Baylor stuns Kentucky to advance
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Kaitlyn Thumann doubled and scored on an error in the bottom of the eighth inning as Baylor rallied from a seven-run deficit to stun Kentucky 8-7 on Saturday night in an elimination game in the Women's College World Series.
Baylor (49-15) advanced to play fifth-seeded Florida on Sunday. The 13th-seeded Bears would have to beat Florida (52-12) twice to advance to the best-of-three finals.
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Baylor completed a comeback for the ages when it trailed Kentucky 7-0 in the bottom of the sixth, eventually winning in the eighth to earn a spot in Sunday's WCWS semifinal against Florida, Graham Hays writes. Story
"Wow," Baylor coach Glenn Moore said. "I won't forget that one until I forget who I am. These girls are incredible. They just didn't quit believing. For five innings, we weren't even in the game. That's why you play seven, I guess. I just thought we were facing a team destined to win and (there was) nothing we could do about it.
"Three outs to go and thinking there's not much hope, I turned to my little boy in the dugout and said, `You're not going to cry after this, are you?' He said, 'Cry? We're going to win!'" I was like, 'Yeah!' It was just unbelievable execution and fight from these girls."
Kentucky (50-19) led 7-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth, but Kelsey Nunley (30-11) -- who allowed just three hits to that point -- gave up six singles during a three-run rally for Baylor. Ari Hawkins led off the seventh with a solo home run to make it 7-4 and Robin Landrith's two-run, two-out double tied it.
In the eighth, after Thumann doubled, Hawkins bunted and Kentucky catcher Griffin Joiner's throw to first base caromed off Hawkins into right field, allowing Thumann to score.
"Right before we entered the field (in the sixth), our seniors pulled us together and said, 'Hey -- this is not going to be our last game," Hawkins said. "I just took that to heart and I just was not going to go out losing. I just went up there and tried my hardest."
That made a winner of Baylor reliever Heather Stearns (15-4), who allowed one hit in 2 1/3 innings. Stearns also recorded the win earlier Saturday as the Bears eliminated Florida State 7-2.
Ginny Carroll, Emily Gaines and Krystal Smith homered for Kentucky as the Wildcats built their 7-0 lead.
Gaines and Carroll both homered off Baylor ace Whitney Canion (31-12) during a three-run second inning, with Smith -- who went 3 for 4 -- smashing a double in between. Carroll's homer ended Canion's day.
Carroll's RBI single in the fourth keyed a two-run inning for the Wildcats, who took advantage of an error by Thumann in right field. In the sixth, Smith homered just inside the left-field foul pole to make it 6-0. Christian Stokes later doubled with two outs and scored on the back end of a double steal, with Sylver Samuel taking second base.
But Baylor wasn't done.
The Bears answered with six hits -- all singles -- off Nunley in the bottom of the sixth. Linsey Hays, Jordan Strickland and Lindsey Cargill each had a run-scoring single and the Bears brought the potential tying run to the plate with two outs, but Thumann struck out to end the rally.
Nunley threw every inning for Kentucky during the postseason.
"At one point, I thought about putting one of our other pitchers in, but really, the mistake with me is that I didn't prepare them to come in," coach Rachel Lawson said. "The reason I went with Kelsey is because I'm comfortable (with her). A change would have been great, but it would have been too unpredictable."
Oregon 4, Oklahoma 2: Kailee Cuico hit a key two-run single, Janie Takeda added two RBIs and top-seeded Oregon held off defending national champion Oklahoma 4-2 in an elimination game.
Oregon (56-8-1) advanced into the semifinal round against second-seeded Alabama (52-11) and will need to beat the Crimson Tide twice on Sunday to reach the best-of-three championship series.
"We'll have to make sure that we're patient and we've got to hold them down," Oregon coach Mike White said. "We've got to do a better job of scoring runs and zoning the ball up. We're letting too many good pitches go, so we've got to be aggressive in the strike zone. We'll see what tomorrow brings."
Oklahoma (51-13) had its bid to qualify for a third straight championship series end with the loss. The Sooners lost to Alabama in the 2012 finals before beating Tennessee for the title last season.
"This team believed they could win it all," Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. "As soon as we started to figure some things out and get on a roll, I felt like we were invincible. It's going to take a little time to come down from that, especially when you're a team that was holding the trophy last year. Once that happens, that's the only thing you want to do."
Oklahoma threatened in the seventh, with two on and two out, but Oregon starter Cheridan Hawkins (35-5) coaxed a ground ball from the Sooners' cleanup batter, Brittany Williams, to end the game. Hawkins had left the game after the sixth inning but returned after reliever Karissa Hovinga got into the jam.
The Ducks scored three runs in the third off Oklahoma starter Shelby Pendley (2-1). Takeda doubled home Nikki Urida and Cuico followed with her single -- a sharply hit ball off the glove of Oklahoma shortstop Jessica Vest -- allowing Alyssa Gillespie and Takeda to score.
Kelsey Stevens, who had pitched the vast majority of the innings for Oklahoma during the postseason, replaced Pendley in the circle after Takeda's double. Stevens, who pitched Oklahoma to a win over Louisiana-Lafayette earlier Saturday, struck out seven batters and kept the Sooners close, but they couldn't generate much offense.
Oklahoma scored once in the fourth but a blunder cost the Sooners a chance at a big inning. Georgia Casey and Erin Miller led off the inning with singles and one out later, Vest singled to score Casey and send Miller to third.
Vest and Miller both broke on an attempted squeeze bunt by Whitney Ellis, but the pitch was outside and Ellis couldn't get the bunt down. Oregon catcher Janelle Lindvall held onto the ball for a moment before throwing out Miller, who was trying to dive back into third base when she realized what had happened.
Pendley's solo homer in the fifth pulled Oklahoma with 3-2. In the sixth, Casey drew a leadoff walk. Erin Miller laid down a bunt in an apparent sacrifice attempt, but Cuico, Oregon's first baseman, fired to Urida, the shortstop, to retire Casey on a close play at second base. The out call brought a vociferous protest from Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso.
Oregon added an insurance run in the seventh. Udria doubled down the right-field line leading off and scored on a bloop single to right-center field by Takeda.
Baylor 7, Florida State 2: Jordan Strickland hit a pair of two-run homers, Heather Stearns and Whitney Canion combined on a five-hitter and Baylor beat Florida State 7-2 in an elimination game.
Florida State (55-9) managed only two runs in its two WCWS games, losing 3-0 to Oregon in the first round.
Florida State's national player of the year, pitcher Lacey Waldrop, struggled for a second straight game. After giving up 10 hits to Oregon, Waldrop (38-7) surrendered six hits to the Bears in four innings, including three in a three-run second inning highlighted by Strickland's first homer. Clare Hosack and Linsey Hays hit sharp singles before Strickland's shot over the left-center field wall.
Florida State was making its first WCWS appearance in 10 years.
"What an outstanding venture for our program," Florida State coach Lonni Alameda said. "This senior class has been outstanding in guiding us to be relentless in the pursuit of being here. We've really enjoyed this. We've enjoyed the support.
"Everything we're learning right now as a program is going to get us back here."
Oklahoma 3, Louisiana-Lafayette 1: Kelsey Stevens allowed six hits, Brittany Williams hit a two-run first-inning double and defending NCAA softball champion Oklahoma beat Louisiana-Lafayette in an elimination game.
Callie Parsons added an inside-the-park home run in the sixth inning for Oklahoma (51-12).
Louisiana-Lafayette (49-10-1) had beaten the Sooners in two of three games during a regular-season series but the Ragin' Cajuns couldn't come up with the key hit Saturday against Stevens (38-9), stranding 11 baserunners and failing to score after loading the bases with one out in the third inning. Lexie Elkins hit a solo homer in the seventh for their only run.
"That was a fight," Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. "That was an absolute battle from start to finish. I am so extremely proud of Kelsey Stevens and the fight she put in today to hold them to six hits (and) finding ways to get out of innings. She had timely strikeouts. They had opportunities numerous times and I'm really proud of the way Kelsey found a way to get of it."
In the first inning, Lauren Chamberlain reached on an error for the Sooners and Shelby Pendley walked before Williams' double to center field off Louisiana-Lafayette starter Christina Hamilton (29-4).
Hamilton, who became as famous in recent days for wearing black-rimmed glasses without lenses as for her pitching, allowed only three hits the rest of the way.
Elkins led off the seventh with her 24th homer of the season, over the right center-field fence. Samantha Walsh followed with a single to left field but Stevens retired Shellie Landry on an infield popup and Redfearn on a groundout. Stevens now is tied for first in NCAA Division I pitching wins this season.
The Ragin' Cajuns entered the WCWS hitting .307 but scored only two runs in their two games -- both on Elkins home runs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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