLA's huge sixth frame with a homer off reliever Mariah Lopez. Briana Perez then hit a three-run homer when OU turned to Shannon Saile.
Garcia, the UCLA pitcher, capped the inning with a two-run homer to left field.
The Sooners eventually put in outfielder Nicole Mendes to pitch to save her primary pitchers.
“I put Nicole Mendes out there as a sacrificial lamb for this team,” Gasso said. “Maybe that wasn't fair. There's one young lady that can handle that, and that's Nicole Mendes. She gives her heart and soul. She would do that for the team.”
OU's four pitchers gave up 16 hits, walked three batters and struck out five in the loss.
If there was a positive for OU is it felt like it found some momentum on offense in the last two innings of the game.
Grace Green hit a solo shot in the bottom of the sixth and Sydney Romero drove in Aviu in the seventh.
"This game absolutely does not define us or our season," Gasso said. "This team is very resilient. That's what we were just trying to get out of the worst game we played all season on the biggest stage. Unfortunately, it happened that way.
"But it does not define who we are."