Oklahoma beats Florida 5-4 to win the NCAA softball championship


Special to Gatorsports.com

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma won its second consecutive national softball championship Tuesday by defeating top seed Florida 5-4 at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.

It is the Sooners’ third national championship in five seasons. The Sooners (61-9) also won a national title in 2013 before Florida won in 2014 and 2015.

Florida (58-10) lost twice to Oklahoma in the championship series after rolling in with easy wins over Texas A&M, LSU and Washington in the Women’s College World Series. Florida did not allow an earned run in three games to reach the championship series, but the Sooners were able to break through against what statistically was the nation’s best pitching staff.

“It just wasn’t our tournament,” UF coach Tim Walton said. “You look at the statistics, it’s eerie how close the games were statistically. So I think that you’ve got two evenly matched teams. One just found a way to hit the ball over the fence more than we did, and give them a lot of credit.

“Just a hard-fought two games. Wish we could have pushed it to a third, and give us a chance. But I thought overall our players — really proud of our team.”

Oklahoma touched UF pitcher Aleshia Ocasio (8-2), making her first start since April 30 in a loss at Tennessee, in the bottom of the first inning when leadoff hitter Nicole Mendes drilled a home run.

Florida answered with a solo home run of its own off the bat of Sophia Reynoso to tie the game. UF went on to load the bases after two outs on a single by Justine McLean, a second walk to Amanda Lorenz and a single by Nicole DeWitt. Ocasio then singled to score McLean and chase OU starting pitcher Paige Parker. Freshman Mariah Lopez (18-1) entered the game and promptly hit Kayli Kvistad with a pitch to force in Lorenz and a 3-1 lead.

OU responded with four runs in the home half of the second, highlighted by a three-run double by Monday night hero Shay Knighten off Delanie Gourley, who had replaced Ocasio with the bases loaded. Knighten hit a three-run home run in the top of the 17th inning to help beat Florida 7-5 late Monday night. She was selected the World Series’ Most Outstanding Player.

Chelsea Herndon celebrated her birthday with a solo home run in the third inning to bring the Gators to within one at 5-4.

Paige Lowary, OU’s fourth pitcher of the game, shut down the Gators over the final two innings.

Florida has made eight WCWS trips in the last 10 years and played in the WCWS Championship Series five times (2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017).

Lorenz, Ocasio, McLean, Gourley and Kelly Barnhill were named to the WCWS All-Tournament Team. UF won three games in OKC this season to move its record to 13-3 at the WCWS since the start of the 2014 season. That win total marks the most in the country.

In addition to its impressive postseason run, Florida clinched its third straight SEC regular season championship, the first team in league history to accomplish that feat.

Oklahoma won its fourth WCWS in school history. It’s the fourth school to win back-to-back titles.