Jennings’ HR helps Oklahoma beat Texas 8-3 and move a win away from 4th straight Women’s CWS title


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma needs just one more win to make softball history.

Tiare Jennings’ two-run homer in the first inning sparked an 8-3 win over Texas on Wednesday night that left the Sooners one victory short of a record fourth straight Women’s College World Series title.

Oklahoma (58-7) had nine hits and three home runs against a Texas squad that had thrown three one-hit shutouts in three World Series games.

Sooners coach Patty Gasso said the plan was to help pitcher Kelly Maxwell by scoring early. Maxwell had pitched a complete game the previous day in a semifinal win over Florida, and Gasso felt the senior might need some support.

“It’s something that we really talked about, is trying to set the tone, give Kelly an opportunity to get settled,” Gasso said. “Very, very important. It was a goal of ours. They checked a lot of boxes tonight.”

Jennings had two hits and three RBIs and Kinzie Hansen had two hits, including a two-run homer, for the Sooners in Game 1 of the best-of-three series. The second-seeded Sooners could clinch their eighth overall championship in Game 2 on Thursday night.

Oklahoma was calm after the first game.

“You see us here and we’re not overjubilant because we know there’s still a lot of work to do against a very, very good team that has very good pitchers, very good hitters,” Gasso said. “I mean, we know what’s in front of us still. So you don’t see us celebrating. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

Mia Scott hit a solo homer for No. 1 Texas (55-9), but there weren’t many more highlights. Now, the Longhorns will embrace the role of underdog.

“It’s a mind game,” Texas coach Mike White said. “Champions reframe. How can we reframe from this loss, what we’re facing right now, come out and have a better game and see if we can play some good softball?”

It was another chapter in the storied rivalry between the programs, which will both leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference next year. Oklahoma beat Texas in the national championship series in 2022. Texas won the Big 12 regular-season title this year, but Oklahoma won the conference tournament.

The Sooners played Tuesday while Texas had the day off, but Maxwell negated any edge the rest might have provided for the Longhorns. A day after tossing 148 pitches against Florida, Maxwell threw 119 against the Longhorns. She gave up one earned run and four hits and struck out eight.

“This is it,” Maxwell said. “This is my last opportunity. I’m just going to do everything I can to keep this team in it. I know that they have my back and I’ve got theirs.”

Teagan Kavan, Texas’ freshman star, had thrown two one-hitters in victories at the World Series. She opened Wednesday’s game by hitting Jayda Coleman with a pitch. Jennings, the next batter, launched one over the left field fence to put the Sooners up 2-0. It was the 98th home run of Jennings’ career and her 11th at the World Series.

Hansen’s two-run homer and Kasidi Pickering’s solo shot back-to-back in the third gave the Sooners a 5-1 lead and chased Kavan.

“It snowballed a little bit there,” Texas’ Joley Mitchell said. “We have to do our job individually and as a team. We got away from our plan. We weren’t helping ourselves. We really need to stick to our plan and just play Texas softball.”

Texas scored two in the sixth and had two on with two outs when Maxwell struck out Victoria Hunter swinging to keep Oklahoma ahead 7-3.

Maxwell struck out the final two batters in the seventh to close out the game.

Now, the Sooners will try to close out a Texas team that has rallied before. The Longhorns lost the first game in the regular-season series with Oklahoma and won the last two. They also lost the first game of their super regional against Texas A&M, then won the next two and advanced to the World Series.

“We’re a tough team,” Mitchell said. “As long as we stay together, do the job, we’ll be just fine the next two games.”


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