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Texas softball faces an uphill battle after rolling by OU in the WCWS finals

OKLAHOMA CITY – Given the way Texas had flirted with perfection and struggled through the first three games of this Women’s College World Series, you might assume that sooner or later the Longhorns softball team would eventually face a hiccup.

Instead, it hemorrhaged.

The top-seeded Longhorns better stop the bleeding quickly with Thursday night’s 8-3 loss or the Oklahoma Sooners will celebrate their unprecedented fourth straight national championship before Texas knows what hit them. Sure, OU looked every bit like the dynastic team that has crushed the competition, winning 22 of the last 23 games in this event.

Until Wednesday evening, Texas itself was dominant, posting three consecutive shutouts against Stanford twice and Florida. That ended abruptly with the Sooners scoring two runs, just two batters into the game, when Tiare Jennings blasted her 11th career WCWS home run over the left field wall on a hit batter by Texas freshman Teagan Kavan.

OU would add two more deep flies from Kinzie Hansen and Kasidi Pickering in a three-run third inning to build a 5-1 lead and give ace Kelly Maxwell all the cushion she would need in this first game of the best-of-three championship series.

Texas coach Mike White talks to Joley Mitchell during Wednesday night's 8-3 loss to Oklahoma in Game 1 of the Women's College World Series best-of-three championship series at Devon Park in Oklahoma City.Texas coach Mike White talks to Joley Mitchell during Wednesday night's 8-3 loss to Oklahoma in Game 1 of the Women's College World Series best-of-three championship series at Devon Park in Oklahoma City.

Texas coach Mike White talks to Joley Mitchell during Wednesday night’s 8-3 loss to Oklahoma in Game 1 of the Women’s College World Series best-of-three championship series at Devon Park in Oklahoma City.

Texas didn’t look good from the start

As powerful as the 58-7 Sooners looked, this could be a best of two. History also favors them, as the winner of Game 1 in this round ends up claiming the title 78% of the time.

These Sooners are an embarrassment of riches, flush with a strong lineup with 122 home runs from Patty Gasso’s entire lineup and full of confidence with Maxwell (23-2) at the top of the rotation. There may need to be an investigation into how this team lost seven games. If they’re not invincible, they’re the next best thing.

They were certainly as powerful and precise in splashing Texas and placing themselves on the precipice of their eighth national crown overall.

The Longhorns? They are looking for their first and have an uphill climb, needing to win two in a row on Thursday and Friday.

So is OU on Texas’ mind? The Sooners certainly seem intimidating.

“We’re just doing our job here,” said Hansen, who has 22 career RBIs in the WCWS alone. “Our goal is not to go out and get in their face like that and intimidate them like that. Our goal is to just hammer them the way we know how.

Oh, they hammered well.

More: Anyone else up for a war between Texas and Oklahoma, this time for the WCWS softball title? | Bohls

Starting with Jenkins’ homer to cheer up the already lively Devon Park crowd of 12,317, the ruthless Sooners worked over Kavan and three relievers for nine hits. Six of those were for extra bases, including three doubles.

As for the Longhorns, they said they aren’t afraid of the Sooners, but the results speak for themselves.

Texas' Mia Scott hit a solo home run in the second inning, but Oklahoma's Kelly Maxwell largely kept the Longhorns at bay in an 8-3 loss to take a 1-0 lead in this best-of-three championship series.Texas' Mia Scott hit a solo home run in the second inning, but Oklahoma's Kelly Maxwell largely kept the Longhorns at bay in an 8-3 loss to take a 1-0 lead in this best-of-three championship series.

Texas’ Mia Scott hit a solo home run in the second inning, but Oklahoma’s Kelly Maxwell largely kept the Longhorns at bay in an 8-3 loss to take a 1-0 lead in this best-of-three championship series.

Someone finally caught up with Texas’ Teagan Kavan

It doesn’t hurt that OU has 10 seniors on this squad, five of which are in the starting lineup, along with one junior. Texas faces three sophomores and two freshmen, all of whom are new to the area.

“It means a lot because there are a lot of nerves here,” Gasso said. “When you get to a point where it’s out of your control, you’re going to lose opportunities, you’re going to lose at-bats, you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to throw uncompetitive, uncompetitive pitches.” -competitive pitches because you let things take over.”

Kavan, who had been utterly brilliant here in back-to-back one-hit shutouts, failed early. The righthander didn’t have her usual command and faced only 15 batters, eight of whom reached base.

More: Replay: Texas softball falls to Oklahoma in Game 1 of their WCWS finals

Texas hitters, meanwhile, were swinging wildly at Maxwell pitches well outside the strike zone and often in the mud to get her out of trouble, save for Mia Scott’s solo home run in the second and a pair of bloop RBI singles from Katie Stewart and Joley . Mitchell.

“We have a lot of respect for them,” Mitchell said. “It’s not necessarily that we’re intimidated by them. I think we just have to stick to ourselves. We don’t have to worry about anything anymore.”

But their play suggests they are a bit tense. Who can blame them, considering OU has a 15-3 edge in their matchups with Texas over the last four years?

“We weren’t good in all phases of the game,” White said. “I should say not good, but we weren’t good enough. We didn’t play well and couldn’t control them.”

Oklahoma outfielder Rylie Boone celebrates after hitting a single in the third inning of Game 1 on Wednesday night.  The Sooners' 8-3 victory put them one win away from an unprecedented fourth straight national championship.Oklahoma outfielder Rylie Boone celebrates after hitting a single in the third inning of Game 1 on Wednesday night.  The Sooners' 8-3 victory put them one win away from an unprecedented fourth straight national championship.

Oklahoma outfielder Rylie Boone celebrates after hitting a single in the third inning of Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Sooners’ 8-3 victory put them one win away from an unprecedented fourth straight national championship.

The loss to Texas leaves the Longhorns no room for error

They played nothing like the loose, confident bunch they had been as the free-swinging Sooners set the tone early, put the pressure on the Longhorns and kept it there. The Texas pitchers had just one perfect inning, as OU scored in five of their seven innings.

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The burnt orange made almost as many mistakes (three) as hits (four). Reese Atwood, the Texans slugger with a whopping 90 RBIs, continues to apply the pressure. She has yet to drive in a run and has just two hits – including an infield single – in nine at-bats. Her slump must have been eating away at her, because it seeped into her defense with two errors on a wild pickoff attempt on third down and a sleepy play in which she mixed up the number of outs and threw the ball high in the air toward the mound. thinking a strikeout ended the inning and allowed a stolen base.

How can White get her out of the doldrums?

“I wish I had the answer to that,” White said of his star player. “She is the one who helped us through the season. Things have been very stable for us. This game, it’s hard. It can sometimes be very humiliating when something happens. There isn’t always a big fix for those things.

Or even a small correction.

“I think that put a lot of pressure on ourselves to succeed and execute,” Stewart said. “I have to remember that we are also a good team and we are meant to be here.”

She is right.

This is an excellent 55-9 Texas team that owns the No. 1 seed in this tournament, beating Oklahoma two of three in Austin and tying the field in the first week in this city. The Sooners, on the other hand, have overwhelmed many a team in what is virtually a home environment. But they don’t count the trophies before putting them in the cabinet.

“I know Texas, they’re not softies,” Hansen said. “They won’t roll over. Coach White does a great job of pumping them up. Yes, if they feel that way, they will definitely come out and try to bow down to us.

They really have no other choice. It’s either bow to the machine that is OU, or bow out.

WCWS Championship Series

No. 1 Texas vs. No. 2 Oklahoma, Devon Park at Oklahoma City, ESPN

Game 1: Oklahoma 8, Texas 3; Game 2: Thursday 7:00 PM; Game 3, if necessary: ​​Friday, 7 p.m

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Intimidating Oklahoma softball pounds Texas in Game 1 of WCWS

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