Sooners so good, Vols don't show
Oklahoma's 9-0 win over Tennessee a walkover because sometimes historically dominant teams don't get their opponent's best, but their very worst
OKLAHOMA CITY — Tennessee caught fly balls, fielded grounders and threw the ball to first base well enough.
Saturday afternoon at the Women’s College World Series, if it was about routine plays, the Vols mostly pulled it off.
There were two.
First batter of the game, Kiki Milloy, maybe the tournament’s best hitter, struck a lined double down the left-field line.
That was one.
Bottom of the fourth, pinch-hitter Sophia Nugent batting for Kinzie Hansen because Sooner coach Patty Gasso’s never not coaching for right now and tomorrow, too, Nugent smashed a ball to the deepest part of the park only to watch Milloy leap up and rob her of a home run bound to have cleared the wall by a foot had she not arrived.
That was two.
That was it.
Oklahoma moved on in the World Series’ winning bracket, earning another day off and putting itself one win from the championship series via a 9-0 four-and-a-half-inning run-rule in which Tennessee’s taking the field proved notable only against the fact that, though there, it did not show up.
“That wasn’t us,” Vols coach Karen Weekly said.
It couldn’t have been.
It couldn’t have been because to study the World Series draw is to realize a couple of things.
OU’s on its own island.
Florida State and Tennessee are on their own island, too, perhaps nearer the Sooners than the rest of the field.
Saturday, however, the Vols were, how shall we put it … terrible.
Milloy’s double was Tennessee’s last hit.
Tennessee entered Oklahoma City hitting .300, getting on base .426 and slugging .527, yet was limited to one hit and six total bases.
In the circle, the Vols were staggeringly bad, pitch for pitch and strategically, too.
“We planned to throw different people at them,” Weekly said.
And though it hadn’t been pretty, Vols starter Karlyn Pickens — who threw a slew of 39-foot changeups, walked three and allowed five baserunners in the space of five outs — still had it scoreless after her first trip through the Sooner lineup and would have been out of the whole second inning scoreless had she not fielded Jada Coleman’s sharp-up-the-middle bouncer into an infield single, but she did and Weekly still didn’t go get her.
Next up, of course, Tiare Jennings, turned Pickens’ second pitch into a three-run home run and the Sooners were up 3-0.
Tennessee didn’t help itself in the field either.
OU having already done damage in the third inning, Vol left-fielder Rylie West had a chance to backhand spear, about ankle high, a Rylie Boone sinking liner to deepish left-center field.
It would have been a fantastic catch but was made near impossible by Milloy who, rather that stopping her run toward ball to give West space, peeled forward and left instead, right in front of West, as the ball found the ground.
Rather than West showing up on ESPN’s top plays, the Sooners pushed their edge from 5-0 to 7-0.
Back in the circle, a few batters later, wild pitches from Nicola Simpson and Ryleigh White handed OU its eighth and ninth runs.
All told, poor decisions and losing plays cost the Vols as many as seven Sooner runs.
Absolute bad softball.
The thing about it?
It’s yet another measure of Sooner dominance.
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That and the exposure of a time-honored sports maxim that always sounds right but is nevertheless wrong:
Dominant teams get everybody’s best shot.
Because they don’t.
Frequently, they get their worst.
OU’s won 50 straight games and it’s won them because it’s the best team by a wide margin. The Sooners lead the nation in every category that matters in every facet of the game that matters.
Nobody hits like OU.
Nobody pitches like OU.
Nobody even fields like OU.
It’s good enough to win almost every game, but surely not to win 50 straight.
No, the Sooners are at 50 because they’re abundantly fantastic, but also because, sometimes, good teams, or even a great team like Tennessee, lay down for them.
They’re just not up for the fight.
“That’s not us,” Weekly said again.
It couldn’t have been.
It was, though, OU.
The worst thing starting Sooner pitcher Jordi Bahl did in the circle over 3 2/3 innings was walk a batter. Ditto for Alex Storako and Nicole May, who along with Kierston Deal relieved because Gasso’s still coaching for tomorrow, even with a nine-run lead.
At the plate, three of OU’s nine hits went for extra bases, the middle one a home run stung so hard by Hansen, Tennessee shortstop Mackenzie Donihoo — remember her? — might have had the best chance to stop it.
Gasso needed two words to describe her squad’s performance and they were “pretty” and “flawless.”
No, Tennessee was never winning this one.
Never ever ever.
But the Vols might have shown up.
OU was too good for that, too.