Oklahoma wins Women’s College World Series for third straight year to cap 61-1 season

AP photo by Nate Billings / Oklahoma softball players celebrate after beating Florida State to win the Women's College World Series on Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Sooners saved their best celebration for last.

Jordy Bahl threw three innings of perfect relief, and the Sooners won their third straight Women's College World Series title and seventh overall, beating Florida State 3-1 on Thursday night for a two-game sweep of the championship round.

The Sooners finished their dominant season 61-1 and extended their NCAA Division I softball record for consecutive wins to 53 games. They have won six titles since 2013 after getting their first in 2000, all under coach Patty Gasso.

The Sooners, energetic and exuberant throughout their latest appearance in Oklahoma City, stayed true to form. After Bahl struck out Katie Dack swinging to end the game, catcher Kinzie Hansen ran to Bahl and wrapped her in a bear hug, and their teammates swarmed them and created a massive dogpile that teetered to the ground.

Bahl earned her fourth save of the season a day after she improved to 22-1 in the pitching circle by throwing a complete game in a 5-0 win against the Seminoles. Still, finishing the run was no easy task for Oklahoma against a program making its third appearance in the title series in the past five editions of the WCWS.

"The message off the bat was eyes are on our circle," said Oklahoma's Grace Lyons, who hit a solo homer. "We're going to keep focusing on what we do every single day. Doesn't matter what the outside has to say. We're going to do the little things. We're going to keep grinding."

The only debate now is where the Sooners stand in D-I softball history.

Oklahoma's only defeat was a 4-3 loss at Baylor on Feb. 19. The Sooners set a record for winning percentage and had the fewest losses of any champion. They led the nation in runs per game, earned run average and batting average — even after losing D-I career home runs leader Jocelyn Alo from last year's team.

UCLA was the only other program to win three straight titles, from 1988-90, but the Bruins lost 19 games during that stretch. Oklahoma dropped just eight during its three-peat.

Florida State, which won its lone NCAA title in 2018, lost to Oklahoma in the championship series in 2021. Seminoles coach Lonni Alameda said the Sooners are even better now.

"Congratulations to OU," Alameda said. "They're just firing on all cylinders. It's pretty cool. I think a lot of people were texting me throughout, like, a lot of people don't like that one team's winning all the time — I get a little vibe sometimes of, like, 'Take down the machine.' We gave our best for that, but they're really good."

  photo  AP photo by Nate Billings / From left, Oklahoma's Kinzie Hansen, Tiare Jennings, Rylie Boone and Jayda Coleman celebrate the team's win over Florida State to sweep the best-of-three title round at the Women's College World Series on Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

The Sooners are more than the team of the moment, though. They're the team of the 21st century, and steadily stalking a spot atop the all-time list.

The only programs with more NCAA titles are Arizona with eight overall and UCLA with 12. The Wildcats haven't won it all since 2007, while the Bruins — who were seeded No. 2 overall in this year's NCAA tournament but didn't make it out of their regional — were the 2019 champions. The WCWS was not held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bahl, a sophomore from Papillion, Nebraska, pitched 24 2/3 scoreless innings in the WCWS and was named most outstanding player after going 4-0 with one save during the event. She became the first pitcher since 1992 to work at least 20 innings at the WCWS without allowing a run.

Cydney Sanders and Lyons hit back-to-back homers off Seminoles ace Kathryn Sandercock in the fifth inning. Florida State had taken a 1-0 lead in the fourth on Mack Leonard's homer off starter Alex Storako.

Alynah Torres padded the Sooners' lead with an RBI single in the sixth, and that was plenty of cushion for Bahl, who struck out three batters and threw 39 pitches, including 28 for strikes.

Storako (18-0) worked the first four innings for Oklahoma, allowing three hits and getting a sparkling defensive play in the third from center fielder Jayda Coleman, who made a leaping catch at the wall to take away a potential three-run homer from Florida State's Kalei Harding.

"It's really exciting to make those plays," Coleman said. "I practice them all the time. But like I say every single time, the best thing out of those plays is watching your teammates react and watching them just be so happy for you."

In the top of the third, the Sooners got a bunt single from Rylie Boone — executed so perfectly that the ball stopped on the chalk line — to load the bases with no outs, but Sandercock retired the next three batters to get out of the jam.

Sandercock (28-4) pitched a complete game to conclude her career with Florida State (58-11).

"Everything that I've worked on for the past five years — showing up today, being able to put that to the test against one of the hardest lineups in college softball — was such a fun challenge," she said.

Florida State, the No. 3 overall seed in this year's 64-team NCAA field, lost just one game in its Tallahassee Regional, swept through the super regional round to make the WCWS, then outscored No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 7 Washington and No. 4 Tennessee a combined 16-2 to zoom through the double-elimination bracket in Oklahoma City.

That set the Seminoles up for one more shot this season at Oklahoma, which won 5-4 when Florida State visited Norman on March 14 for a nonconference matchup.

In Oklahoma City, the Sooners beat No. 9 Stanford 2-0, Tennessee 9-0 in five innings and Stanford 4-2 in nine innings to reach the title round. A week after another WCWS began, they were celebrating again.

Oklahoma will have high expectations next year, too. Bahl, Coleman and Tiare Jennings are National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America first-team selection who will be back. Coleman and Jennings, juniors who have won national titles each year of their careers, want to help the Sooners become the first program to win four straight.

"I love doing this career with her," Coleman said of Jennings. "Hopefully we finish it out with a bang."