James Madison stuns No. 1 seed Oklahoma in WCWS opener
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — James Madison looked like a Women’s College World Series regular on Thursday.
It actually was the Dukes’ first trip, and they made their first game memorable. Kate Gordon hit a solo homer in the top of the eighth inning and Odicci Alexander threw a complete game to help James Madison stun top-seeded Oklahoma 4-3 in eight innings.
The Dukes (40-2) got the win against a program that won national titles in 2000, 2013, 2016 and 2017 and was the runner-up in 2012 and 2019. In front of an amped-up crowd at the newly expanded USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium just 25 miles from Oklahoma’s campus, James Madison and its small group of energetic supporters looked right at home.
“I think with the mindset of just another game, we haven’t looked past anybody,” Gordon said. “We prepared. We had fun. In our pregame we were enjoying it. We’re soaking in the fans, soaking in this atmosphere and this experience.”
The Dukes believe the win matters to more than just them.
“I think these players, they’re playing for each other, but they’re playing for a lot more,” James Madison coach Loren LaPorte said. “We’re playing for all the smaller schools out there that work just as hard.”
Alexander controlled the action. The second-team NFCA All-American threw 129 pitches and struck out nine. She faced the top of Oklahoma’s order in the eighth and escaped without allowing a run. The Dukes advanced to a winners bracket game against Oklahoma State on Friday. The Cowgirls defeated Georgia 3-2 on Thursday afternoon.
Oklahoma (50-3), which led the nation in home runs this season by a wide margin, never figured out the movement or the speed of Alexander’s pitches.
“I think at the plate some of our plans got lost,” Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso said. “You can see that by the way we were swinging. So we need to figure out why. Why did our plans get lost? Were the lights too big for you? Was the speed too fast for you? The video will tell us exactly what we need to know, so we can work on fixing that as we go forward.”
Shannon Saile pitched a complete game for Oklahoma. She gave up three hits and struck out nine. The solid performance wasn’t enough, and now the Sooners will play Georgia in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon. Oklahoma won its first 33 games this season before losing at Georgia.
Gordon’s blast in the eighth just cleared the fence in left center to give James Madison the lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Oklahoma’s Jocelyn Alo — the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year — walked with one out but never advanced.
“I knew I couldn’t let down because they were still at the best part of their lineup,” Alexander said. “I mean, just spinning the ball and focusing on each and every pitch. Got the three outs.”
With help from an error, James Madison got two runners on with no outs in the third inning. Sara Jubas took advantage by cranking a three-run homer to open the scoring.
Oklahoma’s Tiare Jennings responded with a three-run blast to center to tie the score in the bottom of the inning. It was the 26th homer of the season for the NFCA Freshman of the Year, and she extended her national lead in RBIs.
The Sooners didn’t score again, and now they face elimination.
“I think we learned a lesson,” Jennings said. “Tough way to start out the World Series. We just got to flush it. One pitch at a time. Just do what we do, stay true to our circle now. Just, you know, taking it one pitch at a time, just doing this thing.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP.