Mackenzie Donihoo hit two homers, and top-seeded Oklahoma 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, the unseeded team that shocked the Sooners to start the tournament, on Sunday. Oklahoma will need to beat the Dukes twice to advance to the best-of-three championship series. 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 Collegiate 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 World Series 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 UCLA a cushion with a three-run homer in the third inning to open the scoring.
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 onto 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 in the sixth. That gave the Sooners a 7-3 lead, and UCLA coach Kelly 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.
___ Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.