Oklahoma softball: Sooners rally in 7th to defeat James Madison and stay alive

Oklahoma softball lives to see another game in the 2021 Women’s College World Series.

What appeared after the Sooners’ opening-game loss to be a most improbable task, OU is now just one win away from reaching the championship series.

Oklahoma rallied in the seventh inning, scoring three times to break up a 3-3 tie, and went on to defeat unseeded James Madison 6-3. By doing so, the Sooners staved off elimination and forced a deciding game with the Dukes on Sunday night to determine who will advance to the best of three championship series beginning Monday.

If the Sooners are successful in beating James Madison a second time they will gave done so by winning four straight WCWS games in about 36 hours. OU was put in that position after suffering a 4-3 opening-day loss in eight innings to this same JMU bunch.

Unlike Thursday, when James Madison took an early lead that the Dukes never relinquished, the Sooners got a run on the board in the top of the first inning on Sunday when leadoff hitter freshman Tiare Jennings crushed a solo home run to center field.

Oklahoma added solo runs in the second and fourth to open up a 3-0 lead. That all quickly evaporated, though, in the JMU half of the fourth inning. With two out and two runners on base, Sarah Jubas launched a 3-2 pitchoff OU starter Shannon Saile over the left center field  wall, her second three-run homer of the WCWS against the Sooners.

Just like that the score was all tied up at three apiece, sending shock waves throughout the capacity, 13,000-plus crowd of largely Sooner faithful.

That’s the way things remained until the deciding seventh inning. Sophomore Rylie Boone led off the inning for Oklahoma as a pinch hitter for Taylon Snow. Boone promptly executed a bunt single. The next batter, Jennings, stroked a double to the right-center gap that scored the speedy Boone all the way from first base.

That put the Sooner back into the lead. JMU pitcher Oddici Alexander was able to strike out Jocelyn Alo, but catcher Kinzie Hansen barreled an Alexander pitch over the center field fence, scoring Jennings and adding on a couple more insurance runs for the Sooners.

Nicole May, who cam in in relieve of the OU starter Saile during the three-run JMU fourth inning, had to work out of a two-on, two-out trouble in the home half of the seventh when JMU put two runners on with two out. With runners on second and third, May struck out Lynsey Meeks to end the game.

May, who ran into trouble after just two innings against UCLA, entered the Sunday game with JMU in the fourth inning. She hit Alexander, the first batter she faced, with a pitch, but struck out the next batter to end the threat. May allowed no runs and just two JMU hits, while striking out five, in 3 1/3 innings of relief.

Alexander, who fanned 10 Sooners in the James Madison win in the opening round, struck out just three OU hitters on Sunday in going the distance for the third time in the 2021 WCWS.

James Madison left runners on base on all but two innings against OU and a total of nine for the game.

Oklahoma, now 3-1 in this year’s WCWS, will be seeking its sixth trip to the best-of-three championship series since 2000, with a chance to win a fifth national championship. With three more wins, they will be only the second team since 2000 to lose its opening game and win a WCWS.

Still lots of work ahead, however, before we can run championship flag up the pole.