No. 1 Oklahoma leads the country in too many categories to count.
The Sooner pitching staff has so much depth it would make Nick Saban envious.
The deck was already stacked against Alabama softball on Thursday in the first round of the Women’s College World Series.
Throw in a partisan crowd of more than 4,000 fans chanting ‘O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A’ and it seemed too much to overcome.
The Crimson Tide almost did.
Nicole Mendes hit a sixth-inning, two-out triple off the left-center field wall, just out of the reach of Alabama outfielder Elissa Brown, to give the Sooners a 3-2 victory at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium.
UA (57-9) drops into the elimination bracket and faces SEC foe Florida, a 2-1 loser to Oklahoma State, in a Saturday matchup at 1:30 p.m.
Alabama starter Montana Fouts was close to getting out of a jam with a runner on first base and two outs, but Mendes drove a pitch deep to left-center. The ball was just out of reach of the speedy Brown. The ball hit the top of the wall and bounced 15 feet forward, allowing Mendes to reach third and drive in the winning run.
“We just needed one more hit to go our way,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “They had two triples, which doesn’t happen very often, but they hit two triples.”
Claire Jenkins provided a spark for Alabama, belting a game-tying solo home run off Sooner ace Giselle Juarez in the fifth inning. She was 0-for-19 coming into Thursday’s game. That hitless streak included the SEC Tournament, Tuscaloosa Regional and Super Regional.
“It was a change-up,” Jenkins said. “When I hit it, I just hoped it had enough to go out. I knew it was pretty high in the sky. Just hoped that it would make it out.”
Oklahoma didn’t waste any time getting to Montana Fouts. Leadoff hitter Sydney Romero singled and Falepolima Aviu followed with a single to left to put runners on with no outs. Romero scored the game’s first run on a sac fly from Caleigh Clifton for a 1-0 Sooner lead.
Alabama answered in the third when Jenkins led off with a single. She later scored on a bloop single from Bailey Hemphill to tie it 1-1. It was Hemphill’s 79th RBI of the season, tying the school mark for second.
The Sooners came right back in the bottom of the third when Romero hit a triple off the right-field wall and later scored on a two-out single from Jocelyn Alo to put OU ahead again.
“I thought it was a really well-played game between two really good teams,” Murphy said. “I thought the key tonight was going to be our righties. They had to produce We had only three. Bailey got an RBI, Claire got a home run, then Reagan (Dykes) was 0-for-3.”
Fouts got off to a tough start, throwing 26 pitches and giving up back-to-back hits to start the game. She settled down the rest of the way and ended the night allowing three runs on six hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
“They capitalized on my mistakes. I got behind on the count and I think they were ready to swing,” Fouts said.
Juarez pitched all seven innings for OU, allowing four hits with nine strikeouts and two walks.