OKLAHOMA CITY — Mackenzie Donihoo homered twice as the top-seeded Oklahoma softball team beat No. 2 UCLA 10-3 in an elimination game at the Women's College World Series on Saturday night to reach the semifinals.
Oklahoma (52-3) will face James Madison (41-2), the unseeded team that shocked the Sooners to start the tournament, on Sunday at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium. Oklahoma will need to beat the Dukes twice to advance to the best-of-three championship series that's set to start Monday. James Madison will need just one win because it is unbeaten in the double-elimination format.
In 2019, UCLA defeated Oklahoma for the national title, and Rachel Garcia pitched both wins in the championship series. The Sooners were wiser this time around.
"Our plan against Garcia was mostly to trust our training," Oklahoma catcher Kinzie Hansen said. "We went out there, and a lot of times when we struggle, it's only when everyone is trying to hit home runs every single at-bat and we get out of our game plan. But today we weren't trying to do too much. We were trying to stick to our game plan, stay on top of the ball and take good hacks."
Garcia, a U.S. Olympian and two-time USA Softball college player of the year, threw more than 100 pitches on Thursday and Friday before throwing another 106 against Oklahoma in her final college game.
Megan Faraimo was unable to pitch for UCLA (47-7) during the WCWS because of a hand injury. She was 19-3 with a 1.10 ERA this season. That left all the pressure on Garcia.
"She was put in position to have to do it all, but nobody blames her," UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. "She gave it all she had, and I told her, 'This is not about something that you have to prove. You have left your mark on the game.'"
Oklahoma's Giselle "G" Juarez got the win in relief for her second victory of the day. She did not allow a run in five innings against UCLA. She threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings in an elimination game win over Georgia earlier in the day.
The game against UCLA followed a rain delay of more than two hours.
Garcia gave herself and the Bruins a cushion with a three-run homer in the third inning to open the scoring, but Oklahoma remained confident.
"It's survival of the fittest, and we've got to do what we've got to do to win," Hansen said. "And we fell behind, and it was a no-quit attitude. We're here and we're putting our head down and doing what it takes to win."
Oklahoma got on the board with an RBI triple by Jocelyn Alo in the third. An infield single by Hansen scored Alo. Oklahoma loaded the bases with two outs, but Garcia got out of the jam with a strikeout and held on to a 3-2 lead.
Jennings doubled and knocked in two in the fourth to put Oklahoma up 4-3.
UCLA loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Bubba Nickles popped out.
Donihoo, who hit a homer against Georgia, hit a solo shot in the fifth to put the Sooners up 5-3.
Hansen doubled to knock in two runs in the sixth and make it 7-3, and Inouye-Perez finally pulled Garcia. Donihoo blasted a two-run homer off Holly Azevedo in the sixth to push Oklahoma's lead to 10-3.
Florida State 4, Oklahoma State 2
Kathryn Sandercock gave up two runs on five hits in a complete game as the 10th-seeded Seminoles defeated fifth-seeded Oklahoma State 4-2 in an elimination game that finished early Sunday after the Oklahoma-UCLA game was delayed by rain.
Sandercock also got the win in relief against Arizona in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon. She wasn't sure if she'd get the call again.
"I didn't ask for the ball," she said. "Coach gave me the ball, and I was ready for it."
The Seminoles (46-11-1) will face No. 3 Alabama (52-7) on Sunday in the semifinals. The Crimson Tide feature pitcher Montana Fouts, who threw a perfect game Friday against UCLA and allowed one run in Alabama's opening win over Arizona.
The Seminoles will need to beat the Tide twice to advance to the best-of-three championship series. Alabama will need just one win because it is unbeaten in the double-elimination format.
Florida State coach Lonni Alameda is a fan of the way Alabama plays.
"It's been fun watching them compete, and who doesn't want to play the best right now?" she said. "I think with the momentum that we have and the scratch and claw mindset that we have — you know, we get a couple hours' nap here, and then we're going to get after them and it's going to be really exciting."
Florida State's Anna Shelnutt hit a solo homer against Oklahoma State to highlight a three-run third inning.
"She was totally due," Sandercock said. "She has a great swing, and I was just waiting for her to get her swing off. I'm super proud. I know that felt good for her. I know that she's been wanting it and waiting for it and working for it for a long time. ... I almost wanted to cry when it happened. I was just so happy for her."
Oklahoma State (48-12) closed to within 3-2 in the fifth on a RBI single by Chyenne Factor.
Florida State got an insurance run in the seventh. Kaley Mudge reached on an error, advanced from second to third on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error.
The Cowgirls brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Florida State turned a double play to end the game.
Oklahoma 8, Georgia 0
Alo set Oklahoma's single-season record for home runs and helped the Sooners dispatch unseeded Georgia on Saturday in an elimination game shortened to six innings by the mercy rule.
Alo, USA Softball's college player of the year, hit her 31st homer of 2021 in the sixth inning, a two-run drive into the bleachers in center field. Lauren Chamberlain hit 30 homers in 2012 and 2013, and Alo hit 30 in 2018.
Juarez struck out 10 batters in 5 1/3 innings for the Sooners.
It was Georgia (34-23) that had ended Oklahoma's 33-0 start to the season with a 12-3 win in five innings on April 20 in Athens, but the Bulldogs mustered just three hits this time.
After losing six straight games late in the regular season and dropping their opening game at the Southeastern Conference tournament, the Bulldogs won five straight in regional and super regional play to earn their spot in Oklahoma City.
"We had our ups and downs, and through our downs, we just took away what was good: What did we learn from in that game or what did we learn from in that practice?" Georgia first baseman Lacey Fincher said. "And we just kept growing and kept trusting each other and kept trusting our process. I just think this team is gritty."
Florida State 4, Arizona 3
Ahead 2-0 after five innings Saturday afternoon, the 11th-seeded Wildcats suddenly found themselves down, then tied up and finally out. The Seminoles rallied, then won in walk-off fashion to oust Arizona (41-15).
With the score tied at 3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Florida State's Mudge led off with a single, then advanced to second on a fielder's choice and to third on an infield throwing error. Mudge scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Cassidy Davis.
Arizona's Malia Martinez opened the scoring with a homer in the third, and Dejah Mulipola went home on a sacrifice fly by Carlie Scupin in the fourth to push the lead to 2-0.
Arizona starter Alyssa Denham threw 3 2/3 shutout innings before Mariah Lopez replaced her. Lopez struggled with control, and it finally caught up with her in the sixth, when she walked one batter and hit another. Dani Morgan then took one of her pitches just over the fence in left field to give Florida State a 3-2 lead. The homer was the Seminoles' only hit of the inning.
Sandercock tried to close the deal for Florida State in the top of the seventh, but Carranco's double scored Janelle Meono. Sandercock got the win with 3 2/3 innings of relief after Lopez gave up the final run to take the loss.