OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Just when it seemed Paige Parker had done it all, Oklahoma’s ace took it to another level.
The senior threw a two-hitter for her second shutout of the day, and Oklahoma remained alive in its quest for a third straight national title with a 2-0 win over Florida on Saturday night in the Women’s College World Series.
It was the first time in three years of World Series play that Parker had to win two games in a day. Against Florida, she threw 104 pitches and struck out eight to pick up her 10th career WCWS victory. In the 2-0 win over Arizona State earlier in the day , she threw just 78 pitches, gave up two hits and struck out seven.
”For her to have an outing like that after playing Arizona State against a team like Florida that’s such a well-rounded team in every area – it was one for the ages, in my mind,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. ”It was not only just masterful, but it was a will to find a way to win, which led into our team, and they were going to find a way to win with her putting those efforts on the mound.”
It was an elimination game between programs that have combined to win the past five national championships and played for the title last year.
Florida (56-11) started Kelly Barnhill, but coach Tim Walton pulled the All-American after just two innings. Aleshia Ocasio stepped in and was solid, but she got no support from the offense. Walton and the Gators couldn’t handle how well Parker mixed her pitches.
”There’s not a whole lot you can do when you’ve got a pitcher, strike one all day long,” Walton said. ”Not strike one with one pitch, but strike one inside, outside curve, changeup, bounced the changeup when she wanted to, featuring a little bit of a rise. She was good. I give her all the credit. She really did a wonderful job.”
The Sooners (57-4) will need to beat Washington twice on Sunday to reach the championship series. Parker’s performance allowed the Sooners to save No. 2 pitcher Paige Lowary. Parker said she’ll be able to contribute, too.
”I’ll do anything for this team, so if my number is called tomorrow, I’ll be ready,” Parker said.
Oklahoma’s Jocelyn Alo hit a monster home run into the wind in the first inning to put the Sooners up 1-0. It was her 30th homer of the season, tying the Division I single-season freshman record set by Hawaii’s Kelly Majam in 2010 and matched by Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain in 2012.
Alo also hit a homer against Arizona State earlier in the day. Florida intentionally walked her twice. The second time the Gators intentionally walked her, it loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth.
”I don’t think I’ve ever walked a runner to be in scoring position,” Walton said. ”I know I’ve walked runners with bases loaded before. I don’t think I’ve ever put a runner in scoring position before.”
Walton’s plan initially worked – Shay Knighten struck out. But the pitch got away from the catcher, allowing Caleigh Clifton to score and make it 2-0.
”I mean, one run is obviously a tough enough challenge today,” Walton said. ”Chasing two made it a lot tougher.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .
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