OKLAHOMA CITY — Bedlam anyone?
Oklahoma City will be the site of a rivalry showdown between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
The stakes are high, with one school taking a large step toward the goal of claiming the Women’s College World Series championship.
The Bedlam storyline was a main topic of conversation just moments after the Sooners defeated Alabama 3-2 Thursday in the late game.
“OSU is a great team and I just think the cool thing about it is you have two Oklahoma teams playing in the World Series,” Sydney Romero said. “Just the fact that both of these teams are from Oklahoma, I think it says a lot of stuff. It’s awesome.
“We know it’s going to be a good game. OSU is a great team. We’re excited.”
Nicole Mendes was OU’s hero Thursday night. With the game tied at 2, the junior hit an RBI triple off the outfield wall. It was just inches from clearing the fence, and scored pinch runner Raegan Rogers from first base.
It’s not uncommon to see Mendes with big hits in this stadium.
In 2017, Mendes hit home runs in both games against Florida in the WCWS championship series to earn all-tournament honors. Two years later, she added to her career highlights with her game-changing triple.
“I like to compete and this is where the biggest teams come to compete,” Mendes said. “I don’t know, it just brings something out of me and I just get excited and really amped up.”
Added coach Patty Gasso: “She shines on this platform. She finds a way. It may not look good, but she’s going to do something that’s going to be a game-changer. And she did.”
OU (55-3) enjoyed a one-run lead twice, only to see the Crimson Tide scrape back to tie the game.
The Sooners struck quickly in front of a crowd of 9,290. After Romero and Falepolima Aviu singled, Caleigh Clifton lofted a sacrifice fly to center field for a 1-0 lead.
Alabama evened things up in the third against OU starter Giselle Juarez (27-1).
The Crimson Tide worked Claire Jenkins – who hit a leadoff single – around the bases. Bailey Hemphill hit a bloop RBI single to tie the game at 1.
OU jumped ahead 2-1 in the fourth when Romero hit a triple off the right-field wall and scored on Jocelyn Alo’s two-out single up the middle on a 3-2 pitch from Alabama’s Montana Fouts (19-6).
Alabama knotted the game again when Jenkins hit a solo home run in the fifth. It was the first homer allowed by Juarez since April 26 at Iowa State.
She dealt with it calmly.
“Just letting it go, just not letting it affect our game, moving forward,” Juarez said. “Moving on to the next pitch.”
Alabama (57-9) did not manage a hit off Juarez from that point. The OU left-hander pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning, punctuated by striking out pinch-hitter Caroline Hardy to end things.
“I don’t think it was one of (Juarez’s) best games because she was falling behind a little bit,” Gasso said. “You could feel that in her. … She fought through it. The team kept saying, ‘We got you.’ ”
Juarez allowed four hits and struck out nine.
Many eyes will be on Bedlam on Friday night. For Gasso, it is being treated like just another game in the postseason journey. If not OSU, the coach said, the Sooners would have had a matchup against Florida that would have also presented storylines.
“I know everybody wants to see (Bedlam),” Gasso said. “We just want to find ways to win. We want to get ourselves to the place where we’re playing on Sunday and not playing all day. That’s the important thing. That’s what we’ve got to focus on, not get caught up in the hype.
“I’m sure they feel the same way. It’s a big game for tomorrow night. It puts someone in a good driver’s seat. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”
OKLAHOMA 3, ALABAMA 2
Alabama 001 010 0 -- 2 4 0
Oklahoma 101 001 x -- 3 6 1
Fouts and Dykes; Juarez and Elam. W: Juarez (27-1). L: Fouts (19-6). HR: Bama, Jenkins (13).