Longhorns drop Women’s College World Series finals to dominant Oklahoma

Nick Hargroue, Sports Reporter

Texas entered Thursday 6–0 when facing elimination in the NCAA Tournament. But win number seven proved to be elusive due to a talented and determined Oklahoma softball squad that simply would not be denied its crown.

Fueled by a four-run fifth inning, the Sooners overcame their second early deficit against the Longhorns in the Women’s College World Series and opened the floodgates, earning their sixth national championship in a 10–5 victory.

The Longhorns put the early pressure on the Sooners on Thursday much like in Wednesday’s affair. Senior second baseman Janae Jefferson led off the game for the Longhorns with a single up the middle, followed by a single from freshman third baseman Mia Scott and a walk from sophomore center fielder Bella Dayton to load the bases with no outs.

Sophomore shortstop Alyssa Washington and senior catcher Mary Iakopo both hit deep sacrifice flies to score two runs for the Longhorns, giving Texas the advantage heading into the bottom of the first inning.

Unlike on Wednesday when senior pitcher Hailey Dolcini struggled to put away the top of Oklahoma’s lineup in her brief start, lefty sophomore Estelle Czech took the mound and was stellar for most of the game. Through four innings, Czech gave up zero earned runs and only walked one batter, attacking the edges of the strike zone against Oklahoma’s lineup.

Errors plagued an otherwise sound defensive performance from the Longhorns, allowing two unearned runs to tie the game at two apiece heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.

“I know I felt comfortable. … It felt like the team felt comfortable too,” Czech said. “I knew my defense was working behind me. They were all talking to me. … Everyone was cheering in the dugout, and we were having fun.”

With two outs in the fifth inning, however, things began to unravel for the Longhorns. Sophomore Tiare Jennings began the action with a two-out single, while senior Grace Lyons was hit by a pitch in on the hands to put runners on first and second.

Sophomore Alyssa Brito, who was a thorn in the Longhorns’ side in the Sooners’ last trip to Austin, then sent a line drive barrelling down the left field line, breaking the tie. Oklahoma didn’t stop there, building a four-run lead and forcing Czech out of the game before the inning was over.

“You know they’re going to come back. You know they’re going to fight tough,” Texas head coach Mike White said about Oklahoma’s resolve. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot there a little bit, giving them extra outs, … but they’re tough.”

 Despite the loss, the Longhorns overcame a postseason seeding snub, won six elimination games and made history as the first unseeded team ever to make the championship series of the Women’s College World Series.

“You just gotta find a chord that strikes with (the team) and latch onto it,” White said. “‘Be the most dangerous team in America,’ that was our moniker. Yeah, we’re not ranked, but let’s be dangerous, let’s make some noise. And, we made a lot of noise.”

Even as team leaders like Jefferson, Iakopo and others leave the field for the last time in their collegiate careers, their mark has forever been placed on the game of softball with their historic postseason run.

“I think it was all worth it in the end, to say that we left it all out there and emptied our gas tanks to get where we are, our fifth year,” Iakopo said. “I’m proud.”