Oklahoma shuts out Florida State to open WCWS title series

AP photo by Nate Billings / Oklahoma's Jordy Bahl pitches against Florida State during the opening game of the Women's College World Series title round Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Jordy Bahl's dynamic pitching and boundless energy have the Oklahoma Sooners on the verge of a third straight national championship in softball.

Bahl threw a two-hitter and struck out 10 batters, and No. 1 Oklahoma beat No. 3 Florida State 5-0 on Wednesday night to open the best-of-three title matchup at the Women's College World Series. The Sooners can wrap up their seventh WCWS title overall Thursday night; if Florida State wins, a third game would be played Friday.

Bahl was constantly in motion in the opener, urging on her teammates and helping build a vibe that carried throughout the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex. She jump-started the Sooners when she scored as a pinch runner to make it 2-0.

"We needed a spark," Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. "We needed some kind of spark. I think when Jordy comes in to run, our team gets kind of amped."

Bahl is 4-0 at the WCWS and hasn't allowed a run in 21 2/3 innings. The sophomore helped Oklahoma push its NCAA Division I-record winning streak to 52 games.

Oklahoma's Tiare Jennings set the WCWS career record for RBIs with a single in the sixth that scored Rylie Boone and made it 5-0. Her 29 RBIs broke the record Oklahoma's Jocelyn Alo set last year.

Boone doubled twice and Kinzie Hansen and Alyssa Brito each had two hits for the Sooners.

Mack Leonard, a senior who had pitched only 37 1/3 innings this season, got the start and took the loss for Florida State (58-10). She gave up one run and one hit but didn't get the run support she needed.

"I thought Mack pitched really well," Florida State coach Lonni Alameda said. "We had our chances there. We had a couple swings, had our chances."

Kathryn Sandercock, the team's ace, did not play. Alameda said she never considered putting her into the game.

"Definitely sticking to the plan we had all year," she said. "I think they're (Oklahoma) a really good team at making adjustments. Needed to see what we had from our other pitchers, too."

The game started an hour late because of lightning near the stadium, then it was delayed again in the first inning and started two hours after the scheduled first pitch.

Even during the delays, Bahl couldn't relax.

"I was doing a lot of pacing, trying to stay mentally locked in," she said. "'OK, when are we going to start playing? Are they going to cancel?' I was very worried about what was going to happen."

The Sooners started easing Bahl's mind in the fourth. Haley Lee was hit by a pitch, ending Leonard's night in the circle. Makenna Reid stepped in for Florida State, but Hansen doubled off her to score Bahl, who ran for Lee.

Brito singled to score Hansen. Alynah Torres hit a short chopper and beat the throw to first, scoring Brito to push Oklahoma's lead to 3-0. In the fifth, Hansen's single scored Jayda Coleman to make it 4-0.

Even when Florida State saw glimmers of hope, they were snuffed out. Kalei Harding hit what looked like it would be a double in the sixth, but Coleman threw her out at second base by several steps.

Jennings' RBI made it 5-0. Oklahoma would have added three more runs in the sixth, but Florida State left fielder Kaley Mudge leaped up and reached over the top of the fence to make a spectacular grab that robbed Lee.

It wasn't enough, and now, for the first time at this Women's College World Series, Florida State is in a must-win situation.

"I mean, we've got to play our best game," Alameda said. "That's all we have. Back's against the wall. Regardless, it's been an incredible season. For us to be where we're at right now, I told the kids don't hang your heads."