In what was being touted as the game of the year by many, the Oklahoma Sooners proved too much for Tennessee in their matchup on Saturday, winning 9-0 (5) to advance to the WCWS semifinals.
Oklahoma’s Jordy Bahl was credited with the win, bringing her record on the year to 20-1 on the year. Meanwhile, Karlyn Pickens will take the loss, falling to 9-7 on the season.
Oklahoma is now off until Monday and will await the winner of Game 9, which is set for Sunday at 2:00 p.m. CT. Tennessee, on the other hand, will face Oklahoma State in an elimination game on Sunday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:00 p.m. CT.
Here are three thoughts on the game and what it means going forward.
A Bold Strategy From Tennessee Does Not Pay Off
One of Tennessee’s biggest advantages this year has been its pitching staff, with Ashley Rogers and Payton Gottshall ranking as two of the top pitchers in the country. But, after seeing Stanford’s NiJaree Canady’s velocity give Oklahoma’s lineup trouble, Tennessee head coach Karen Weekly opted to start Karlyn Pickens, who regularly reaches the mid-70s in the circle. While it was a bold strategy, it didn’t pay off for the Lady Vols.
Oklahoma jumped on Pickens early with a three-run shot from Tiare Jennings in the bottom of the second, making it 3-0 in the Sooners’ favor. With the nation’s second-leading offense, a three-run deficit shouldn’t be enough to make the Vols start waving the white flag, but that seems to be exactly what happened. Instead of bringing in one of their top arms to keep this game within reach, Coach Weekly opted to bring in Charli Orsini, Nicola Simpson, and Ryleigh White, who had a combined six starts in 2023. That went about how you would expect, with Oklahoma piling up six more runs to make this a run-rule victory.
Was Tennessee saving its arms in the event that they see OU again in the championship series? Perhaps, but that’s an awfully weird strategy to implement, especially in the winner’s bracket.
Oklahoma Proves It’s Truly on Another Level
Tennessee came into today’s game undefeated in NCAA Tournament play, and had been as dominant as anyone in that stretch. It felt like Oklahoma was finally going to play someone that could match them run-for-run offensively.
Then, when the dust settled, the result was just the same: a run-rule victory for Oklahoma. The Sooners have now won 50 games in a row, a new NCAA record. They’ve also had 34 shutouts on the year, which is a new school record, and their run-rule count is now up to 28 on the year.
The Sooners aren’t just winning, they’re dominating. And Tennessee isn’t just some fringe tournament team that’s lucky to be here. They’ve won 50 games this season. However, Oklahoma made it look easy as they handed Tennessee its first run-rule loss of the year. The Sooners’ pitching staff held the nation’s second-best offense to .063 at the plate. Kiki Milloy’s leadoff double proved to be the only hit of the game for the Lady Vols, as OU dominated thereafter.
With yet another devastating performance, OU proved once again that it’s just on another level than everyone else right now.
What’s Next For Each Team?
Oklahoma is now just one win away from being in the championship series for the third straight season, and will face the winner of Stanford vs. Washington/Florida State. Coming into this matchup, I felt that Oklahoma’s biggest test of the tournament would be the Lady Vols, but Patty Gasso’s group made quick work of their future SEC foes.
After the loss, Tennessee will not cross over to the other side of the bracket and face Oklahoma State, who survived an elimination game on Friday against Utah. The Cowgirls were run-ruled by Florida State on Thursday but turned around and earned an 8-0 win of their own to advance.
Now, Tennessee must find a way to regroup and find some confidence heading into an elimination game after being on the wrong end of a run rule. With Ashley Rogers and Payton Gottshall both fresh, the Cowgirls will see the best that Tennessee has to offer in the circle. Meanwhile, Lexi Kilfoly continued to dominate in the postseason on Friday night, and Kelly Maxwell will be fresh as well.