Sooners walk-off Florida 6-5 in 8 innings, advance to WCWS championship series against Texas

Oklahoma's Jayda Coleman (24) waves to the crowd following the Women's College World Series semifinal game between the Oklahoma and Florida at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June, 4, 2024.
Oklahoma's Jayda Coleman (24) waves to the crowd following the Women's College World Series semifinal game between the Oklahoma and Florida at Devon Park in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, June, 4, 2024. / SARAH PHIPPS/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY

Oklahoma senior Jayda Coleman hit a home run over the left field fence leading off the eighth inning, and the Sooners overcame a three-run deficit against Florida in a win-or-go-home game in the Women's College World Series to advance to the championship series against Red River and conference rival Texas.

In the immortal words of baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, "It's never over till its over." And the way this elimination game started, it appeared Florida was in the driver's seat, having beaten Oklahoma 9-3 a day earlier with the long ball against two Sooner pitchers. Florida launched four home runs in Monday's semifinal game, and they got into the act again in the early going on Tuesday. The Gators hit a home run in each of the first three innings to jump out to a quick 5-2 advantage.

Former Sooner Jocelyn Erickson blasted a two-run shot to right field for Florida in the first, and freshman Ariel Kowalewski followed suit with a two-run four-bagger of her own in the second. Reagan Walsh hit a laser shot that barely cleared the left field fence in the third, and at that point it appeared it was going to be a long afternoon for the three-time reigning national champions.

Oklahoma countered Florida's two runs in the first on a two-run bomb by freshman Ella Parker following a double by Tiare Jennings. The Sooners narrowed the Gator lead to one run in the fourth when Cydney Sanders launched one out of the park with a runner on to make it 5-4.

The Sooners tied it up in the bottom of the sixth with Parker driving in Avery Hodge, who had doubled earlier in the inning, from second base.

Oklahoma had opportunities to score in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, stranding two runs in each inning.

Both starting pitchers -- Keagan Rothrock for Florida and Kelly Maxwell for Oklahoma -- went the distance and both threw close to 150 pitches in the game. This was the second day in a row Rothrock, a freshman faced Oklahoma in the circle and the third day in a row she has pitched in the WCWS for the Gators.

Rothrock threw 131 pitches in Florida's win over the Sooners on Monday, and she worked all seven innings, throwing 95 pitches, in Florida's elimination-game win over Alabama on Sunday. That's 380 pitches over three consecutive days. It's hard not to imagine that didn't take a toll on her against OU on Tuesday.

The Sooners collected 12 hits, including three home runs off of Rothrock the second day thay faced her. Half of their 12 hits were for extra bases. Her pitch count of 154 was the most this season. OU's Maxwell received a rough greeting in the early innings but settled down after giving up all five of Florida's runs on home run balls through the first three innings From the fourth inning on, the former Oklahoma State transfer allowed no runs and just a single over the final five innings

Maxwell worked all 8.0 innings, giving up five runs on just four total hits, struck out eight and walked five in recording her 22nd win of the season to go with two losses. It was her 10th complete game of the season.

In a lineup saturated with seniors, it was a pair of Sooner freshman who fueled the fire for Oklahoma's comeback win. Parker and Kasidi Pickering were a combined five for eight with a home run and three RBI.

With the win, the Sooners kept their perfect record in WCWS elimination game unblemished. Oklahoma is 8-0 in WCWS elimination games.

Until Oklahoma tied the game in the sixth inning on Tuesday, the Sooners had trailed Florida over 12 straight innings

The Sooners won't have much time to celebrate because they will be right back in action against a rested Texas team in the best two-out-of-three championship series beginning Wednesday night at OG&E Field at Devon Park in Oklahoma City. The No. 1 seed Longhorns have given up just one hit in each of their three WCWS games, all shutouts.

Although OU and Texas split their four games this season -- the Longhorns winning the regular-season series two games to one in Austin and Oklahoma defeated Texas for the championship of the Big 12 postseason tournament -- the road is going to be a steep one if the Sooners are to achieve an unprecedented fourth consecutive national championship.

"It ain't over till its over..."